|71st Governor of Rhode Island|
January 1, 1991 – January 7, 1995
|Lieutenant||Roger N. Begin
|Preceded by||Edward D. DiPrete|
|Succeeded by||Lincoln Almond|
|Born||Bruce George Sundlun
January 19, 1920
Providence, Rhode Island
|Died||July 21, 2011
Jamestown, Rhode Island
|Spouse(s)||Madeleine Schiffer (Eisner) Gimbel (1949-1965)
Pamela (Soldwedel) Barrett (1966-1974)
Joyanne T. Carter (1974-1985)
Marjorie Lee (1985-1999)
Susan Dittelman (2000-2011)
|Alma mater||Williams College, Harvard Law School|
|Service/branch||United States Army Air Forces
United States Air Force
|Years of service||1942–1945 (active) 1945–1980 (reserves)|
Colonel (Air Force Reserves)
|Commands||B-17F Damn Yankee|
|Battles/wars||World War II, Combined Bomber Offensive, Eighth Air Force; 384th Bomb Group; 545th Squadron; Grafton Underwood|
|Awards||Purple Heart, Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters|
Bruce Sundlun (born Bruce George Sundlun; January 19, 1920 – July 21, 2011) was an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as 71st Governor of Rhode Island from 1991 to 1995. He was Rhode Island's second Jewish governor, and the only Jewish governor in the United States during his two terms. In addition to politics, Sundlun had a varied career as a military pilot, federal attorney, practicing lawyer, corporate executive and university lecturer.
Early life and education
Sundlun was born in Providence on January 19, 1920 to Walter Irving Sundlun and Jennette "Jan" Zelda (Colitz) Sundlun. His grandparents were Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. Sundlun attended the Gordon School, Providence Classical High School and Tabor Academy. In 1933 while attending boy scout camp at Camp Yawgoog he fell though ice on a pond and was rescued by a young John Chafee, and while he was in high school he was track star, excelling in long jump events. Upon finishing college classes begun in 1938, he received a B.A. from Williams College in 1946 after serving during World War II in the United States Army Air Forces flying B-17 bombers in the 8th Air Force in England. He attended Harvard Law School, graduating with a Doctor of Laws degree in 1949.
While still in college, Bruce Sundlun volunteered for service in the U.S. Army Air Forces Aviation Cadet Program on December 8, 1941, at Westover Field. He was trained as a four-engine bomber pilot at Maxwell Field in Alabama, after basic flight training at the USAAC Southeast Training Center at Orangeburg, South Carolina, the Greenville Army Air Field at Greenville, Mississippi, and George Field in Lawrenceville, Illinois.
During overseas active duty beginning in June 1943, Sundlun served as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot in the England-based 545th Bombardment Squadron, 384th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force at Grafton-Underwood Air Base. His plane the Damn Yankee was shot down over Nazi-occupied Jabbeke, Belgium on December 1, 1943 after the plane was damaged by flak during the bombing of Solingen, Germany, on his 13th mission. He was named an honorary citizen of Jabbeke in 2009 because of the fact that his actions saved countless lives in the town center of Jabbeke. He and his copilot Lt. Andrew J. Boles banked the airplane hard to the left prior to bailing out, crashing it safely into a turnip field at Zomerweg 41, south of the Jabbeke town center. Of the ten-man crew, four were killed while in the plane, five were quickly captured by German forces on the ground, with Sundlun the only crew member able to evade capture.
