Percy Sutton, trailblazing businessman, dies at 89

Civil rights attorney Percy Sutton, who represented Malcolm X and became an influential New York politician and broadcaster, has died at age 89, associates said Sunday.

As a businessman, Sutton was credited with leading the revitalization of Harlem, including the restoration of the famous Apollo Theater. In a statement issued after Sutton's death Saturday night, New York Gov. David Paterson called the former Manhattan borough president "a friend and mentor."

native of Texas, Sutton served as an intelligence officer for the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II before becoming an attorney. He represented Malcolm X until the onetime Nation of Islam leader's 1965 assassination, and continued to represent his widow, Betty Shabazz, until her death in a 1997 fire. He then defended Shabazz's 12-year-old grandson, who admitted to starting the fatal blaze.

In the 1970s, Sutton was a member of the Harlem circle dubbed the "Gang of Four," which included U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel; Paterson's father Basil, who became New York's secretary of state; and future New York Mayor David Dinkins. He served as Manhattan borough president from 1966 to 1977, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered flags at city offices to fly at half-staff on Monday.

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