Algernon Sydney Sullivan

Algernon Sydney Sullivan

Algernon Sydney Sullivan (1826–1887) was a New York lawyer. Sullivan, together with William Nelson Cromwell, founded Sullivan & Cromwell in 1879.


Early lifeEdit

Algernon Sydney Sullivan was born at Madison, Indiana on April 5, 1826, son of Jeremiah Sullivan (1794–1870) and Charlotte Rudesel (Cutler) Sullivan. He was named in honor of the British politician, Algernon Sidney. His father was a lawyer, a major in the War of 1812, a member of the Indiana legislature in 1821, and judge of the criminal court of Jefferson County, Indiana, and a judge of the Indiana Supreme Court from 1837 to 1846. His grandfather, Thomas Littleton Sullivan, the son of an Irish barrister, emigrated from Charleville, County Cork, Ireland, in 1791, to Augusta County, Virginia. He also had a younger brother named Jeremiah C. Sullivan who, in addition to his legal career, also had a successful military career in both the U.S. Navy and then the U.S. Army.

Algernon Sullivan was educated at Hanover College and Miami University graduating in 1845. While a law student, about the age of twenty, he made a tour of Indiana, speaking with marked success in advocacy of taxation for the maintenance of public schools. After studying law in his father's office, he was admitted to the bar in 1848, and for eight years practiced in Cincinnati, Ohio.


In 1857 he moved to New York city, and soon took a prominent position as a lawyer and public spirited citizen. He was retained to defend the officers and crew of the Confederate schooner Savannah, the first vessel to be captured during the Civil War, who were on trial for their lives on the charge of piracy. Owing to some inimical reports about him, he was arrested and imprisoned, but soon released. After the trial began, public feeling ran so high that his life was threatened if he should appear in their defense. He nevertheless did so, telling his friends that, having been appealed to as a lawyer, he could consider no other course, and the ultimate result of the trial was that the men were exchanged as prisoners of war. From 1870 to 1873 Sullivan was assistant district attorney for New York city, and upon leaving that office he formed a partnership with Hermann Kobbe and Ludlow Fowler. In 1875, he was appointed public administrator, during which he instituted many reforms, reducing the charges upon estates administered, and, in spite of pressure, retaining in his service efficient assistants of a political party different from his own. In 1878 the firm of Sullivan, Kobbe & Fowler was dissolved and he formed a partnership with William Nelson Cromwell, under the name of Sullivan & Cromwell, which firm name is still retained by the successors to his business. Sullivan was recognized as one of the strongest, readiest and most successful jury lawyers in New York, and he was admired and revered by both bench and bar. His kindness, candor and fairness, even during the heat of a trial, were always the subject of remark. Judge Bookstaver, of New York, in speaking of him, said: "He was always welcomed by the court in any case in which he appeared, because it was felt that his learning, ability and absolute truthfulness would assist the court in the trial of any question of law and fact with which it had to deal." He was noted for seeking opportunities for helping and encouraging younger lawyers.

His interests were very broad, and his sympathy both deep and active. No individual ever appealed to him without receiving what was needed, either money, service, guidance or encouragement. There were few movements for public welfare, alleviation of suffering or the upholding of high ideals that did not receive his efficient aid. He was a brilliant and convincing orator, and was often chosen to speak at public gatherings because of his prominence and eloquence. One of his most famous orations was at the laying of the cornerstone of the Produce Exchange, made at an hour's notice. In all of his work there was great readiness, versatility and ease. On the platform he was peculiarly attractive and effective. He was tall, handsome in face and form, graceful in movement, impressive and most winning in manner and presence. His voice was full, penetrating, musical and sympathetic. His style was direct, simple and vividly realistic. He was a Whig in politics until 1856, when he became a Democrat, in which party he remained until his death. He was active in party work, but with great independence.

Sullivan was concerned with the affairs of charitable organizations and of the First Presbyterian Church. He was a member of the American and New York State Bar associations, many social and scientific clubs, and was the first president of the Southern Society of New York. Upon his death many of the city courts were adjourned. In 1851 he was married to Mary Slocum Groesbeck, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who died in the same year. He was married again, in 1855, to Mary Mildred Hammond Sullivan, an influential civic leader and philanthropist in New York City. She was the daughter of George W. Hammond of Winchester, Va. She survived him with one son, George Hammond Sullivan, a lawyer of New York City. Sullivan died December 4, 1887.

In 1926 The New York Southern Society established the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award which is presented to undergraduate seniors at colleges and universities across the eastern United States. The participating institutions present the award as determined by a vote of the faculty. The recipient is one who exhibits Sullivan's ideals of heart, mind, and conduct as evidenced by a spirit of love for and helpfulness to others, who "excels in high ideals of living, in fine spiritual qualities, and in generous and unselfish service to others."

After the New York Southern Society closed its doors, the awards were continued by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation and grew to include many institutions throughoutammond the country, such as Campbellsville University, in Campbellsville, Kentucky, which awarded one of its first two honors to the physician Forest Shely, who was a CU trustee from 1954 until his death in 2010.[1]


  1. ^ "Joan C. McKinney, Campbellsville University presents first Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume 10