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Our Friend Jim

Jul 11, 2022

Our friend, Jim Sullivan–and he was a friend to everyone who knew him– left us on May 4th of this year. Jim lived a full life. He was a football star, playing at Ole Miss. He was a successful businessman in the family furniture business. He was President of the Alabama Public Service Commission for 25 years. In that role he established a logical formula for utility service that is still used today. He served as President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and guided that organization for a number of years. He was an adviser to many energy companies and a leader in the electric industry.  

But Jim was more than a success in the business world. He was a tireless supporter of Glenwood, a Birmingham-based organization that treats adult autism. He served on the Glenwood Board of Directors for many years. He was Chairman of the Glenwood Adult Services Campaign, which raised three million dollars to expand autism treatment. The facility built to house the program was named The Sullivan Center in honor of Jim and his late wife, Susan.

          Jim had fun. His dry sense of humor was evident in almost everything he did. He had a mischievous little grin, and he used it often. You couldn’t tell if he knew everything or nothing about the subject being discussed.

          He loved hunting, fishing, photography, building homes, and he loved people. Jim loved his friends and kept up with all of us. But, most of all, Jim loved his family: his wife Toody; his daughters, Leigh Ann and Brannon; his sons-in-law; and his nine grandchildren.

          The following poem was read at his funeral. It is so appropriate for Jim. 

“If” by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you  

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;   

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

             Jim was a man. He was our friend. We will all miss him dearly. His legacy is that we remember him as the man he was.

             I hope you have a good month.

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