Robert A. Sullivan Collection
This collection was brought together by William M. Wynkoop who corresponded with Robert Sullivan over an eight year period from 1975 to 1983. Mr. Wynkoop donated them to the National Archive of Lesbian and Gay History in 1990.
Scope and Content
Almost half of this collection is letters between Robert Sullivan, a gay man on Florida’s death row, and William Wynkoop, a New York supporter. Additional materials include papers related to a defense fund, correspondence with lawyers, and copies of newspaper articles about Sullivan’s case. These letters offer a glimpse into life on death row as well as a look at the difficulties and frustrations of dealing with the bureaucracy of the criminal court system. They may also be of interest as a psychological study of someone living under such stress, and dealing with the likelihood of execution.
History or Bio
Robert Austin Sullivan, a gay man, was born an illegitimate child in Boston, Massachusetts. He was adopted as an infant by a prominent physician and was raised in Belmont, Massachusetts. He had a Catholic upbringing and was very active in sports throughout his education. He graduated high school in 1965 and attended the University of Miami for four years where he majored in business management. While in college he became involved in student government as a journalist for the college newspaper. He also received awards for his leadership and organizational abilities. After college he pursued a career in hotel/restaurant management; his last position was food and beverage manager for a Sheraton property. In the spring of 1973 Sullivan was arrested and charged in connection with a murder in the Miami area. Unable to afford private counsel, he accepted a Court appointed attorney. On November 12, 1973 he was convicted and sentenced to death. All direct appeals to the Florida Supreme Court proved fruitless. On November 30, 1983, after ten years of court battles, Robert A. Sullivan died in the electric chair in the State of Florida. William Wynkoop is a gay man from New York City who heard of and became interested in Sullivan’s case. He believes Mr. Sullivan to be innocent.