After six months time cooperating with the French Resistance under the code name Salamander, he made several attempts to enter Spain near Biarritz, and later near Foix. But after deciding that there was too much danger of capture or loss in the snowy Pyrenees, he made his way on stolen bicycles north-eastward across France and escaped into Switzerland on May 5, 1944 near Fêche-l'Église. Before escaping into Switzerland, he was engaged with the Maquis in acts of sabotage near Belfort against German Army units under the command of Russian defector General Andrey Vlasov. Later, he was recruited by Allen Dulles to work out of the U.S. Embassy in Bern under the auspices of the Office of Strategic Services in the early preparations for Operation Sunrise. Later under the orders of Dulles, he reentered France to act as a bombardment spotter for the Allied invasion of Marseille in mid-August 1944. After a brief service as a pilot of C-54 Skymaster cargo planes into Karachi, and over "The Hump" to Kunming after VE Day, he ferried bombers (B-24 Liberators and B-29 Superfortresses) from the U.S. mainland to Tinian in the Mariana Islands and into other bases in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
In August 1945, Sundlun attained the rank of captain, and left active service at the end of the war. He received the Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters from the U.S. military, and in 1977 he received the Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur from the French government. Despite ending his active service in 1945, he remained in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and rose through the officer ranks until he retired as a Colonel in 1980 after serving with the 376th Troop Carrier Squadron at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, and the 459th Troop Carrier Group, Medium at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland
In September 1948 Sundlun flew surplus B-17 bombers from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona to the newly created state of Israel to help form the Israeli Air Force. Later on November 27, 1979, he was awarded the Prime Minister's Medal by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin for his services to the State of Israel.
Military awards and decorations
|Distinguished Flying Cross|
|Air Medal plus two oak leaf clusters|
|European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal|
|Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal|
|American Campaign Medal|
|World War II Victory Medal|
|Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur (France)|
Legal and business career
From 1949 to 1972, Sundlun was a practicing attorney. In 1949, he was appointed by Attorney General J. Howard McGrath to serve as an Assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. and later served as a Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General. From 1954 to 1972, he was in private law practice in both Washington, D.C. and Providence, with the law firms of Amram, Hahn, and Sundlun, and Sundlun, Tirana and Scher.
Sundlun was active as a businessman from the 1960s through the 1990s. He was a pioneer in the jet charter industry in 1964 by being one of the founding members of the board of directors of Executive Jet Aviation (EJA), along with Air Force generals Curtis E. LeMay, and Paul Tibbetts, and entertainers James Stewart and Arthur Godfrey among others, with retired Air Force Brigadier General Olbert F. ("Dick") Lassiter as president and chairman of the board. Shortly after incorporation in Ohio, Sundlun arranged financing for EJA by engineering a stock purchase by American Contract Company of Wilmington, Delaware, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad. EJA initially began operations in 1964 with a fleet of ten Learjet 23 aircraft. A few years afterward, a number of financial and legal improprieties were made by Lassiter including the purchase of Boeing 707 and Boeing 727 aircraft in violation of federal law prohibiting railroad ownership of large aircraft. An order by the Civil Aeronautics Board for EJA to either dispose of the large airplanes or for the Penn Central Railroad to divest its $22 million investment led to the near collapse of EJA in 1970. The company's creditors reacted by demanding the removal of Lassiter as president. On July 2, 1970 Sundlun was installed as EJA president, and he set out to rebuild the company. Under his leadership, the big jets were sold and he brought the company into the black. In the process, Sundlun, Robert Lee Scott, Jr. and Joseph Samuels ("Dody") Sinclair, grandson of one of the founders of The Outlet Company of Providence, borrowed $1.25 million from the Industrial Trust Company of Providence to buy out Penn Central's interest in EJA. That purchase was completed in 1972 as part of the Penn Central Railroad's bankruptcy proceedings. When Paul Tibbetts became president of EJA in 1976, he said that the company's turn around, under Sundlun's guidance, was one of the nation's great business success stories of that decade. By the end of Sundlun's presidency, EJA was doing business with approximately 250 contract flying customers and logging more than three million miles per year. Sundlun remained on the Board of Directors of EJA until it was sold in 1984 to a group of investors led by Richard Santulli. The company is still in business with the name of NetJets as one of the holdings of Berkshire Hathaway.
