Raymond J. “R.J.” Sullivan, Jr., former Rhode Island State Representative, District 29, passed away on October 12, 2021. He was the beloved son of Raymond J. and Maureen (McKennedy) Sullivan, Sr.
In his early years Ray was very involved in the community at the Our Lady of Czentochowa Parish in Coventry, RI even serving as an altar boy for several years. Later in life Ray was very active in the communities at the Beneficent Congregational Church and Sanctuary Church Online. During his teenage years Ray was a member of Byron A. Northup Chapter of DeMolay in Coventry, RI. Ray exerted a tremendous amount of effort to revitalize this chapter, as well as, DeMolay throughout Rhode Island. Ray was MasterCouncillor of Byron A. Northup Chapter, State Master Councilor of Rhode Island DeMolay, receiving the degrees of Chevalier and Legion of Honor. The relationships formed with many of his DeMolay brethren would remain strong throughout his life. Ray was a graduate of Bishop Hendricken Highschool and Providence College, where his support of the PC Friars Men’s basketball team was boundless.Ray’s love of working in news began at Rhode Island College’s The Anchor. From there Ray went on to work as a reporter for the Kent County Times, before moving to the Pawtucket Times in the role of reporter and then Editor.
In 1996 Ray got his start in basketball coaching when he was asked to coach a team of 9 year olds in the Coventry Basketball Association that had struggled the previous year. Ray built on his successes and his love of coaching here into starting a small traveling team called the Coventry Wildcats, composed of players from multiple local communities. Ray continued to coach several of these players when in 1998 he took over as head basketball coach for Fr. Doyle School in Coventry, RI where he coached in several capacities until 2007. In 2001 the WildCats transitioned to the RI Breakers and became part of theAmateur Athletic Union, where Ray coached for another 5 years. Ray also spent several years as a volunteer, coaching and refereeing in the Providence City Recreation League.
Ray always had a love of politics and one of the first times he became deeply involved was as part of Myrth York’s 2002 Gubernatorial Campaign. Ray excelled on the long hours and constant interaction with new faces from all over Rhode Island.
Ray’s next major step in politics began in 2005 when he was elected to represent House District 29, which includes the towns of Coventry and West Greenwich, until 2011. Ray was especially proud of the first bill he introduced and was passed, H5107, which allowed nursing and assisted living facilities to redistribute sealed, unused, blister pack prescriptions as a way to reduce costs for this vulnerable population.
In 2008 Ray took on the role of RI State Director of the Obama for America Campaign. He was particularly proud of his time on this campaign and many of the long lasting relationships he built. Ray helped bring the campaign a Rhode Island victory in an election where every vote counted. In 2010, Ray served as campaign director for the successful re-election bid of US Representative Jim Langevin. Ray cherished the daily interactions with Rhode Islanders from all walks of life, whether it was door to door, over the phone, or on the street.
Ray's passion for social justice and equality brought him to serve as the Executive Director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island from 2011-2013. A tenacious advocate, he oversaw one of the largest grassroots campaigns in Rhode Island history leading to the passage of historic legislation to ensure that all families are recognized, valued, and respected equally under the law.
In 2013 Ray joined Checkmate Consulting Group as a partner where he worked alongside elected officials, labor unions, community leaders, and advocacy groups to craft and advance policies that helped promote equity and make life better for working people. He was most proud of his work advocating for the frontline nurses and health professionals represented by the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP). In addition to the UNAP, Ray worked with clients like the National Education Association Rhode Island, RI Housing, New Venture Fund, the Rhode Island Coalition of Labor Union Women, and many more.
Ray was a longtime supporter of Liverpool F.C. and passionate supporter of the New England Revolution for nearly two decades. He was deeply involved with the New England soccer community, taking up a leadership role in the Rebellion Supporter Group and creating and hosting the Revs podcast, Six States One Podcast. Ray always made it a point to make newcomers to the supporters’ lot and The Fort feel welcomed and accepted.
Everything Ray did in his personal and professional life was focused on giving voice to the voiceless and making people’s lives better. His love for the community and those around him knew no bounds. Ray truly left Rhode Island a better place than he found it.
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