The late Percy Ellis Sutton, who joined the ages last December, was no stranger to these pages or website. In fact, it was his pioneering work in communications and the media that provided many minority or Black-owned publications, if not a direct opportunity, certainly the inspiration to forge ahead in this often precarious terrain.
His trailblazing career, the breakthroughs he accomplished as part-owner of the New York Amsterdam News, his chairmanship of the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, and his purchase of the Apollo Theatre in the early 1980s contributed to the revitalization of Harlem, and the Harlems of the world. Before he took command of the Apollo, 125th Street, Harlem’s main thoroughfare, was in shambles. It’s now a bustling avenue where a diverse mix of shops—from small boutiques to large chain stores—vies for the multitude of customers.
An increased number of ads for African American-owned publications was one byproduct of this economic revival. Sutton’s energetic vitality and far-seeing vision played a significant role in getting Wall Street to pay attention to Main Street.
So, it was quite apropos for Sutton to be honored recently by the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) Foundation. He was, posthumously, the recipient of the Lew Rudin Founder’s Award, in honor of the organization’s first chairman. In effect, it was like one late chairman paying tribute to another.
Sutton’s son, Pierre (Pepe), and his daughter, Keisha Sutton-James, accepted the award from former Mayor David Dinkins. “The Suttons and the Rudins have been like one big happy family,” Dinkins observed, a remark echoed by Sutton-James who spoke on behalf of the family.
That the two chairmen were reunited, it should be remembered that they were prime movers in the creation of the New York City Marathon that the world enjoys each fall. Like so many of Sutton’s projects, this one began when he was serving as the President of the Borough of Manhattan, a position he held for eleven years.
He joined forces with Rudin, the patriarch of a building family, who died in 2001, and together they were a formidable duo. Rudin alone was an irresistible force, having amassed great wealth and even more respect for his civic enterprise and philanthropic contributions to countless number of charitable agencies. Later, with Mayor Dinkins, the U.S. Tennis Open bore his imprint.
Both Rudin and Sutton forged remarkable trails of achievements, and legacies that reach well beyond Harlem and Downtown Manhattan where the majesty of their odysseys is indelibly marked.