From 1976 to 1988, Sundlun was president and chief executive officer of The Outlet Company, a department store and broadcast communications company in Providence. In close association with Dody Sinclair, he led the diversification of the corporation by expanding its radio and television broadcast communications portfolio in the 1970s and 1980s until it had 147 retail stores and 11 radio and television stations. He presided over the corporation during the 1981 sale of the company's flagship Providence department store, sale of several radio stations, the merger of The Outlet Company with the Rockefeller Group in 1984, and the renaming of the company to Outlet Communications. In 1986 after the Rockefeller family voted to not expand further into broadcast communications, a group of Outlet Communications executives, led by Sundlun, executed a leveraged buyout of the company. Remaining as president throughout the entire merger and leveraged buyout sequence, Sundlun led the doubling of Outlet Communications holdings of licensed television broadcast stations from 4 to 11 across the country. And in his last three years as president between 1986 and 1988, he led the sale of the Outlet Communications stations in Orlando, San Antonio and Sacramento.
Politics and public service
Sundlun ran twice but lost the Rhode Island governorship races in 1986 and 1988, but won it on his third try in 1990, defeating incumbent governor Edward D. DiPrete in a landslide victory 74%-26%, the largest majority for any Rhode Island governor. He won reelection in 1992, but in 1994, he failed to win the Democratic primary against Myrth York, and she was defeated in the general election.
Only one hour after Sundlun's inauguration as governor on January 1, 1991, he announced the closure of 45 banks and credit unions in the state due to the collapse of their private insurer, the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corporation (RISDIC). Resolution of the crisis was through Sundlun's creation of the Rhode Island Depositor's Economic Protection Corporation (DEPCO) to manage the assets of closed banks and assure depositor repayment. Sundlun served as the chairman of the DEPCO Board of Directors and was primarily aided by his Director of Policy Sheldon Whitehouse. Despite considerable political resistance and the permanent closure of several institutions due to their failure to acquire Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or National Credit Union Administration insurance, all depositor funds were repaid in full plus interest, after two and a half years.
During Sundlun's two terms as governor, he took particular interest in expanding Rhode Island as a destination for conventions and tourism by championing the building the Rhode Island Convention Center. Later, noting that a shortage of hotels in Providence hindered the city's development as a convention destination, he urged the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority to facilitate the building of a hotel that eventually became The Westin Providence. He created the Rhode Island Airport Corporation as an entity to revitalize and operate Rhode Island's state airports, and he was responsible for a complete redesign and rebuild of the passenger terminal and airport approach roads at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick. In 1992, he aided in the establishment of the Quonset Air Museum at the Quonset State Airport in North Kingstown. He was also was responsible for building the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge, and the Jamestown Expressway, as well as arranging the financing of Providence Place Mall, and the relocation of the Woonasquatucket River to permit the construction of Waterplace Park and the Citizens Bank Building in downtown Providence. The Bruce Sundlun Terminal at T.F. Green Airport is named in his honor, and the airport now generates over $2 billion in economic activity annually.
Sundlun served as a co-chairman of the inaugural parade committee for President John F. Kennedy in 1960 and 1961, and was appointed by President Kennedy in October 1962 as an incorporating member of the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT), where he served for 30 years as a director. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed him as a member of the Board of Visitors of the United States Air Force Academy where he served two four-year terms, and that same year, he was appointed by Governor J. Joseph Garrahy as a Rhode Island Commodore. He served a four-year term as a director of the National Security Education Board, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Sundlun was a delegate to Democratic National Convention in 1964, 1968, 1980, 1988, and 2000, as well as to the Rhode Island Constitutional Convention of 1985. He was a member of the Providence School Board from 1984 to 1990. And from 1995 until his death, Sundlun had been teaching political science and Rhode Island history at the University of Rhode Island as Governor in Residence.
