Thomas F. Sullivan

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Thomas F. Sullivan
Police Commissioner Sullivan and bishop at cardinal funeral.jpg
Thomas F. Sullivan (left), 1944
Commissioner of the Boston Police Department
In office
Preceded byJoseph F. Timilty
Succeeded byLeo J. Sullivan
Acting Commissioner of the Boston Fire Department
In office
Preceded byTheodore A. Glynn
Succeeded byEugene Hultman
Chairman of the Boston Transit Commission
In office
Preceded byPosition created
Succeeded byJoseph F. Dever
Boston Commissioner of Public Works
In office
Preceded byEdward F. Murphy
Succeeded byJoseph A. Rourke
Personal details
BornFebruary 25, 1878
South Boston
DiedAugust 27, 1957(1957-08-27) (aged 79)
South Boston
Political partyDemocratic

Thomas F. Sullivan (1878-1957) was an American government official who served as commissioner of the Boston Police Department and chairman of the city's transit department.

Early life[edit]

Sullivan was born on February 25, 1878 in South Boston.[1] He graduated from The English High School in 1895. During the Spanish–American War he served as a sergeant in Cuba with the 9th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He remained with the 9th Regiment until 1913, when he retired with the rank of major. During World War I he was colonel of the Tenth Infantry regiment of the Massachusetts National Guard.[2]

Boston Elevated Railway[edit]

Sullivan began his transit career as a clerk for the New York and New England Railroad.[2] In 1898, he joined the Boston Elevated Railway's road construction office. In 1912 he was made roadmaster of the service lines.[3] He was later promoted to assistant superintendent of tracks.[4]

Government service[edit]

Commissioner of public works[edit]

On March 18, 1918, Sullivan was appointed commissioner of public works by Boston Mayor Andrew J. Peters.[4] During the 1921 Boston mayoral election, Sullivan supported John R. Murphy to succeed Peters. James Michael Curley won the election and replaced Sullivan as Public Works Commissioner.

Boston transit department[edit]

However, in March 1922 he named Sullivan chairman of the city transit department.[5] He was reappointed by Mayors Frederick Mansfield and Maurice J. Tobin. In this role, Sullivan would supervise construction of the all of the subway and rapid transit lines constructed over the next 21 years, which included the conversion of Maverick station to rapid transit, extension of the Dorchester rapid transit line from Andrew Square to Mattapan Square, extension of the Boylson Street subway out beyond Kenmore Square, construction of the Commonwealth Avenue underpass, digging for the Huntington Avenue subway, and the construction of the $20 million Sumner Tunnel.[2]

Other offices[edit]

In 1926, Mayor Malcolm Nichols dismissed Curley's fire commissioner and Sullivan was named acting commissioner. After the civil service commission rejected Nichols' nominee, John T. Hawes, Sullivan was offered the position.[6] He declined and on July 7, 1926 Eugene C. Hultman took charge of the department.[7]

On September 21, 1934, Sullivan was appointed Emergency Relief Administration administrator for Boston.[8] He held the same position with the ERA's superseding agency, the Works Progress Administration.[9] As he was already collecting a salary from the city of Boston, he accepted a One-dollar salary for his work with the ERA/WPA.[2]

In 1942, Sullivan joined the Army Specialist Corps as a Colonel and was placed in command of the Corps in New England.[10] He also served as a technical advisor for Civilian Defense Region 5 and was the chief blackout officer for the Boston Public Safety Committee. On November 24, 1942 he was appointed state fuel and food conservator by Governor Leverett Saltonstall.[11] Saltonstall also appointed Sullivan as chairman of the state aeronautics commission.[2]

Boston Police Commissioner[edit]

In 1943, the term of controversial Boston police commissioner Joseph F. Timilty was coming to an end. Timilty would be allowed to stay until his successor was confirmed by the Massachusetts Governor's Council. A majority of council stated that they would quickly confirm a qualified appointee but would not "rubber stamp" an "unknown" nominee. Given his long career in public service, Sullivan was seen as a safe appointment.[12] He was nominated by Governor Saltonstall on November 26 and confirmed that same day. Sulllivan resigned all of his other positions so that he could devote his full attention to the police department. After taking office, Sullivan suspended Police Superintendent Edward W. Fallon and four other other high ranking officers who were under indictment on charges of conspiracy to permit gambling.[2]

On January 17, 1950, Sullivan issued a mobilization order calling every precinct captain and detective to duty minutes after the Great Brink's Robbery. It was the largest meeting of top ranking police officials since the Cocoanut Grove fire in 1942.[13]

On January 31, 1951, Sullivan was appointed to a second seven-year term by Governor Paul Dever.[14] He remained commissioner until his death on August 27, 1957.[15]


  1. ^ "Police Head Only 68, Not Over 70, Lane Tells Council". The Boston Daily Globe. February 11, 1947.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "'Enforce Law' - Sullivan". The Boston Daily Globe. November 27, 1943.
  3. ^ "Promoted By The Elevated". The Boston Daily Globe. September 2, 1912.
  4. ^ a b "Maj Sullivan Made Public Works Head". The Boston Daily Globe. March 19, 1918.
  5. ^ "Sullivan For Transit Head". The Boston Daily Globe. March 17, 1922.
  6. ^ "Mayor Again Nominates Hawes". The Boston Daily Globe. March 24, 1926.
  7. ^ "Hultman Dons Gold Fire Badge, Official Welcomed Into Post". The Boston Daily Globe. June 8, 1926.
  8. ^ "Sullivan Gets E. R. A. Post". The Boston Daily Globe. September 22, 1934.
  9. ^ "Council Takes Back Charges". The Boston Daily Globe. June 2, 1936.
  10. ^ "Col. T. F. Sullivan Appointed to Army Specialists Corps". The Boston Daily Globe. August 2, 1942.
  11. ^ "Col. Sullivan Named State Conservator". The Boston Daily Globe. November 25, 1942.
  12. ^ "Col. Sullivan, Fuel Chief, Seen Slated to Get Timilty's Post". The Boston Daily Globe. November 26, 1943.
  13. ^ "Police Commissioner Sullivan Mobilizes Department". The Boston Daily Globe. January 18, 1950.
  14. ^ "Sullivan Given Another Term as City Police Head". The Boston Daily Globe. February 1, 1951.
  15. ^ "Thomas Sullivan Of Boston Police". The New York Times. August 28, 1957.