President of the Rotary Club of New York 1989-1990
Joseph A. Sullivan
Former FBI Special Agent and a legend
of the Bureau left us August 2 at noon!
New York City - August 2, 2002.
Major Case Inspector Joseph A. Sullivan, a former FBI Special Agent and a legend of the Bureau, left us today at noon.
"Joe Sullivan has been the defender of our rights
He has held the most valuable of public trusts
He has been the guardian of our constitution"
He was also our mentor, the founder of E-POL and an active member of the Rotary Club of New York, Joe Sullivan was "old enough to know how to do business, and young enough to want more business to do. Joe was the youngest old fellow Rotarian in the Club."
Giorgio H. Balestrieri
Member of the Board of Directors
As a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Joseph A. Sullivan helped solve some of the highest profile civil rights crimes of the 1960s. His 30-year law enforcement career reads like a social history of the latter part of this century. It began with National Security work during World War II, reached its peak during the civil unrest of the 1960s and culminated in solving a bombing spree that plagued New York City in the early 1970s. Inspector Sullivan worked in FBI offices from Florida to Alaska, ands served as an undercover agent in Colombia. Assigned to the New York City in 1946 he helped solve a truck theft operation of the Gambino crime family. Later after serving in Houston, Texas and Anchorage, Alaska, he was back in New York as a major case inspector.
Early in 1964, as President Lyndon B. Johnson was giving a speech in Florida, two railroad bridges were blown up nearby. President Johnson wanted the FBI to get the case, and Sullivan was called to Jacksonville where his investigation team identified the bombers and knew the time and location of the next strike, a bridge at night. During the night Sullivan crawled along the railroad bridge tracks until he found the explosive, set to go off when the train was on the bridge. Meanwhile, his fellow agents flagged down a train that was approaching the bridge, stopping it in time to let Sullivan remove the bomb.
It was in the south, deep in the throes of civil rights turmoil, that Joe Sullivan did see the fruits of his labor. One of his first tasks was to find out the state of preparedness of FBI offices in New Orleans and Memphis for what was expected to be a summer invasion of college students who would help blacks register to vote. In June 1964, three civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwermer, were arrested by local authorities in Philadelphia, Mississippi, on suspicion of arson. They were released the same night, but admonished not to return to the town. But their car was later found ditched in a swamp, leading the FBI agents to a massive search for the three. The investigation led to two confessions and out of 17 suspects six were convicted on violation of civil rights charges. Mississippi Burning an Academy Winner movie was the controversial fictionalization of the true story. Inspector Sullivan was also involved in solving the murder of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Just before his retirement in 1971; Sullivan was back in New York, where he helped arrest Samuel Melville for a string of bombings.
The sisters at Fraternite Notre Dame gave a surprise birthday party in their soup kitchen for our most distinguished Rotarian Joe Sullivan on February 27th (Joe’s birthday). Members from the Rotary Club of New York were there and young children from poor homes in Harlem played violin. There was also a big birthday cake. Joe, who regularly volunteers in the soup kitchen, was very touched. Before his retirement, Joe’s FBI law enforcement career reads like a social history of the latter part of the 20th century. It reached its peak during the civil unrest of the 1960s and culminated in solving a bombing spree that plagued New York City in the early 1970s. Joe worked in FBI offices from Florida to Alaska and also served as an undercover agent in Columbia.
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