From the 1970s to the late-1980s, Sundlun maintained a residence at Salamander Farm, a 130-acre (0.53 km2) estate in The Plains, Virginia, which he named after his wartime identity with the French Underground. From 2004 until his death in 2011, he lived in Jamestown, Rhode Island with his wife Susan, a professional photographer and owner of East Greenwich Photo.
Sundlun was married five times and had four children. He was the father of WFSB news anchor Kara (Hewes) Sundlun and father-in-law to WFSB news anchor Dennis House. Sundlun admitted paternity after Hewes filed suit in 1993 alleging that Sundlun had fathered her in a relationship with her mother, Judith Vargo (Hewes). During the initial stages of the suit, Sundlun said that a payment to Judith Hewes of $35,000 in 1976 and Kara's adoption by Robert Hewes in the late 1970s had fully absolved him of financial responsibility in the matter. However, Sundlun accepted Kara Hewes fully as his daughter assuring that her college education was fully financed.
Sundlun also had three sons from his first marriage to Madeleine Schiffer Gimbel: Tracy Walter Sundlun, Vice President of Competitor Group, a promoter and manager of marathon races who at 17 coached track at the 1972 Olympic Games and was the youngest ever Olympic coach; Stuart Arthur Sundlun, a financial services executive managing the New York operations of Triago and the BMB Group; and Peter Bruce Sundlun, a commercial airline pilot with Dominion Aviation Services and Atlantic Southeast Airlines until 2009, becoming a Transportation Security Officer with the Transportation Security Administration. Tracy has a daughter named Felicity, Peter has a son named Hunter, and Kara has two children, Helena and Julian.
Sundlun died on July 21, 2011 at his home in Jamestown, Rhode Island. Sundlun was accorded full state and military honors prior to and at his funeral and burial on July 24, 2011. He was buried at Sons of David and Israel Cemetery (Temple Beth El Cemetery) in Providence, Rhode Island.
Media reports and popular controversy
In July 1993, when he thought that three raccoons on his 4-acre (16,000 m2) estate in Newport were rabid, Sundlun shot at them with a 12-gauge shotgun. Later the Providence Journal-Bulletin reported that the act was illegal according to state fish and game laws. The day of the publication, Sundlun turned himself in to the state police for arrest stating that ethics was the cornerstone of his administration. The state police reluctantly complied, so the case went to court and Sundlun pleaded guilty. But state officials and his own lawyer Robert Flanders, convinced Sundlun that his actions were not a crime because his estate did not constitute a "compact area" and because the threat of rabies that year had led the state to waive restrictions on shooting raccoons. His guilty plea was withdrawn and all charges were dropped.
Sundlun was well known for making light of popular controversy in a colorful fashion. After the raccoon shooting incident, Sundlun agreed to pose for a calendar photo for local charity wearing only a raccoon hat while aiming a shotgun and displaying his 8th Air Force tattoo on his shoulder, and he occasionally showed up at downtown eateries in the middle of the night in pajamas and bathrobe to pick up coffee and a late-night snack.
In December 1997, in East Greenwich, Sundlun attempted to purchase some plastic forks after hours from a nearby CVS/pharmacy for a Christmas party he was attending. Employees had closed their registers for the day, yet had not secured the premises. CVS workers apologized for the misunderstanding but said they could not accept payment as the transaction could not be registered due to deactivation of their cash registers. Police were called after an argument let out between Sundlun and the employees. Sundlun eventually issued an apology to the employees and the pharmacy chain for his actions.
On February 24, 2009, Sundlun was involved in a dispute over his place in line at a branch of Citizens Bank in East Greenwich. Sundlun was pushed to the ground by Charles Machado, 59, of Warwick. Sundlun hit his head and was stunned, but he declined to press charges against Machado.
