Tuskegee Airman And Lawyer For Malcolm X Dies At 89

- By Bossip Staff

Percy Sutton, a Harlem civil rights activist, politician and media figure, died Saturday, Dec. 26 at the age of 89.

Sutton’s cause of death is unknown.

An influential figure in New York politics, Sutton helped guide the careers of numerous black politicians.

“Tonight, we say farewell to one of New York’s and this nation’s most influential African-American leaders – a man whom I am proud to have called a friend and mentor throughout my entire career,” Gov. Paterson said in a statement.

“Percy Sutton was a trailblazer. … He will be missed but his legacy lives on through the next generations of African-Americans he inspired to pursue and fulfill their own dreams and ambitions.”

The son of a slave, Sutton grew up in San Antonio, Texas, the youngest of 15 siblings.

He fought with the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

After receiving an honorable discharge from the Army Air Corps with the rank of captain, Sutton enrolled in the Brooklyn College Law School.

He received his law degree in 1950.

Three years later, he opened his law office in Harlem and quickly became one of the country’s best-known lawyers. Activist Malcolm X and boxer Sugar Ray Robinson were among his first clients.

Sutton also began a long association with the NAACP, and immersed himself in the civil and human rights movement.

In the late 1960s, Sutton turned his attention to politics, becoming a New York State assemblyman.

He ran for the Manhattan borough president post in 1966 and won in a landslide.

Sutton held the position for 12 years. During that time, he became a leader of the so-called Harlem Clubhouse, a group of black leaders that dominated Democratic politics in Harlem for years.

Among the “Gang of Four” were former Mayor David Dinkins, Rep. Charles Rangel, and former New York Secretary of State Basil Paterson, the governor’s father.

“As a member of the Gang of Four, [Sutton] spawned the successful careers of so many other African-American leaders,” Paterson said. “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.”

Sutton went on to become a radio mogul, purchasing WLIB-AM in 1971, making it the first black-owned radio station in New York City.

In 1977, Sutton ran for the democratic nomination for mayor, but lost to Ed Koch.

He was also instrumental in the revitalization of Harlem’s Apollo Theater.

Sutton is survived by his wife, Leatrice; his son Pierre, and daughter Cheryl.


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  • Marquis de Sade


  • Dr. Hayden Drake




    During the 1950s and 1960s, Percy Sutton became one of America’s best known lawyers. He represented many controversial figures, such as Malcolm X, and argued many cases.

    Sutton was a longtime leader in Harlem politics, and was a leader of the Harlem Clubhouse. The Clubhouse has dominated Democratic politics in Harlem since the 1960s. His allies in running the Clubhouse were former Mayor David Dinkins, Congressman Charles Rangel, and former New York Secretary of State Basil Paterson.

    Sutton ran for Borough president of the Borough of Manhattan in 1965, and won with 80% of the vote. He served in that post until 1977, when he ran for the Democratic nomination for Mayor of New York City against Congressman Ed Koch, New York Secretary of State Mario Cuomo, Mayor Abraham Beame, former Congresswoman Bella Abzug, and Congressman Herman Badillo. Koch won the nomination and mayoralty.

    In 1971, Sutton cofounded the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation. His company purchased New York’s WLIB-AM, which became the first African-American owned radio staion in the city. He initiated the revitalizing of the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem. He also produced the successful It’s Showtime at the Apollo. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1987.

  • mississippi librarian

    To the Sutton family: We appreciate all of the dedication that Mr. Sutton had for the advancement of African American causes. We need more people who are selfless and who think about others first. May he enjoy the eternal rest that he has earned as his soul rests in peace and may you all continue to be sustained by the knowledge that he is at peace.

  • http://www.cbc.ca super goon one

    May he rest in peace

    These are the folks we need to respect.

  • Nicole

    This may not be appropriate but he was a cutie when he was younger. R.I.P.

  • MelloYello


  • her?yeahher

    wonderful article of a man. spent his life in service to the community and died a learned old man. (note: old and dignified, not young and wild). R.I.P Mr.Percy Sutton

  • That's Right

    He was an intelligent, responsible Black Man, an example to these so-called ‘grown men’ floating around today

  • Gimmeabreak78

    A lot of brothers today can learn a lot from the example he set.

  • Bunni

    @Gimmeabreak78: Sistah you are absolutely right! While alot of folks probably would skim over this article cause they think it’s “boring” this is the type of life we should all strive to lead. One of service, selfless dedication and civil responsibility.

    RIP Mr. Sutton

  • http://www.facebook.com $$ talks

    This is the kind of person worthy of admiration! RIP.

  • Sylmarvelous

    Too bad men today aren’t as determined like they were back in the then! That’s just my azzumption.

  • Sylmarvelous

    Ooops! I meant BACK THEN!

  • WhatAWorld

    Looks like a pic of my great-grandfather from WWII.Anyways,RIP to a man of great intelligence and accomplishments.I wish my generation had more men like him!

  • princedonte

    I want to be like him and not these silly fools running around here RIP Dude you did alot for our people

  • JaliliMaster

    He is sooooo cute! Dead handsome.

  • dee

    the heavens gain another one.


  • Malik X

    The service, and example Mr. Sutton personified is an example of resolve, dedication, and resolute focus on the accomplishment of uplifting not only himself, but also the upliftment of ” our ” people! The undying commitment that Mr. Sutton had for ” our ” people is unmeasured by mere military, and political achievements, yet by his groundbreaking success in business, real estate, and law, which he paralleled into a blueprint, a platform for ” us ” to study, examine, and improve upon for the constant rise of ” our ” communities! As one sister stated, ” she wish more brothers where as driven ” in not so many words, to my sister, there are many ” brothers ” that are driven, however misled with the broken promise of being excepted! The personification of Mr. Sutton’s life accomplishments demonstrate that if ” we ” collectively utilize our energies for the improvement of ” our ” communities, we will no longer have to rely upon a governmental institution for assistance to the ills of ” our ” communities, and masses that where created by the same governmental body! The time has come for ” us ” to regain, return, and recapture ” our ” destiny, and or future as we once had done, because ” we ” excluded from society!

  • Cliff

    The Hip Hop generation are nothing but ignorant, crazy thugs compared to the intelligent, hard-working, accomplished black men of Sutton’s day. He had a long, prosperous life and leaves behind an admirable legacy for us to follow.

  • http://www.myspace.com/MOTHERSHIP100 MOTHERSHIP

    They don’t come no better than this man. He was my idol. I’ve met him on a number of occasions and I’ve worked in Jesse Jackson’s campaign in ’84 and ’88 with his son Pierre. Mr. Sutton was Jesse Jackson’s “Godfather” headed his campaign. Mr. Sutton was a special brother and had a voice so soothing. He was loyal to Black America and loyal to Harlem. We have lost our Chairman. What I’ll miss too is the fact that Mr. Sutton was GENUINE. I luv GENUINE people. I’m saddened that there’s less of his kind now in the world.

    Future generations, please take note.

  • Hey Bossip.....

    Here’s a thought, how about putting more stories with and importance such as this one along with the other fluff to give it a nice “balance”.

    Percy Sutton

  • 2Sweet


  • 2Sweet

    We need more Black men like he and my grandfather around TODAY. SMH.

  • Lou_Lou

    wouldn’t it be nice to see more posts about REAL black men other than the endless posts about rappers/ballers and their jump-offs?

  • Indigogg

    I actually was privileged to meet Brother Sutton some years ago, as he was the keynote speaker at a Kappa Alpha Psi Convention. He is a frat brother extraordinare and his story and speech were awe inspiring. May he rest in peace.

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