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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Death of Cool or The Passing Of the Inimitable Percy Sutton

A few words and ruminations on one of my heroes, the great Harlem entrepreneur and politician, Percy Sutton coming up in a few....

OK, it's about a week and half later but you know what they say, "better late than...." I would be remiss if I didn't say a couple of words about one of my personal heroes, Mr. Percy Sutton. From the onset, someone ill informed or unenlightened might ask, why the bereavement for an individual closing in on 90 years of age? The simple response-an individual with the class, intelligence, sticktoitiveness and political acumen of a Percy Sutton is still sorely needed in the Black community. I have stated this many times in Afronerd.....we lose are cultural foundation with the passing of such giants-a loss that just appears to be irreplaceable. Sutton was one of those figures that I was introduced to at an early age. I am forever in my father's debt for informing me of key figures in African-American cultural and political history. Irrespective of this blog intermittent conservative bent, I was reared on erstwhile progressive icons such as Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, W.E.B. Dubois, Frederick Douglass and of course, Mr. Sutton.

It also appears that true renaissance men (and women) are becoming a dying breed. Not only was Sutton well educated (attending a variety of institutions...my alma mater of Hampton University, notwithstanding) but he was able to fit in being a Tuskegee airman, an esteemed attorney (the aforementioned Malcolm X being one of his clients), politician, entrepreneur and media mogul; accomplishments garnered by the time he reached his mid 50s. So I tip my hat to Mr. Sutton and his family, I just wish that some of our youth were more aware of his political significance as opposed to the intricacies of faux "heroes" like Curtis Jackson or Lil' Wayne......sigh. For more information pertaining to the passing of Percy Sutton, check out this excerpt, courtesy of the AP:

The son of a former slave, Percy Sutton became a fixture on 125th Street in Harlem after moving to New York City following his service with the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. His Harlem law office, founded in 1953, represented Malcolm X and the slain activist's family for decades.

The consummate politician, Sutton served in the New York State Assembly before taking over as Manhattan borough president in 1966, becoming the highest-ranking black elected official in the state.

Sutton also mounted unsuccessful campaigns for the U.S. Senate and mayor of New York, and served as political mentor for the Rev. Jesse Jackson's two presidential races.

Jackson recalled Sutton talking about electing a black president as early as 1972. Sutton was influential in getting his 1984 campaign going, he said.

"He never stopped building bridges and laying the groundwork," Jackson said Sunday. "We are very glad to be the beneficiaries of his work."

In a statement released Saturday night, Gov. David Paterson called Sutton a mentor and "one of New York's and this nation's most influential African-American leaders."

"Percy was fiercely loyal, compassionate and a truly kind soul," Paterson said. "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."

President Barack Obama called Sutton "a true hero" to African-Americans across the country.

"His life-long dedication to the fight for civil rights and his career as an entrepreneur and public servant made the rise of countless young African-Americans possible," Obama said in a statement.

In 1971, with his brother Oliver, Sutton purchased WLIB-AM, making it the first black-owned radio station in New York City. His Inner City Broadcasting Corp. eventually picked up WBLS-FM, which reigned for years as New York's top-rated radio station, before buying stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and San Antonio between 1978-85.

The Texas purchase marked a homecoming for the suave and sophisticated Sutton, born in San Antonio on Nov. 24, 1920, the youngest of 15 children.

Among Sutton's other endeavors was his purchase and renovation of the famed Apollo Theater when the Harlem landmark's demise appeared imminent.

For the Sutton piece in its entirety, click on the link below:

Percy Sutton, Harlem political pioneer, dies at 89

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