In his later years, Sundlun had been involved in some traffic accidents and traffic violations, which led two Rhode Island police departments, North Kingstown in 2007 and Jamestown in 2009, to convince the state Department of Motor Vehicles in evaluating Sundlun's ability to drive. In 2008, he was admonished by authorities of University of Rhode Island about his driving on the campus after separate incidents in which he drove on a sidewalk, nearly hit a professor who was walking with a cane, and allegedly hit a parked car. Sundlun passed the first driving test which was the result of the North Kingstown request. On April 30, 2009, Sundlun voluntarily surrendered his license.
On June 4, 2009, Sundlun was on a WPRO radio talk show in which he claimed that he flew a private plane owned by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Votolato, 79, from T.F. Green Airport to Hartford. Within days, Judge Votolato and Sundlun had issued a statement that the judge was in fact in full control of the aircraft. While Votolato's pilot's license had been maintained up to date, Sundlun's commercial pilot's license had expired in the late 1970s.
- Sundlun requested and was granted legal elimination of his middle name by the Rhode Island District Court in Newport, RI in 1986.
- "Bruce at 86: A different kind of man". by G. Wayne Miller, Providence Journal (2006). Retrieved May 1, 2009.
- "Bruce Sundlun Fiery Former RI Governor Dies". Providence Journal July 21, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- "Bruce Sundlun’s remarkable Rhode Island life". by Edward Fitzpatrick, Providence Journal July 24, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
- "Assault on Damn Yankee, by Domenic DeNardo". Retrieved April 30, 2009.
- "384 Bomb Group Mission Log, December 1, 1943". Retrieved April 28, 2009.
- "Bruce Sundlun Citizen of Jabbeke (in Flemish), by Henrick Bogaert". Hendrik Bogaert Blog April 27, 2009. Retrieved May 11, 2009.
- Johan Willaert. "My 68th Anniversary Tribute to B17-F Damn Yankee". U.S. Militaria Forum. Retrieved November 17, 2013.
- "Bruce Sundlun: World War II gave me indelible lesson in separation of church and state". Providence Journal December 3, 2009. Retrieved December 3, 2009.
- "Rhode Island State Senate Resolution 2009-S-0899". Retrieved May 11, 2009.
- "Rhode Island Governor Bruce G. Sundlun". National Association of Governors. Retrieved June 3, 2009.
- "Program for presentation of Israel's Prime Minister's Medal to Sundlun, 11/27/79.". Fitzhugh Green Papers, Box 2 Folder 47, Georgetown University Special Collections. Retrieved June 3, 2009.
- "Image of Menachem Begin (1977 version) Prime Minister Medal (obverse)". www.israelidecorations.net. Retrieved November 14, 2010.
- p. 58 in: U.S. Congress, House Committee on Banking and Currency. (1972). The Penn Central Failure and the Role of Financial Institutions. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 336pp.Google Books result
- "Homage to Dick Lassiter". International Air Bahama Crew Association. Retrieved July 10, 2009.
- "Netjets History". Retrieved June 5, 2009.
- "Sundlun v. Executive Jet Aviation, Inc., 273 A.2d 282 (Del. Ch., 1970)". Chancery court of Delaware, Newcastle county. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
- p. 176 in: Daughen, Joseph R. and Peter Binzen. (1999). The Wreck of the Penn Central (2nd ed), Beard Books, Frederick, MD. ISBN 978-1-893122-08-6
- "Paul Tibbets: A Rendezvous with History by Di Freeze". Airport Journals. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
- "Outlet Company Records". Rhode Island Historical Society. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
- "Reverse LBO's Bring Riches By Leslie Wayne". New York Times, April 23, 1987. April 23, 1987. Retrieved June 14, 2009.
- "Banking Crisis Still Grips Rhode Island 2 January 1992". New York Times. January 2, 1992. Retrieved April 30, 2009.
- "Sundlun DEPCO Papers". Retrieved April 30, 2009.
- "Rhode Island Convention Center Authority". Retrieved June 11, 2009.
- Sundlun, B., 1997. Growing Rhode Island: big projects have been a big help. Providence Journal-Bulletin November 16, p. D.14
- "Rhode Island Airport Corporation". Retrieved April 30, 2009.
