|(November 24, 1920 — December 26, 2009)|
Sutton was born in San Antonio, Texas, the last of fifteen children born to Samuel and Lillian Sutton. Both of his parents were educators with his father being one of the first blacks in Bexar County, Texas. His father, born into slavery, also served as principal of three high schools. S. J. Sutton, an early civil rights activist who did not use his first name for fear it would be shortened to Sambo, farmed, sold real estate and owned a mattress factory, funeral home and skating rink — in addition to being a full-time principal. All Percy Sutton’s siblings graduated from college. His brothers included G. J. Sutton (the first black elected official in San Antonio) and Oliver Sutton (a judge on the New York Supreme Court).
Percy milked cows and rode around San Antonio with his father in the same Studebaker that was used for funerals, distributing milk to the poor. He liked to attach strings to cans to pretend to be a radio broadcaster.
Sutton joined the Boy Scouts of America and attained the rank of Eagle Scout in 1936 and was recognized with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award as an adult. Sutton stated that scouting was a key factor in shaping his life.
At 12, he stowed away on a passenger train to Manhattan where he slept under a sign on 155th Street. Far from being angry, his family regarded it as an adventure.
His family was committed to civil rights, and he bristled at prejudice. At 13, while passing out N.A.A.C.P. leaflets in an all-white neighborhood, he was beaten by a policeman.
He took up stunt-flying on the barnstorming circuit, but gave it up after a friend crashed. Later, during World War II, he served with the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed all-black unit in the Army Air Forces, as an intelligence officer. He won combat stars in the Italian and Mediterranean theaters.
Sutton attended Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas; the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama; and the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia. He went on to attend Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, New York.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Sutton became one of America’s best-known lawyers. He represented many controversial figures, such as Malcolm X. After the murder of Malcolm X, Sutton and his brother Oliver helped to cover the expenses of his widow, Betty Shabazz. Sutton’s civil-rights advocacy took him even further in the minds of many. Being jailed with Stokely Carmichael and other activists endeared him to the Harlem community and showed many that he was willing to be placed in harm’s way for his client’s sake.
Sutton was a longtime leader in Harlem politics, and was a leader of the Harlem Clubhouse. The Clubhouse has dominated Democratic politics in Harlem since the 1960s. His allies in running the Clubhouse were former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, U.S. Representative Charles Rangel, and former New York Secretary of State Basil Paterson.
He ran for borough president of the Manhattan borough of New York City in 1965, and won with 80% of the vote. He served in that post until 1977, when he ran for the Democratic nomination for New York City Mayor against U.S. Representative Ed Koch, New York Secretary of State Mario Cuomo, New York City Mayor Abraham Beame, former U.S. Representative Bella Abzug, and U.S. Representative Herman Badillo. Koch won the nomination and mayoralty.
He initiated, December 2009 the revitalizing of the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem. He also produced the successful It’s Showtime at the Apollo, a syndicated, music television show, first broadcast in September 12, 1987.
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James Victor “Vic” Chesnutt died from an over dose he was 45. Chestnutt was a singer-songwriter living in Athens, Georgia. Injured in a car accident in 1983, the paraplegic artist’s first big breakthrough to commercial success came with the release of the tribute album Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation.
(November 12, 1964 – December 25, 2009)
Chesnutt released several albums during his career, including two produced by Michael Stipe, and a 1996 release on Capitol Records. His musical style is described as “skewed, refracted version of Americana that is haunting, funny, poignant, and occasionally mystical, usually all at once”.
Around 1985, Chesnutt moved to Athens and joined the band, The La-Di-Da’s. After leaving that group he began performing solo on a regular basis at the 40 Watt Club; it was there that he was spotted by Michael Stipe of R.E.M.; Stipe produced Chesnutt’s first two albums, Little (1990) and West of Rome (1991).
In 1992, Chesnutt was the subject of a PBS documentary, Speed Racer. He also had a small role in the 1996 Billy Bob Thornton movie Sling Blade which he later described self-mockingly as a poor performance.
In 1996, Chesnutt was exposed to a wider audience with the release of the tribute album Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation, the proceeds from which went to the Sweet Relief Fund. The album consisted of Chesnutt covers by famous musicians including Garbage, The Smashing Pumpkins (with Red Red Meat), Madonna, R.E.M. and Live.
He recorded with other groups and artists. Most notably he made two albums with a fellow Athens, Georgia group Widespread Panic, under the name of brute. Chesnutt’s album The Salesman and Bernadette (1998) was recorded with alt-country group Lambchop as the backing band. The album Merriment was a collaborative effort between Chesnutt and Kelly and Nikki Keneipp, with Vic writing and singing the songs, and the Keneipps playing the music. The 2005 album Ghetto Bells featured famed guitarist Bill Frisell, whom Chesnutt met in 2004 at the renowned Century of Song concert series at the German festival RuhrTriennale. Ghetto Bells also featured the legendary eccentric lyricist and composer Van Dyke Parks on accordion and keyboards. Chesnutt’s wife, Tina Chesnutt, would frequently play bass on his albums. His niece, and fellow songwriter, Liz Durrett also appeared on the Ghetto Bells album.
