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Roger C. Sullivan

also known as Roger Charles Sullivan


Sullivan dominated the Illinois Democratic Party for two decades and was a national figure. Sullivan became controversial when he became effectively the chief operating officer of the Ogden Gas Company and the Cosmopolitan Electric Company.


He was born in Belvidere, Illinois in 1861 the child of Irish immigrants.


In 1902, Sullivan and his chief partner, John P. Hopkins, achieved control of the Illinois state committee. This formed a base for a long-running rivalry with Mayor Carter H. Harrison, Sullivan was elected to the Democratic National Committee in 1906.

Sullivan played a critical role in delivering the nomination to Woodrow Wilson at the party's convention in Baltimore. He switched the votes of the Illinois delegation from Champ Clark of Missouri to Wilson on the 43rd ballot despite the fact that Clark won the state's primary by over one hundred thousand votes.

Sullivan did not get as much for his trouble-as he hoped-he was denied complete control of federal patronage by the administration (until 1916) and it did little (thanks to Bryan, who was secretary of state) to help him when he ran for the U.S. Senate in Illinois in 1914. Sullivan lost despite having the opposition split between Progressives and Republicans, largely as a function of the G.O.P reuniting and claiming its place as the state's majority party. His supporters organized a Sullivan for vice-president movement at the 1916 Democratic convention in Denver, but there was no real chance of Wilson putting him on the ticket. He remained a national figure of great renown as Democratic boss of what was then the second largest city, and the third most populous state until his death in April 1920. When he died, his passing was greeted with expressions of grief from Woodrow Wilson, Republican Governor Frank Orren Lowden, and virtually the entire Illinois political establishment, reformist or not. Even his only personal enemy, Carter H. Harrison, who he had defeated for renomination for the mayor's office in 1915, offered his regrets.


  • Roger C. Sullivan High School in Chicago, Illinois is named after him. His greatest legacy, of course, was the Chicago Democratic Machine, which was subsequently headed by his chief lieutenant, George Brennan, then by his sometimes rival, sometimes ally, Anton Cermak, and then by his protege and next-door neighbor, Patrick Nash working in tandem with Mayor Edward J. Kelly. The organization reached its climax with Mayor Richard J. Daley.


Married Helen M. Quinlan, 1885.

Mary Sullivan

Helen M. Quinlan

Francis, Helen, Mary and Virginia.