Remembering Ozell Suttonby Senator John Boozman
Posted on 2016-01-11
BOOZMAN. Mr. President, today I wish to recognize the life
and legacy of civil rights activist Ozell Sutton. A native of Gould,
AR, Sutton paved the way for desegregation in the Natural State and
throughout the South alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other
civil rights leaders.
After graduating from Dubar High School in Little Rock, Sutton studied at Philander Smith College where he earned a degree in political science.
He broke barriers as the Arkansas Democrat's first Black journalist. In 2012, he shared the story of his hiring, saying that he didn't know anything about journalism but was hired because the Democrat ``wanted to reach the black community.'' He worked at the newspaper for 7 years where he made a difference in how the newspaper covered the African-American community. He challenged the status quo, inspiring change in the news stories to refer to Black men and women as ``Mr.'' and ``Mrs.,'' just as it did with the White population.
Sutton was an activist serving as a decoy at Central High School in 1957 when the Little Rock Nine integrated the school. He recalled being beaten after the mob figured out he was a decoy.
He led integration efforts in Arkansas while serving as assistant director of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations from 1961 to 1966 and joined civil rights leaders to pave the way for equality across the country. He joined the historic march on Washington and marched for voting rights in Selma.
Following the death of Dr. King, he served Governor Winthrop Rockefeller as the director of the Governor's Council on Human Resources from 1968-1970 and continued his public service with the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Services. In 1972 he was appointed the director in the southeast region. He held that position until his retirement in 2003.
As a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Sutton served as regional vice president of the southwest region and southern region before going on to serve as the 26th general president.
In 2012, Sutton was presented a Congressional Gold Medal as one of the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Ozell Sutton dedicated his life to bettering the lives of future generations. He was a true American hero whose leadership helped fight desegregation and lay the foundation for equality. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.