Chesnutt’s first four albums were released on the independent Texas Hotel label. He then recorded About to Choke (1996) for Capitol Records, which was his first and only major record label recording. The Salesman and Bernadette (1998) was on PolyGram; Merriment (2000) was on the Backburner Records label; spinART was the label for the self performed and recorded Left to His Own Devices (2001). Vic then found a new home at the New West Records label, who released two albums for him. In 2004 New West also re-released the early Texas Hotel recordings, including expanded liner notes and extra tracks.
In the winter of 2006, he recorded North Star Deserter at the Hotel2Tango in Montreal. It was released on September 11, 2007 by Constellation Records. The record included contributions from Constellation artists Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band, members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, as well as Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto. The album was produced by documentary filmmaker Jem Cohen.  He also appeared as a guest musician on Cowboy Junkies‘ 2007 album Trinity Revisited, a 20th anniversary edition of their classic album The Trinity Session.
Chesnutt was also a supporter of medical marijuana, which he claimed helped with his medical problems. He contributed the track Weed to the Rescue to the 1998 Hempilation II charity album, with proceeds going to NORML, an American organization dedicated to marijuana legalization.
Elf Power (also from Athens, Georgia) collaborated with Chesnutt on the album Dark Developments, released under the name Vic Chesnutt, Elf Power, and the Amorphous Strums. The “amorphous strums” refers to Curtiss Pernice and Sam Mixon, who also played on the album.
An adoptee, Chesnutt was raised in Zebulon, Georgia, where he first started writing songs at the age of 5. At 18, a car accident left him partially paralyzed, though it wasn’t long afterward that he realized he could still play guitar. After his recovery he left Zebulon and moved to Nashville, Tennessee; the poetry he read there (by Stevie Smith, Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, W. H. Auden, Stephen Crane, and Emily Dickinson) served to inspire and influence him. Chesnutt stated his atheism since age 13.
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Eddie James died in a motorcycle accident, James for more than 20 years, was the motorcycle enthusiast. He reveled in the freedom of long-distance riding, particularly to open areas in the West and South.
“I think it was a great escape for him,” said his brother Jonathan Johnson. “He loved long horizons, the mountains.”
With the wind blowing through his thick, snow-white hair, Mr. James rode his motorcycle to all 50 states, logging more than a half-million miles in his lifetime, his brother said. His favorite spots included Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Florida and Mississippi.
But Mr. James didn’t just seek out vast stretches of highway and open terrain. He also explored oddball stops that were off the beaten path. For instance, he knew where to find the world’s largest ball of twine in Darwin, Minn., and had visited the world’s largest hand-dug well in Greensburg, Kan. He also had collected more than 650 stamps from hundreds of national parks.
And in 2006, Mr. James coordinated ride events for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s “Ride for Kids,” raising money to find the cause of and cure for childhood brain tumors.
“Basically, anything that involved motorcycling and traveling, he was on board for,” said his fiancée, Lisa Erbes of Atlanta.
He was killed doing what he loved the most, dying Dec. 6 in a motorcycle crash on Interstate 75 close to the Northside Drive exit.
A memorial service for Edmund “Eddie” Clarence James III, 46, of Atlanta will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at H.M. Patterson and Son, Arlington Chapel, in Sandy Springs. The funeral home is in charge of arrangements.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, he grew up in the tiny town of Silver Lake, Minn. In his early teens, he moved to Winsted, Minn., to live with his older sister. He found a job 15 miles down the road, cleaning barns, bailing hay and milking cows as a herdsman assistant. To travel back and forth, the then-15-year-old bought his first motorcycle.
“It was a green [Hodaka] Road Toad. Basically, it was a glorified dirt bike,” said sister Aura Lee Carpenter. “It was noisy as all get out. It leaked oil, and it was so ugly. But he fell in love with it.”
In the early ’80s, he worked at several Minneapolis/St. Paul motorcycle dealerships, and in 1984, he was a founder of TeamStrange Airheads, which has evolved into one of the leading long-distance riding organizations nationwide.
In 1989, he started racing at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn. He enjoyed racing, and even involved family members. In fact, he made them his pit crew, Mrs. Carpenter said.
He even drove his 7-year-old niece to her first communion on his motorcycle, dropping her off at the church’s front steps. “We never had a moment in my family … that Eddie and his bike weren’t involved,” she said.
Mr. James moved to Atlanta a year ago and owned multiple bikes at the time of his death. He was a big bear of a man who lived life to the fullest and loved children, family members said.
“He’s Santa Claus on a motorcycle,” Mrs. Carpenter said. “He loved his bike. His whole life revolved around that.”
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