Born October 16, 1922, in Charleston, West Virginia, Reverend Sullivan was Pastor Emeritus of Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was also founder and Chairman of the Board of Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC) of America and OIC International and president of the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH). Reverend Sullivan was also a director of General Motors Corporation, Mellon Bank Corporation and Boys Scouts of America.
Reverend Sullivan was educated at West Virginia State College, Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University and has received innumerable awards and over thirty honorary degrees from colleges and universities in America, including Dartmouth, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Yale.
From 1950 to 1988, Reverend Sullivan served as pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Under Reverend Sullivan’s leadership, membership in the church grew from 600 to 6000, making Zion Baptist one of the largest churches in America.
In 1964 Reverend Sullivan founded Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC) of America, a program sponsoring training and retraining on a massive scale, the first program of its kind in the history of the United States. Since its beginning, OIC has trained more than one million men and women and more than 800,000 have been placed in gainful employment, earning approximately $15 billion a year in annual income. The OIC program has successfully operated in over 100 cities across the United States. Reverend Sullivan founded OIC International in 1969. In 1989, OIC’s twentieth year, seventeen African OIC’s were operating in 12 countries, graduating more than 20,000 trainees.
Reverend Sullivan was also the founder of Progress Investment Associates, which built and manages the largest shopping center constructed, owned and operated by Black people in America. He is founder and trustee of Progress Non-Profit Charitable Trust, a broadly based community development corporation with emphasis on the physical redevelopment of our inner cities, with additional components in economic development and education.
In 1977, Reverend Sullivan initiated the Sullivan Principles, a Code of Conduct for companies operating in South Africa that became the standard for social responsibility in equal opportunity for companies in South Africa, as well as other parts of the world. The Sullivan Principles are widely acknowledged to be one of the most effective efforts to end discrimination against Blacks in the workplace in the Republic of South Africa, becoming a major platform on which others could speak out for equal rights in South Africa against the apartheid system.
Recently, with the assistance of some of this country’s most esteemed corporate leaders, Reverend Sullivan established the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH). The mission of IFESH is to help American companies, institutions and individuals to get involved in improving conditions of people primarily in Africa, and other developing countries.
Reverend Sullivan served as pastor of Zion Baptist Church for 38 years, from 1950-1988. In June, 1988, he became pastor emeritus in order to spend his time training and feeding the hungry people of Africa and the developing nations of the world, and to assist the expanding work of OIC.
The activities of the Church include a day care center, federal credit union, community center program for youth and adult activities, employment agency, adult education reading classes, numerous athletic teams, choral groups and a family counseling service.
In 1963 he was cited by Life magazine as one of the 100 Outstanding Young Adults in the United States.
Reverend Sullivan founded the Progress Investment Associates, coming out of the membership of the Zion Baptist Church. Progress Investment Associates has built a million dollar garden apartment complex (Zion Gardens), the first of its kind in the East; a two million dollar shopping center (Progress Plaza) –the largest shopping center built, owned and operated by Black people in America; a second inner city community shopping center, Progress Haddington Shopping Plaza, and has built and operated successfully, Progress Human Service Center, a multi-million dollar facility constructed in the heart of Philadelphia which provides multiple social, health and human services to residents of the community.
Reverend Sullivan is founder and trustee of the Progress Non-Profit Charitable Trust. The “Trust” is a broadly based community development corporation. Its emphasis is on physical redevelopment of our inner cities with additional components in economic development and education. The “Trust” is engaged in developing housing and new shopping center developments in Philadelphia and in providing tutorial assistance for hundreds of young people in the area.
Reverend Sullivan has founded and established two eight million dollar housing complexes in Philadelphia for senior citizens called Opportunities Tower I and Opportunities Tower II, the finest of their kind in the city.
Reverend Sullivan is a 33rd Degree Prince Hall Mason and a Shriner. He was married to the former Miss Grace Banks; they had a son Howard, two daughters, Julie Sullivan-Johnson and Hope Sullivan-Hurley and three grandchildren : Charles Solomon Sullivan, Leon Todd Johnson and Chelsea Grace Hurley.