Roger Sullivan wasn’t an educator, or a scientist, or an explorer, or a military hero, or a celebrated humanitarian. His public service consisted of a single term as a probate court clerk. So why does he have a high school named after him?
In Chicago, the reason is obvious. Roger Sullivan was the political boss who built the Democratic Machine.
Born in 1861, Sullivan grew up in rural poverty outside Rockford. He came to Chicago as a teenager to work in the West Side rail yards, and soon became active in the Democratic Party. His election to the Cook County Probate Court came in 1890.
Chicago had a competitive, two-party system then. The Democrats had several factions who battled among themselves. The Republicans were divided that way, too.
If either party could become united, that party would easily win elections. Different political chieftains kept trying to build a permanent coalition. Sullivan was the man who succeeded.
Over the course of twenty years, he gradually brought the local Democrats together. Often it was like herding cats. But though he suffered setbacks, he kept going.