William Wilfred Sullivan
Premier from 1879 to 1889
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WILLIAM WILFRED SULLIVAN WAS BORN at Hope River, Prince Edward island on December 6, 1843.
He received his early education in the local school and then attended Central Academy and St.
Dunstan's University in Charlottetown. On graduation, he studied law with Josephy Hensley, a
pre-Confederation premier. Sullivan was called to the Bar of Prince Edward Island in 1867.
In 1867, William Sullivan was called upon by the Government of the day to present the case of the tenants before the Land Commissioners Court. This court effectively ended the hold the large landowners had over the tenant farmers of Prince Edward Island.
Prior to entering the law profession, William Sullivan worked as a newspaper editor for the Charlottetown Herald and, as the newspapers of the day strongly supported one of the two political parties in the province, it was not long before Sullivan entered public life.
Sullivan was first elected to the Provincial Legislature in 1872 representing the Second District of Kings. He was re-elected in each of the elections in the district until his resignation in 1889. Sullivan was a strong Catholic and opposed the coalition of Premier L.H. Davies over the School question in the province. In 1877 he became leader of the opposition and on the break-up of the coalition government of Premier Davies in 1879, Sullivan was called on by the Lieutenant-Governor to form the Government becoming the fourth Premier of Prince Edward Island since Confederation.
In 1889, Premier Sullivan resigned from Government to take the post of Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island. He had been Premier of the province for ten years and seven months, having held office longer than any premier since Confederation, a record to this day. In 1914, Chief Justice Sullivan was created a Knight Bachelor by His Majesty King George V. He resigned his position on the bench in 1917 and three years later, on September 20, 1920, he died in Memramcook, New Brunswick.
During his tenure in office as Premier, Sullivan fought strongly for Island rights in the swiftly growing Dominion, In 1886, he placed before the Imperial Government the case for non-fulfullment of the terms of Confederation in respect to communications, but that problem was not to be solved until some twenty years later.
William Wilfred Sullivan is buried in the People’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Charlottetown.