G.J. Sutton

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G. J. Sutton


G.J. (Garlington Jerome) Sutton (1909-1976) was a San Antonio Texas businessman, politician and activist.

Background

G.J. Sutton was the eighth of fifteen children. His parents Samuel and Lillian were both educators with his father being one of the first black teachers in Bexar County. He also served as principal of three high schools. All of his siblings graduated from college. His brothers included Percy Sutton (owner of Apollo Theater in New York City and attorney for Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X) and Oliver Sutton (judge on the New York Supreme Court).

All twelve Sutton children who survived to adulthood earned college degrees. Four of Sutton's sisters were prominent teachers; one brother was an inventor; and a sister was the first woman graduate of the Howard University School of Medicine.

Sutton attended Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, but earned his bachelor of science degree from Wilberforce University in 1932. He later gain a degree in mortuary science from Cincinnati College.

After his return to San Antonio in 1938, G. J. and his brother Samuel Sutton took over the family's business, Sutton and Sutton Funeral Home, the oldest black-owned mortuary in San Antonio.

Sutton's first elected position came in 1948, when he became a member of the board of trustees of the San Antonio Union Junior College District. As trustee he tried to increase the resources devoted to St. Philip's College, a campus serving mostly blacks and Hispanics. A three-story learning center on the St. Philip's campus was named in his honor in June 1980.

Sutton served as a delegate to the 1960 Democratic National Convention. When the Texas House of Representatives redrew their districts in 1972, Sutton became the first black official elected in San Antonio. He served in that capacity until his death on his birthday in 1976. With the encouragement of his best friend Rev. Claude Black, his wife Lou Nelle Sutton would run and succeed her husband in the Texas House of Representatives.[1].

"Civil rights"

Throughout the late 1950’s and 1960’s, Rev. Claude Black, along with his best friend State Representative G.J. Sutton and Harry Burns were leading and organizing marches throughout the state.[2]

Loyal American Democrats

According to Albert Pena, Jr. there was a liberal group in San Antonio in the 1950s, but they had no Mexicanos. The only Mexicanos groups, on the West Side, they were either controlled by some politician in the courthouse or some vendido (sell out) on the West Side, so they always had them split up. So, Pena and Willie Maldonado organized what they called the Loyal American Democrats

And we called it the Loyal American Democrats and we got some people that we figured were liberal-minded, didn’t belong to any of the factions over there on the West Side, and we insisted that you could join, but we would not accept people, politicians in office or anyone that worked for a politician in office. This is going to be strictly independent. And this, and so we agreed. So, we started working with the Blacks, very small group of Blacks. One of them was, their leader was a fellow by name of G. J. Sutton, who later became the first State, black, State Representative from San Antonio. [3]

"Free Angela Davis"

Rev. Claude Black was very active over the years, in San Antonio, helping to radicalize many. His influence helped to bring together a multi-ethnic coalition of individuals attempting to free black activist Angela Davis, including executing a local petition campaign signed by black State Representative G.J. Sutton, and local activists Franklin "Tortillas" Garcia, Rosie Castro, Albert Pena, Jr., John Inman, and others.[4]

People’s World, June 12, 1971, covered the meeting “!,500 in San Antonio at Free Angela meeting."

“San Antonio, Texas—The first mass rally and dance for Angela Davis in the Southwest was a smashing success here May 23 as some 1,500 persons attended.

David Poindexter, main speaker of the evening, termed the rally and dance the most successful he had yet seen.

“First speaker for the evening, Rev. C. W. Black, Jr., pastor of the Mt Zion First Baptist Church, was followed by Franklin Garcia, international representative of the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen’s Union.

“Seated on the platform were Carlos Richardson, Texas co-ordinator of Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee and chairman of the San Antonio Committee to Free Angela Davis; Raul Rodriguez, publisher of Chicano Times, and Rosie Castro, both candidates for City Council; G.J. Sutton and John Inman, black community leaders; John Stanford, Communist party spokesman; Mario Cantu, Chicano businessman; Mrs Manuela Sager, and David Plylar.

“Poindexter dealt with the August 7 shoot-out at the Marin County Courthouse, used as the excuse for Angela Davis’ subsequent imprisonment. He said Davis ‘didn’t know about Jonathan Jackson’s attempt; didn’t give Jonathan any guns; and had she known, she would have stopped Jonathan. Angela knew that the only defense we have is organizing people.’

References

  1. [San Antonio Express, June 23, 1976. "Who's Who among Black Americans, 1975-76"]
  2. Applause Foundation bio, accessed July 2013
  3. History Interview with Albert Peña, Jr., 1996
  4. [ http://www.aframnews.com/html/2006-09-13/lead3.htm African-American news and issues, Veteran of the Civil Rights Movement Turns 90 This Year, 2006/09/13]