Percy Sutton, Malcolm X Lawyer, Dies

Civil rights activist was also savior of the Apollo Theater
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 27, 2009 7:06 AM CST
Percy Sutton, Malcolm X Lawyer, Dies
August 1963: American political activist Malcolm X (1925 - 1965) holding a fist full of US currency during a speech at Urline Arena, Washington, DC.   (Getty Images)

Percy Sutton, the pioneering civil rights attorney who represented Malcolm X before launching successful careers as a political power broker and media mogul, has died at age 89. A spokeswoman for Gov. David Paterson confirmed Sutton died yesterday, but didn't know the cause. His daughter, Cheryl Sutton, declined comment. The son of a slave, Percy Sutton served with the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, then opened a law office that became a fixture in Harlem.

In addition to representing Malcolm X for a decade until his 1965 assassination, the Sutton firm handled the cases of more than 200 defendants arrested in the South during the 1963-64 civil rights marches. The consummate politician, Sutton served in the New York State Assembly before taking over as Manhattan borough president in 1966. And Sutton's devotion to Harlem was rarely more evident than when he spent $250,000 to purchase the shuttered Apollo Theater in 1981. (Read more Percy Sutton stories.)

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