Magazine article Black Enterprise

Pioneering Businessman and Politician Percy E. Sutton

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Pioneering Businessman and Politician Percy E. Sutton

Article excerpt

Percy E. Sutton never met a challenge too great for his boundless energy and intrepid spirit. The founder of Inner City Broadcasting Corp. died Dec. 26, 2009. He was 89.

Although he was born in San Antonio, on Nov. 24, 1920, it was in New York City where Sutton sowed seeds of success. The youngest child of a former slave, Sutton made his way to New York before joining the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. Following a stint in the Air Force, Sutton and his brother Oliver opened a Harlem law office in 1955, representing slain activist Malcolm X, among others.

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"At a time when few African Americans went into the law, Sutton opened up his own practice that aggressively defended civil and human rights activists in New York and elsewhere around the country," says friend Rep. Charles Rangel in a statement on his Website.

But it was his business acumen and foray into New York City politics that burnished Sutton's legacy. In 1972, he and his brother founded New York-based Inner City Broadcasting Corp. (No. 80 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/ SERVICE COMPANIES list with $ 50.6 million in revenues), which began with a single radio station, the first to be African American-owned, purchased for $1.9 million. It eventually went on to add stations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Antonio.

In the 1970s, Sutton, who served in the New York State Assembly, was a member of a group of black politicians from Harlem dubbed the "Gang of Four." He was the longest serving Manhattan borough president, holding the position from 1966 to 1977. …

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