The city's flags are at half mast today, in honor of activist, politician and business Percy Sutton who died on December 26 at age 89. President Obama said in a statement, "Percy Sutton was a true hero to African Americans in New York City and around the country. We will remember him for his service to the country as a Tuskegee Airman, to New York State as a state assemblyman, to New York City as Manhattan Borough President, and to the community of Harlem in leading the effort to revitalize the world renowned Apollo Theater. His life-long dedication to the fight for civil rights and his career as an entrepreneur and public servant made the rise of countless young African Americans possible."
Mayor Bloomberg said of Sutton's passing:
"New York has always been a city of trailblazers, but few have opened more doors for more people than Percy Sutton did. From his service to our nation in WWII, to serving our City in Albany as an Assemblyman and as the first African American and longest-serving president of the borough of Manhattan, he not only lived the civil rights movement, he shaped it and played a key role in ensuring its success. As Borough President, Percy opened up the door to many students to attend City University. He was in the forefront of black entrepreneurship, which created ownership of media companies by blacks, and the first black-owned radio station in New York City. It's hard to capture in just a few words how important Percy's contributions were - and just how unique an individual he was. He helped move African Americans, and all of New York forward. Personally, I consider myself lucky to be among the many to whom he gave advice."
The Reverend Al Sharpton told CNN, "He was at the forefront of everything you can think of in black America. He was the quintessential black American. He pioneered black business, black media and black politics. He opened those doors and he kept them open." And in Harlem, where Sutton worked to revitalized West 125th Street and save the Apollo Theater, residents remembered his fondly. The assistant manager at Manna's Soul Food Restaurant, Philip Bulgar, told the NY Times, "He was a renaissance black man. They don’t make too many brothers like that anymore."