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MATTOON -- Family and other community members gathered Wednesday morning to pay their last respects to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, James W. Sullivan, who grew up in Mattoon and arranged to be buried here.

A funeral service for James Sullivan, who died at age 93 on May 18 in the Southwest, was held at Immaculate Conception Church in Mattoon. His cremated remains were then buried at Calvary Cemetery in Mattoon, near the grave sites of his father, Edward, and other family members. 

James Sullivan was part of the Newsday reporting team that investigated how heroin traveled from France to the Long Island borough of New York in the early 1970s. The series earned a Pulitzer Prize for public service for Sullivan and the other Newsday team members in 1974. The series was published as a book, "The Heroin Trail."

One of James Sullivan's children, Dennis Sullivan of Crete in the Chicago area, said his father's investigative work for the Pulitzer Prize-winning story included accompanying police officers as they used a battering ram to gain entry to a heroin den. He said his father worked closely with officers from many law enforcement agencies throughout his long career in journalism.

"He thought very highly of cops and had a very good professional relationship with them," Dennis Sullivan said.

The Pulitzer Prize, a copy of "The Heroin Trail," and other mementos from James Sullivan's career and from his service in the U.S. Army in World War II were displayed during the funeral service. One of his other children, Kate Sullivan of Phoenix, Ariz, said she is proud that her father earned this prestigious honor for his work as a reporter.

"I know that he did take pride in it," Kate Sullivan said of the Pulitzer Prize.

Dennis Sullivan said his father had wanted to become a reporter ever since he was in elementary school in Mattoon, where an English teacher noticed that he had writing ability and encouraged him to pursue this interest further.

In addition, Dennis Sullivan said his father got early exposure to the journalism industry by delivering newspapers in Mattoon. He said these formative experiences probably set him in the direction of becoming a reporter.

After spending his early years in Mattoon, James Sullivan moved with his family to Indianapolis and attended high school there. His obituary reports that he enlisted in the Army in 1942, fighting in North Africa, Italy, and Germany.

Dennis Sullivan said his father's subsequent career in journalism included work at the Indianapolis Star, Toledo Blade, Detroit Free Press, Chicago Daily News and New York Herald-Tribune. He said his father, a devout Catholic, was proud to write a series of stories about his travels in Rome and Vatican City in 1950 while working for the Indianapolis Star.

After the Herald-Tribune folded, James Sullivan freelanced for Time Magazine's New York bureau. While freelancing for Time, James Sullivan contributed to the magazine's cover story on race riots. He subsequently turned the experience into a book, "Race Riots New York 1964," with Fred C. Shapiro. A copy of this book was on display during the funeral service.

Dennis Sullivan said his father enjoyed the wide variety of topics that he got to write about as a journalist and the excitement of working under deadline to finish articles. He said his father also worked as a mid-level staffer on Robert F. Kennedy's inaugural campaign for U.S. Senate from New York.

James Sullivan was later hired by Newsday, where he retired as city editor in the 1980s. He later started a retirement career with an unfinished furniture business in Dallas.

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Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @RobStroud


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