Remembering Percy E. Sutton

Friends, family share memories of civil rights titan

April_1989_BE_CoverRev. Jesse Jackson said “The tallest tree in our forest has fallen.”

Tuskegee Airman Dr. Roscoe Brown said “Percy would dream the impossible and make it work.”

Stevie Wonder took a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to pay his respects. Before singing “I’ll Be Loving You Always,” he told the family “they were blessed to have a king in their family.”

Clarence B. Jones, former speechwriter and counsel to Dr. Martin Luther King, said “Percy was black and proud before James Brown asked us to be.”

Attalah Shabazz, eldest daughter of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, said “Not even I could be who I am today if it were not for the friendship, wit, and counsel that Percy had for my dad when no one was looking. Even when things didn’t seem to be on his side, he was always on ours.”

Honorable Inez E. Dickens credited the tenacity of Sutton and the Gang of Four. “I am the first black woman to be in leadership in the New York City Council because of them. … Percy had unmatched eloquence, he was brilliant, a visionary, prolific writer, and civil rights champion.”

After the service, a motorcade drove through Harlem passing Sutton’s office on 125th street and pausing at the Apollo Theater for a moment of silence. He will be cremated and his ashes flown to Texas. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that a complex of three schools in Harlem will be renamed the Percy Ellis Sutton Educational Complex.

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