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Mon, 01.07.1952

Lita McClinton, Socialite born

Lita McClinton

*Lita Lavaughn McClinton was born on this date in 1952. She was a Black socialite.

The daughter of Emory McClinton, a former U. S. Department of Transportation official, and his wife, JoAnn McClinton, a Georgia state representative.

McClinton married white millionaire James Vincent Sullivan. Although McClinton was in love, her parents never liked Sullivan. They worried how a biracial couple might fare in the South, and they believed that Sullivan was a liar. In 1983, Sullivan sold Crown Beverage, Inc. in Macon, Ga., the company he inherited from his uncle, Frank Bienert, in 1975. The company sold for $5 million, and Sullivan and Lita then decided to relocate to Palm Beach, Florida, where they purchased Casa Eleda, an Italianate villa overlooking the ocean.

He wanted to gain acceptance in the social club scene but struggled because of his arrogance and off-putting manner. Jim was cheating on her. She had found another woman's lingerie in their bed. Also, Jim controlled every cent of their wealth and would cut off her access to their finances. When she learned he was picking up sex workers, she decided it was time to file for divorce. She was young and old friends and family, and once the divorce was final, she hoped to meet a man who would love her the way she loved him and hoped to have children.

Lita McClinton was murdered the day her divorce was settled, shot when receiving a box of pink roses at her doorstep. In 1997, Phillip Anthony Harwood was identified as the hitman and indicated that he had murdered $25,000 at the behest of James Sullivan, the former husband of Lita McClinton. The latter had been in Palm Beach, Florida, during the shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. Sullivan escaped arrest by fleeing abroad. On July 2, 2002, he was arrested in Thailand, and in 2004, he was deported to Atlanta.

In March 2006, Sullivan was convicted of murder for arranging the 1987 shooting of his wife and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in a Georgia prison. Before James Sullivan was arrested, the case was profiled on Unsolved Mysteries in 2001. The story was in the true-crime documentary Murder in the Thirst episode "Death by Roses: Who Killed the Palm Beach Princess?" in 2019. 

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