Percy Sutton, described by the NY Times as "one of the nation’s most prominent black political and business leaders," died yesterday at age 89. Governor Paterson's spokeswoman confirmed Sutton's death, but did not know the cause. Paterson issued a statement saying, "Percy was fiercely loyal, compassionate and a truly kind soul. 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."

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Sutton, who was the son of a slave and was one the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School (he transferred from Columbia Law so he would work days) and, at his Harlem law practice, represented Malcolm X. He was also active in the civil rights movement (he was arrested as a freedom rider), worked as a subway conductor, became a State Assembly man, and was the longest serving Manhattan Borough President.

He also, the Times notes, first visited Harlem at 12 as a runaway, "became a millionaire tycoon in the communications business to give public voice to African Americans," helped rescue the Apollo Theater," and "was the first seriously regarded black candidate for mayor" in 1977. Sutton had expected then-Mayor Abe Beame to support him, but Beame decided to run instead; Ed Koch, who won the election, said, "I’m glad God intervened and I became mayor... [Sutton was] one of the smartest people I have met in politics or outside of politics." Sutton became a power broker for Democrats in Harlem—the Daily News says, "Among the 'Gang of Four' were former Mayor David Dinkins, Rep. Charles Rangel, and former New York Secretary of State Basil Paterson, the governor's father."

The Reverend Al Sharpton, who is expected to discuss Sutton's life and legacy during a news conference today, Tweeted about Sutton's passing this morning, "It was just last wednesday Dec. 23 that NY Govenor paterson had called To suggest that he and I visit mr. Sutton at the facility he was at. Mr. Sutton had helped to shape and support both of our careers. The Govenor and I went to see him together. I knew Mr. Sutton since I was 12 years old. He was always there for the community and me. Peace."