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Robert James Sullivan Jr. papers

Identifier: SC 0003
  • Not requestable

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The Robert James Sullivan Jr. Papers consist of materials that Sullivan created and collected relating mostly to the city of Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he served as the City Planner from 1965-1991. The collection contains documents related to city planning, the history and expansion of Harrisonburg, and urban renewal. Other materials document his time in the Political Science Department at James Madison University as well as the walking tours he led of downtown Harrisonburg. His personal papers include newspaper clippings, correspondence, and other documents relating to his life and career. Also contained in the collection are a large number of photographs and slides that Sullivan took that capture the growth and changes in Harrisonburg over time. Images of note include a panoramic view of Harrisonburg ca. 1930, photos and slides that document urban renewal projects, and images of downtown Harrisonburg, VA from the 1960s-2000s.


  • circa 1930-2013


Access Restrictions

Collection open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Bio/Historical Note

Robert “Bobby” James Sullivan Jr. was born on November 18, 1937 in Harrisonburg, Virginia and was the eldest son of the late Robert J. Sullivan Sr. and Goldie Liskey Sullivan. He passed away on February 4, 2013. Sullivan graduated from Harrisonburg High School in 1956 and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Mount St. Mary’s College in 1960 and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962. He married Kathleen Marie Donovan on June 27, 1964.

Sullivan was the City Planner for the city of Harrisonburg from 1965-1991 during the years that saw Urban Redevelopment for parts of the city as well as growth through annexation. He also taught as an adjunct Assistant Professor of Political Science for James Madison University from 1970-2006. See folder titled “Background Information, Robert J. Sullivan, Jr., August 1998” from the Personal Papers series for details of his life and career.

Known locally as the “unofficial historian” of Harrisonburg, Sullivan often spoke to groups about the history of Harrisonburg. He was responsible for creating walking tours of downtown Harrisonburg first with his JMU Political Science classes, and later with the larger community.

Sullivan was a life-long member of Blessed Sacrament parish and a member of the Knights of Columbus. He served on the Rockingham Public Library Board and the Salvation Army Advisory Board for over thirty years. He was especially fond of the Harrisonburg High School athletic teams and was recognized as the Harrisonburg Blue Streaks biggest fan when he was inducted into the Harrisonburg High School Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class of 2008.


8.53 cubic feet (12 boxes, 4 flat files)

Language of Materials



The Robert James Sullivan Jr. Papers consist of professional and personal records and reports, and document Sullivan's time as City Planner of Harrisonburg from 1965-1991, his career in the Political Science Department at James Madison University, and work as the “unofficial historian” of Harrisonburg. Materials include city planning reports, newspaper articles, photographs, scrapbooks, and maps.


The papers are arranged in six series. Series 1: Reports and Series 2: City of Harrisonburg are arranged further into subseries. All series and subseries arranged chronologically.

  1. Reports, 1946-1992
  2. City of Harrisonburg, 1958-2012
  3. Personal Papers, 1952-2013
  4. Scrapbooks and Newspaper, 1945-2012
  5. Maps, 1958-2003
  6. Photographs and Slides, circa 1930-2012

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated by Kathleen Sullivan, wife of Robert James Sullivan Jr., in two separate donations in April 2014 and August 2015.

Other Formats Available

All slides within series 6: Photographs and Slides, have been digitized and are available within JMU Scholarly Commons (

Related Material

SdArch 2-3 : Oral history interview [sound recording] / Bob Sullivan ; interviewed by Amy Accles, forms part of Court Square, Harrisonburg, Virginia, an oral history project. Transcript also available in Special Collections and the circulating collection: F234.H31 A29 1990.

The Harrisonburg, VA branch of the Massanutten Regional Library holds 36 scrapbooks created by Sullivan from the years 1965-2001. These scrapbooks are cataloged under the title “Harrisonburg Civic Scrapbook.”

Processing Information

When this collection was received from the donor, some materials had been wet and suffered from mold damage. Materials with excessive water damage or mold were photocopied and the originals discarded.

A Guide to the Robert James Sullivan Jr. Papers, circa 1930-2013
Kate Morris and Lindsey Wood
April 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

820 Madison Drive
MSC 1706
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612