Who Is Charles W. Cullen?
While Charles West Cullen is not a well-known member of Delaware history today, he was, at one time, one of the most powerful men throughout the state. Mr. Cullen was born on July 8, 1865, to Charles Mason Cullen, and his wife Catherine in Georgetown, Delaware. Charles M. Cullen was then a lawyer and judge, who later served as a member of the Delaware Supreme Court from 1890 to 1897.
Charles W. Cullen enjoyed a privileged childhood, attending the Georgetown Academy and Dr. Thompson's Private School in Milton. He followed in his father's footsteps through college, graduating in 1885 from Delaware College with a law degree. Following graduation, he returned to Georgetown to study law at his father's practice, where he diligently worked until being admitted to the Delaware bar in April 1888. After his admittance to the bar, Mr. Cullen officially became associated with his father's practice, which became known as "Charles M. Cullen and Son." Father and son continued to work together until the father's appointment to the Delaware Supreme Court in 1890. Even though he was no longer associated with his father, the younger Cullen continued to gain a reputation for his work. By 1933, He was so well respected, he was appointed as a federal referee to oversee the bankruptcy of Pick Barth Holding Corporation and the Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) Southern and Western Corporations.
Mr. Cullen was inherently civic minded, which is evident when you look at some of the activities in which he was involved. He was a member of the Sussex County Bar Association, the Delaware Bar Association, the Free and Accepted Masons, and he served as the Captain of Company "G" in the Delaware State Militia. Mr. Cullen was also a member of Governor Robert J. Reynolds' personal staff, which prepared him for some of his future work.
In 1930, Mr. Cullen joined the State Highway Commission, which oversaw the State Highway Department, created on April 2, 1917. There he served as the Chairman of the Commission from 1938 to 1939, and remained as a member of the Board until 1940. It was during his time as Chairman that work began on a new bridge to span the Indian River Inlet, to replace a deteriorated wooden span that had been constructed in 1934. The new bridge was dedicated on May 18, 1940. Because of Mr. Cullen's service to the citizens of Delaware as Chairman of the Department during its construction, the bridge was officially dedicated as the Charles W. Cullen Bridge. Sadly, over the years Mr. Cullen's name has been forgotten and the bridge became better-known as the Indian River Inlet Bridge.
Following his service on the State Highway Commission, Mr. Cullen continued to be active professionally and personally. He continued to practice law and he, and his wife Mary, who he had married in 1934, would spend time at "Hawk's Nest," their summer home along the Indian River. It was at "Hawk's Nest" on Saturday, July 10, 1948, that Mr. Cullen suffered a heart attack and was rushed to Beebe Medical Center, where he died that same day. At the time of his death, Mr. Cullen was one of the oldest members of the Delaware Bar Association.