Tuesday, January 5, 2010

In Memoriam: Percy E. Sutton (1920-2009)


When I was growing up my window to the world of Black America, as it were, were national Black periodicals. Sepia Magazine, Ebony Magazine and Jet Magazine, to name a few. Of course there were the local publications as well: The Post Tribune, the Dallas Express and others. But nationally, the aforementioned publications were the means by which you were exposed to national news and news makers important to African-Americans. I had some role models that covered a broad spectrum of entertainment, sports, business and politics. There was one such role model who managed to traverse nearly all of those areas and he recently passed away.

Percy E. Sutton, was an attorney, entrepreneur and politician in New York, whose accomplishments were constantly spoken of in the Black media. Of course in New York and elsewhere, he was known in almost every circle. Sutton died December 26, 2009, at the age of 89.
He was a native of San Antonio, Texas and a Prarie View A&M University alum, whose success as attorney to Malcolm X and Manhattan borough president made him a near legendary figure.

The New York Times reported, "Mr. Sutton, whose passion for civil rights was inherited from his father, was arrested as a Freedom Rider in Mississippi and Alabama in the 1960s, yet once described himself as “an evolutionist rather than a revolutionist” in matters of race. “You ought always to keep the lines of communication open with those with whom you disagree,” he said."

"He was the senior member of the group of prominent Harlem politicians who became known, sometimes derisively, as the Gang of Four. The other three were David N. Dinkins, New York’s first black mayor; Representative Charles B. Rangel; and Basil A. Paterson, who was a state senator and New York’s secretary of state. Mr. Sutton was also a mentor to Mr. Paterson’s son, Gov. David A. Paterson."

"“It was Percy Sutton who talked me into running for office, and who has continued to serve as one of my most valued advisers ever since,” Governor Paterson said in a statement on Saturday night."

"In a statement on Sunday, President Obama called Mr. Sutton “a true hero to African-Americans in New York City and around the country.”"


Sutton for years, was New York City's highest ranking African-American politician. He was a towering and dynamic figure, in the political, business and social landscape of New York and the nation. In the number of 'firsts' of which we are rightfully proud, Percy Sutton was not only one of those 'firsts' he was among the best.

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