|71st Governor of Rhode Island|
January 1, 1991 – January 7, 1995
|Preceded by||Edward D. DiPrete|
|Succeeded by||Lincoln Almond|
|Born||Bruce George Sundlun
19 January 1920
Providence, Rhode Island
|Died||21 July 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||U.S. Army Air Corps|
|Years of service||1942–1945 (active) 1945–1980 (reserves)|
|Rank||Captain (active); 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|
|Portrait in Rhode Island Statehouse|
Bruce Sundlun (born Bruce George Sundlun; 19 January 1920 – 21 July 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 19 January 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 8 December 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 1 December 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.
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 5 May 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 working out of the U.S. Embassy in Bern to reenter France under the auspices of the Office of Strategic Services to act as a bombardment spotter for the Allied invasion of Marseilles in 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 27 November 1979, he was awarded the Prime Minister's Medal by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin for his services to the State of Israel.
Bruce Sundlun's Military Awards & 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 2 July 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 1 January 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. 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 21 July 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 24 July 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 24 February 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 30 April 2009, Sundlun voluntarily surrendered his license.
On 4 June 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 1 May 2009.
- "Bruce Sundlun Fiery Former RI Governor Dies". Providence Journal 21 July 2011. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
- "Bruce Sundlun’s remarkable Rhode Island life". by Edward Fitzpatrick, Providence Journal 24 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- "Assault on Damn Yankee, by Domenic DeNardo". Retrieved 30 April 2009.
- "384 Bomb Group Mission Log, December 1, 1943". Retrieved 28 April 2009.
- "Bruce Sundlun Citizen of Jabbeke (in Flemish), by Henrick Bogaert". Hendrik Bogaert Blog 27 April 2009. Retrieved 11 May 2009.
- Johan Willaert. "My 68th Anniversary Tribute to B17-F Damn Yankee". U.S. Militaria Forum. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- "Bruce Sundlun: World War II gave me indelible lesson in separation of church and state". Providence Journal 3 December 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
- "Rhode Island State Senate Resolution 2009-S-0899". Retrieved 11 May 2009.
- "Rhode Island Governor Bruce G. Sundlun". National Association of Governors. Retrieved 3 June 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 3 June 2009.
- "Image of Menachem Begin (1977 version) Prime Minister Medal (obverse)". www.israelidecorations.net. Retrieved 14 November 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 10 July 2009.
- "Netjets History". Retrieved 5 June 2009.
- "Sundlun v. Executive Jet Aviation, Inc., 273 A.2d 282 (Del. Ch., 1970)". Chancery court of Delaware, Newcastle county. Retrieved 24 June 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 5 June 2009.
- "Outlet Company Records". Rhode Island Historical Society. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
- "Reverse LBO's Bring Riches By Leslie Wayne". New York Times, 23 April 1987. 23 April 1987. Retrieved 14 June 2009.
- "Banking Crisis Still Grips Rhode Island 2 January 1992". New York Times. 2 January 1992. Retrieved 30 April 2009.
- "Sundlun DEPCO Papers". Retrieved 30 April 2009.
- "Rhode Island Convention Center Authority". Retrieved 11 June 2009.
- Sundlun, B., 1997. Growing Rhode Island: big projects have been a big help. Providence Journal-Bulletin 16 November, p. D.14
- "Rhode Island Airport Corporation". Retrieved 30 April 2009.
- "Rhode Island Airport Corporation authorizing legislation GLRI 1-2-7.1". Rhode Island General Assembly. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
- "About the Quonset Air Museum". Quonset Air Museum, Inc. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
- "David Preston: Bruce Sundlun: A model of strong leadership January 25, 2009". Providence Journal. Retrieved 30 April 2009.
- "T.F. Green Airport Economic Impact Report 2006". Rhode Island Airport Corporation. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
- "Stockholders Back COMSAT Management". St. Petersburg Times, 18 September 1964. Retrieved 17 May 2009.
- "John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online]". Santa Barbara, CA: University of California. Retrieved 14 June 2009.
- "Three New Inductees to the URI College of Business Hall of Fame". University of Rhode Island. Retrieved 10 May 2009.
- "Bruce Sundlun Biographical Notes". University of Rhode Island Special Collections. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
- "Salamander Farm Story". Sheila Crump Johnson Salamander Resort and Spa. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
- "About Soozie Sundlun". East Greenwich Photo. Retrieved 3 June 2009.
- "Marriages: Kara Sundlun and Dennis House". Milford Daily News, 15 November 2003. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
- "Paternity Suit Just Another Crisis in Rhode Island". New York Times, 11 June 1993. 11 June 1993. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
- Zezima, Katie (10 August 2003). "Weddings, Celebrations & Vows: Kara Sundlun and Dennis House". New York Times 10 August 2003. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- "Marathon Brings Out 20,000 Runners – and An Economic Boost". San Diego Business Journal 31 May 2004. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
- "Tracy Sundlun, Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, May 5, 2011". San Diego Rotary Club. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- "Profile: Stuart A. Sundlun". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
- "Peter Sundlun Profile". Linked-In. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
- Margalit Fox (22 July 2011). "Bruce Sundlun, Rhode Island Governor With Flair, Dies at 91". The New York Times.
- "Sundlun dies at 91". News 10 Providence. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "Public invited to honor former Gov. Bruce Sundlun Saturday". G. Wayne Miller, Providence Journal. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
- "Bruce Sundlun at Find a Grave". Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- "A Governor Shoots, But His Guilty Plea Is Wide of the Mark". New York Times 3 October 1993. 3 October 1993. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
- "O Captain, my Captain by Rudy Cheeks". The Boston Phoenix. 27 July 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- "Apology offered to CVS workers". Boston Globe, 17 December 1997. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
- "Sundlun involved in altercation at bank". WJAR-10 Television 24 February 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
- "State DMV asked to evaluate Sundlun’s ability to drive". Providence Journal. 29 April 2009. Retrieved 30 April 2009.
- "Former Gov. Bruce Sundlun turns in license. By Amanda Milkovits". Providence Journal 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2009.
- "Sundlun says now he didn’t fly judge’s plane to Hartford". Providence Journal 6 June 2009. Retrieved 11 June 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