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26 Jan 2015

James E. Sullivan: A Family History

James E. Sullivan: A Family History

“He was my great uncle and I learned about him through a little pin that my dad found that had a tiny little picture. So I used a magnifying glass to look at it and I looked up AAU online and just called.”

That’s how Monica McCabe found out that her great uncle was James E. Sullivan, the founder of the Amateur Athletic Union and a pioneer in amateur sports. Her grandfather used to take her dad to the track and field events at Madison Square Garden, which is how he found out about AAU. When she found the pin with the AAU logo, her father told her about the sports organization and she began to research it online.

Today, the AAU honors him by rewarding the top amateur athlete with the James E. Sullivan Award, a prestigious title based on outstanding athletic ability, strong character, leadership and sportsmanship. Some notable recipients of the award are Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow, Missy Franklin and most recently John Urschel. The 85th Annual AAU Sullivan Award will be celebrated on April 19th at the New York Athletic Club.

McCabe visited the AAU’s National Office last week after speaking to Pam Marshall, the Director of Sponsorships and Partner Services. After chatting with Marshall on the phone, McCabe starting doing some research on her own. Once she found out exactly who he was and what his legacy was, she decided to take the trip from Michigan to sunny Orlando, Florida.

Once at the AAU National Office, staff gave her a tour of the building, where McCabe took several pictures of all of the AAU Sullivan Award posters and records.

McCabe remarked that discovering how she is related to Sullivan has helped her family figure out a lot of her family history.

“His sister, Julia, was my great-grandmother and she married a John McCabe,” said McCabe. “Julia is my father’s paternal grandmother and my great-grandmother.”

That would, in fact, make Julia’s brother, James E. Sullivan, Monica McCabe’s great-uncle. Unfortunately, Sullivan passed away on September 16, 1914, nine years before Monica’s father, John McCabe was born in 1923.

Monica McCabe came to Florida to learn about her family history and she did just that. The Amateur Athletic Union has several pictures around the National Office of James E. Sullivan, not to mention various AAU Sullivan Award memorabilia. Before leaving the National Office and heading home, she thanked Marshall profusely.

“I’m just thrilled. Pam [Marshall] said you had a couple of things, but I could just spend a year in here. But it’s been wonderful and I love seeing the portrait of him and that beautiful plaque. I took a ton of pictures.”

McCabe took home information and pictures to her family, but the AAU gained even more. We found a relative of James E. Sullivan that we never would have known about if she had never found that little pin with the tiny AAU logo.

To nominate someone for the 85th Annual AAU Sullivan Award, CLICK HERE.


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