George Murray Sullivan
|Born||March 31, 1922|
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
|Died||September 23, 2009 (aged 87)|
Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.
|Occupation||Mayor of Anchorage, Alaska|
Senior Vice President of Western Airlines
|Political party||Republican Party|
|Margaret Eagan Sullivan|
|Children||9 children (including "Dan" Sullivan)|
His father was Harvey Sullivan, a U.S. District Marshal who had followed the Chilkoot Trail in 1898 to join the Klondike Gold Rush. Harvey Sullivan met Viola Murray (who would become George's mother) in Valdez, where she was serving as Postmaster.
Sullivan was born in Portland, Oregon, as it was a common practice in the settler communities of Alaska in the first half of the 20th century for expectant mothers to leave Alaska to have their babies in not such a primitive environment. Sullivan grew up in Valdez, then the location of the federal court for the Third Judicial District of the Territory of Alaska. His mother was elected mayor in 1934. During the summer of 1937, he lied about his age in order to obtain a job at the Kennecott Mines; he was only 15, and the minimum age was 16.
After graduating from Valdez High School, Sullivan went on to join the Army during World War II and served in the Aleutian Islands. After the war, he lived in Nenana and worked as a Deputy Marshall. He married Margaret Eagan Sullivan (died 2007), the youngest daughter of Daniel and Isabelle Eagan of Fairbanks. Together, they had nine children, including Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.
In 1952, the family moved to Fairbanks, where Sullivan was employed as the manager of a freight company. He was elected to the City Council and became active in the Republican Party. In 1959, the family moved to Anchorage, having been transferred there by the freight company. Sullivan would continue to play a role in the Fairbanks community for years to come. He is listed as one of the original incorporators of Mt. McKinley Bank, founded in 1965.
In 1964, Sullivan was appointed to the Alaska House of Representatives to fill a vacancy created by the appointment of Representative William H. Sanders to the Superior Court. In 1965 he was elected to the Anchorage City Council, and in 1967, he was elected Mayor of Anchorage.
In 1975, the Greater Anchorage Area Borough unified with the City of Anchorage and several smaller cities to become the Municipality of Anchorage. Sullivan, the city mayor, defeated Jack Roderick, the borough mayor to become mayor of the new city government. Sullivan fulfilled the maximum two terms mandated by the municipal charter, handing over the reins to Tony Knowles on January 1, 1982.
In 1976, he vetoed an anti-discrimination bill extending protection to sexual orientation. This became a campaign issue in the 1978 mayoral race, where he successfully defended his seat against challenger Dave Rose. In 1979, he invited Pope John Paul II to visit Anchorage. On February 26, 1981, the pope visited the city.
Toward the end of the 1970s, he proposed what he called "Project 80s", a campaign of beautification and preservation of historic sites. After his lengthy tenure as mayor, Sullivan served as the senior vice president of Western Airlines.
The Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, constructed in 1983 as a part of Project 80s, was named in his honor.
Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park, located at the northern end of Spenard Road where it crosses Chester Creek, was named for Sullivan's wife.
Marc Marlow, an Anchorage electrical contractor turned real estate developer, began an ambitious urban renewal project in the northeastern corner of downtown Anchorage. The centerpiece of the project was the rebuilding of the McKinley Tower, constructed in the early 1950s and abandoned in 1984. Adjacent to that building, Marlow constructed an assisted living facility and named it the George M. Sullivan House.
George M. Sullivan died from complications from lung cancer on September 23, 2009. He was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret, and their son, Harvey.