He was elected to the City Council in 1962 - barely seven years after Cardiff was officially designated the capital of Wales. Much needed to be done to restore the fortunes of the once great port. Cardiff suffered its share of air-raids during the Second World War; one attack on 2 January 1941 killed 165 and rased parts of the city. The run-down of coal exports made things worse. By 1993 when Dunleavy was awarded the Freedom of Cardiff a transformation had taken place and the seal was set on his lifelong commitment to public service.
Born in Cardiff, he joined the Post Office in 1930 at the age of 14. Apart from war service as a military policeman he remained there until retiring as an executive officer in 1975.
He became leader of the city council in 1974, a particularly challenging period due to extensive local government reorganisation. He held the post until 1976, returning for a second spell as leader from 1979 to 1982. He also served as an elected member of South Glamorgan County Council from 1974 to 1981.
A long-serving member of the Labour Party, Dunleavy was unsparing in his efforts to move Cardiff into the league of successful cities where commerce, culture and the people's well-being blend successfully. People came first. Long before it was fashionable he campaigned for the release of land in the old docks area for housing. He was a champion of St David's Hall - a city-centre building combining a concert hall, restaurants, space for art exhibitions and commercial promotions. For many years the city centre was congested, a circumstance not helped by a network of trams. Under the eye of the City Fathers streets were pedestrianised and tree- planting and signage schemes started.
The preservation and improvement of Cardiff Castle in the heart of the city owes much to Dunleavy's enthusiasm. He called in craftsmen to carry out restoration work of the building, which stands in Bute Park, named after the first Marquess of Bute who at the end of the 18th century began revitalising the castle. In 1948 the fifth marquess gave the castle and its grounds to the council, which uses it for civic functions, receptions and trade promotions. The National Ice Rink, home of the Cardiff Devils, one of Britain's leading ice hockey teams, also benefited from his persuasive lobbying.
Philip Dunleavy was Lord Mayor of Cardiff from 1982 to 1983, and then retired from local government service. His devotion to helping those in need continued, with youth clubs, housing associations and the Citizen's Advice Bureaux being among those to benefit.
He leaves behind a legacy some consider as important as his contribution to civic affairs - the encouragement of new generations of Labour politicians in Wales's capital. Alun Michael, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth and an opposition home affairs spokesman, who served alongside Dunleavy as a city councillor, described him as "an inspiration". "He towered over Cardiff's political landscape," he said.
Philip Dunleavy, local politician: born Cardiff 5 October 1915; member, Cardiff City Council 1962-83, Leader 1974-76, 1979-82; member, South Glamorgan County Council 1974-81; OBE 1978, CBE 1983; Lord Mayor of Cardiff 1982- 83; married 1936 Valerie Partridge (two sons, two daughters); died Cardiff 13 January 1996.