Thomas R. Sullivan

Portrait of Thomas R. Sullivan

32nd President of the United States
January 20, 1957-January 20, 1961

Predecessor Richard Russell
Successor John Hoover

Governor of Rhode Island

Successor Lawrence Callier

Secretary of State

Predecessor George Allen Wade
Successor Stanley Pall

US Senator, Rhode Island

Predecessor James Clark
Successor Joseph Michael Thibodeaux
Born April 13, 1894
Died May 7, 1975 (aged 81)
Spouse Sandra Sullivan
Political Party Democratic Party
Profession Politician

Thomas Ruprett Sullivan (4/13/1894-5/7/1975) was the 32nd President of the United States of America, in office from January 20th, 1957 to January 20th, 1961. Prior to the Presidency, he was the Governor of Rhode Island from 1947-1953, the Secretary of State from 1941 to 1945 during the Joseph Kennedy administration, a US Senator from Rhode Island from 1929-1941, and a Rhode Island State Senator from 1925-1929. He was a member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1933-1941, and served as its Chairman for the final four years of his time in the office.

Sullivan is a distant relative of former First Lady Wendy Sullivan, who was married to President John Burwin prior to their 1998 divorce, and is regarded as the patriarch of the Sullivan political family that has been influential in Rhode Island and Connecticut politics during the 20th century.

Early Life

Congressional Career

Role in Kennedy Administration

In early 1941, President-elect Joseph Kennedy flew out to Rhode Island to personally ask Sullivan to be his Secretary of State, a position which Sullivan readily accepted. He came to be an enormously influential man in this position, as the geopolitical landscape was changing drastically in the late 1930's and his level-headed foreign policy acumen was seen as critical to the continuation of America's growing overseas influence.

Sullivan was one of the Kennedy advisors who suggested aligning with the government of Edmond Bonaparte in the French Civil War, as he felt that Sebastien posed a greater foreign policy threat should he be victorious. However, he did advise against Kennedy's insistence on occupying Canada as a show of friendship to Edmond, warning that the measure would likely create a sense of revanchism regardless of who wound up winning the European conflict. When the Turks launched their surprise attack against the Imperial forces in Operation Saladin in June 1941, Sullivan correctly predicted that Sebastien and the European Alliance would eventually emerge victorious. His premonition proved true, and his calls to pull out from Canada as early as 1942 fell on deaf ears, a point he made sure to remind voters of in his later political campaigns.

Beyond the critical gaffe by the State Department in supporting and funding the reviled Edmondian regime, which Sullivan allegedly masterminded, he was instrumental in a series of foreign policy victoreis, including establishing a generous oil import deal with Colombia, providing humanitarian aid to rebels in Korea and China to make sure that pro-American forces were victorious in emerging civil conflicts in both countries, helping negotiate a peace deal in the eleventh hour to prevent a Japanese invasion of Vietnam, becoming the first American cabinet member to meet with the heads of the three Indian states (Bengal, Gangestan and Mysore) and visiting the new nation of Zanzibar as part of a formal recognition of the country's independence. He was known as one of the first "worldly diplomats" of the 20th century, and is considered one of the most influential Secretary of States in history, although his legacy was somewhat tarnished by the failure to align correctly with the European Alliance. Sullivan also made sure to strengthen American ties with Portugal in the early 1940's, sensing that the Iberian Peninsula was an emerging hotspot of activity in global politics.

Sullivan announced that he would not return as Secretary of State should Kennedy achieve reelection, and this decision was seen by many to weaken Kennedy's reelection bid. Sullivan served out his term and returned to Rhode Island the day after Prescott Bush's inauguration in 1945 to start focusing on his gubernatorial ambitions.

Governor of Rhode Island

Sullivan was unopposed in his quest to secure the Democratic nomination for the 1946 Rhode Island gubernatorial election, and defeated Nationalist opponent James Edsall by an 83%-17% popular vote margin. As the Governor, he espoused a practical, centrist brand of popular liberalism and was a "northern Democrat" who embraced the efforts of Prescott Bush and his administration to end segregation in the South. He ran unopposed in the 1948 election and defeated Edward Mortimer Lang by a 95% margin in the 1950 gubernatorial race. He declined to seek a fourth term in 1952 and chose to retire instead, as he was approaching his 60th birthday.

Under Sullivan, Rhode Island experienced strong economic growth, became one of the most liberal-leaning states in the Union and the city of Newport became known for being a "liberal fortress" in the otherwise centrist, oftentimes Nationalist-leaning New England.

1956 Presidential Election

Presidency: 1957-1961

1960 Presidential Election

After Presidency and Legacy


Death and Burial

Despite keeping himself in good health for his age with exercise, Sullivan fell ill a week after his 81st birthday and suffered his first of two heart attacks on April 24th, 1975. He remained in critical condition at the Providence City Hospital before suffering a major coronary on May 6th. He passed away in the early morning hours of May 7th, 1975.

Sullivan was flown to Washington, D.C. for his funeral, at which President Dawley as well as Sullivan's Vice President, Charles Ewing, spoke eloquently about the deceased. Former Massachusetts Governor Joseph Kennedy, Jr. also presented a eulogy for the late President.

Sullivan lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda before beind returned to Rhode Island, where he was buried in a small plot at Armstrong Road Cemetery in Newport, a mile from his home. In 1984, the city of Newport decided to rename the cemetery the Thomas R. Sullivan Memorial Garden and his Presidential library was built across the street.


Sullivan is often recognized as one of the liberal icons of the 20th century. He was the leader of the so-called "liberal insurgency" that cracked the power of the conservative Southern members of the Democratic Party and brought about the focus on social welfare, a stronger alliance with labor unions and a distancing from segregationist rhetoric that would help guide the Democratic Party away from its torrid past. While many Democrats in the 1960's and early 1970's blamed Sullivan for "dividing the party," later historians would recognize that it was Sullivan's efforts to end the Democrats' insistence on "segregation now and segregation forever" that would make it possible for progressives such as Adam Eisler, John Burwin and Jay Leno to be elected in the subsequent fifty years, and that the move towards the left end of the spectrum would make their party more appealing in the long term and hemorrhage votes from the idealogically unfocused Nationalists.