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Percy Sutton, born 24 Nov 1920
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Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.










Percy Sutton, born 24 Nov 1920



Percy Sutton

Percy Sutton
BornNovember 24, 1920(1920-11-24)
San Antonio, Texas,
United States
DiedDecember 26, 2009 (aged 89)
Alma mater-Prairie View A&M University
-Tuskegee Institute
-Hampton Institute
-Brooklyn Law School
OccupationCivil-rights activist, entrepreneur, lawyer[1]
Spouse(s)Leatrice Sutton (19432009, his death)
ParentsLillian Sutton
Samuel Sutton
RelativesNotable brothers:
G. J. Sutton
Oliver Sutton
Percy Sutton with Malcolm X at a Harlem rally on Seventh Avenue between 125th and 126th streets (1963).

Percy Ellis Sutton (November 24, 1920  December 26, 2009) was an American who was one of the nation's most prominent black political and business leaders. As a civil-rights activist and lawyer, he was a Freedom Rider and the legal representative for Malcolm X. He was the highest-ranking African-American elected official in New York City when he was Manhattan borough president from 1966 to 1977, the longest tenure at that position. He later became an entrepreneur whose investments included the New York Amsterdam News and the Apollo Theater in Harlem.[1]

[edit] Early life, military service, education, and family

Sutton was born in San Antonio, Texas, the last of fifteen children born to Samuel ("S.J.") Sutton and Lillian Sutton.

His father, born during the time [2] of slavery and an early civil-rights activist, was one of the first blacks in Bexar County, Texas, and used the initials "S.J." for fear it would be shortened to Sambo. His father was a principal of a segregated high school in San Antonio and his mother was a teacher. In addition to being a full-time educator, S.J. farmed, sold real estate and owned a mattress factory, funeral home and skating rink.[3]

All of Sutton's siblings graduated from college. His brothers included G.J. Sutton, who became the first black elected official in San Antonio,[4] and Oliver Sutton, who became a judge on the New York Supreme Court (Manhattan).

Young Sutton milked cows and rode around San Antonio with his father in the same Studebaker vehicle[clarification needed] that was used for funerals and distributing milk to the poor. He liked to attach strings to cans to pretend to be a radio broadcaster.

At age twelve, he stowed away on a passenger train to New York City, New York, where he slept under a sign on 155th Street in the Harlem neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of the city. Far from being angry, his family regarded it as an adventure.[citation needed]

His family was committed to civil rights, and he bristled at prejudice. At age thirteen, while passing out leaflets in an all-white neighborhood for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he was beaten by a policeman.[citation needed]

Sutton had joined the Boy Scouts of America and attained the rank of Eagle Scout in 1936 and was recognized with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award as an adult. Sutton stated that scouting was a key factor in shaping his life.[5]

He and Leatrice Sutton were married in 1943.


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