- "Rhode Island Airport Corporation authorizing legislation GLRI 1-2-7.1". Rhode Island General Assembly. Retrieved May 22, 2009.
- "About the Quonset Air Museum". Quonset Air Museum, Inc. Retrieved February 27, 2011.
- "David Preston: Bruce Sundlun: A model of strong leadership January 25, 2009". Providence Journal. Retrieved April 30, 2009.
- "T.F. Green Airport Economic Impact Report 2006". Rhode Island Airport Corporation. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Stockholders Back COMSAT Management". St. Petersburg Times, September 18, 1964. Retrieved May 17, 2009.
- "John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online]". Santa Barbara, CA: University of California. Retrieved June 14, 2009.
- "Three New Inductees to the URI College of Business Hall of Fame". University of Rhode Island. Retrieved May 10, 2009.
- "Bruce Sundlun Biographical Notes". University of Rhode Island Special Collections. Retrieved February 22, 2011.
- "Salamander Farm Story". Sheila Crump Johnson Salamander Resort and Spa. Retrieved July 10, 2009.
- "Well-Bred Design: The Sundluns at Home". The Washington Dossier. April 1980. Retrieved 11 Sep 2014.
- "About Soozie Sundlun". East Greenwich Photo. Retrieved June 3, 2009.
- "Marriages: Kara Sundlun and Dennis House". Milford Daily News, November 15, 2003. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
- "Paternity Suit Just Another Crisis in Rhode Island". New York Times, June 11, 1993. June 11, 1993. Retrieved January 13, 2010.
- Zezima, Katie (August 10, 2003). "Weddings, Celebrations & Vows: Kara Sundlun and Dennis House". New York Times August 10, 2003. Retrieved January 16, 2010.
- "Marathon Brings Out 20,000 Runners – and An Economic Boost". San Diego Business Journal May 31, 2004. Retrieved August 22, 2009.
- "Tracy Sundlun, Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, May 5, 2011". San Diego Rotary Club. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
- "Profile: Stuart A. Sundlun". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Peter Sundlun Profile". Linked-In. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
- Margalit Fox (July 22, 2011). "Bruce Sundlun, Rhode Island Governor With Flair, Dies at 91". The New York Times.
- "Sundlun dies at 91". News 10 Providence. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
- "Public invited to honor former Gov. Bruce Sundlun Saturday". G. Wayne Miller, Providence Journal. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
- "Bruce Sundlun at Find a Grave". Retrieved August 10, 2011.
- "A Governor Shoots, But His Guilty Plea Is Wide of the Mark". New York Times October 3, 1993. October 3, 1993. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
- "O Captain, my Captain by Rudy Cheeks". The Boston Phoenix. July 27, 2011. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- "Apology offered to CVS workers". Boston Globe, December 17, 1997. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
- "Sundlun involved in altercation at bank". WJAR-10 Television February 24, 2009. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
- "State DMV asked to evaluate Sundlun’s ability to drive". Providence Journal. April 29, 2009. Retrieved April 30, 2009.
- "Former Gov. Bruce Sundlun turns in license. By Amanda Milkovits". Providence Journal May 1, 2009. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
- "Sundlun says now he didn’t fly judge’s plane to Hartford". Providence Journal June 6, 2009. Retrieved June 11, 2009.
- Index of the Bruce Sundlun Papers at the University of Rhode Island
- Providence Journal Profile of Bruce Sundlun by G. Wayne Miller
- RI House of Representatives Resolution Honoring Bruce Sundlun on his 88th Birthday
- Rhode Island Senate Resolution Honoring Bruce Sundlun for His Distinguished Military Service
- RI House of Representatives Resolution Honoring Bruce Sundlun on his 90th Birthday
- Bruce Sundlun's Life of Achievement by G. Wayne Miller of the Providence Journal
Edward D. DiPrete
|Governor of Rhode Island