The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation was founded in 1934, but its roots go back nearly 80 years earlier, when Algernon Sydney Sullivan himself was a young lawyer in Indiana. He used his legal talents and personal wealth to help those in trouble in his community, sometimes at great personal cost.
When Algernon and his wife Mary Mildred Sullivan moved to New York in 1856, they remained dedicated to the cause of helping people in trouble. Both of the Sullivans were decidedly anti-slavery, but they were loyal to the South and advocated for the humane treatment of Confederate prisoners during and after the Civil War. A believer in equality for all, Algernon also sponsored the first African-American member of the New York Bar Association. By the end of his life, Algernon was so well thought of that all courts in New York were closed in his memory upon his death in 1887. He remains the last private citizen to receive such an honor.