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The Honorable Russell B. Sugarmon

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Information about The Honorable Russell B. Sugarmon

Profile image of The Honorable Russell B. Sugarmon

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Municipal Court Judge

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Ribs, Chinese Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Don't let the bastards get you down.

Birthplace

Born:
5/11/1929
Birth Location:
Memphis, Tennessee

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Municipal Court Judge

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Ribs, Chinese Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Don't let the bastards get you down.

Birthplace

Born:
5/11/1929
Birth Location:
Memphis
See how The Honorable Russell B. Sugarmon is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Judge Russell B. Sugarmon, Jr., helped reverse the tide of racism in Tennessee during his legal and political career. A native of Memphis, Sugarmon was born on May 11, 1929, and completed his primary education in his hometown.

Following a year at Morehouse University, Sugarmon earned his B.A. degree from Rutgers University in 1950; he then received his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1953. For the next two years, Sugarmon served in the Army, receiving a letter of commendation for his tour of duty in Japan. Upon returning to the United States, Sugarmon did graduate work in finance at Boston University before entering private practice in Memphis in 1956. Sugarmon ran for public works commissioner in 1959 in a racially charged race. As the first African American to make a serious bid for a major city office in Memphis, Sugermon lost when whites united in opposition to his candidacy; his experience, however, helped pave the way for future black leaders in Memphis.

Sugarmon later became a founding partner in the Memphis law firm of Ratner, Sugarmon, Lucas, Willis and Caldwell. In 1964, Sugarmon was elected to the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee, and two years later ran successfully for the State Senate. From 1976 to 1987, he served as a referee in Memphis Juvenile Court system; Sugarmon stepped down from that post in May 1987 when he was appointed to the General Sessions bench. Sugarmon was elected to the seat in 1988 and was re-elected in 1990 and 1998; by that time, he had become a well-respected elder statesman in Memphis, liked by people of all races and political affiliations.

Sugarmon was an active member of several civic and community groups, including the NAACP and ACLU; he was honored by both organizations for his pioneering efforts and contributions to Memphis. Sugarmon has four children with his first wife, Miriam, and two stepchildren with his present wife, Regina. He also has seven grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

Sugarmon passed away on February 18, 2019.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Russell Sugarmon interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Russell Sugarmon's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Russell Sugarmon discusses his Chinese, Native American and black family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Russell Sugarmon remembers his parents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Russell Sugarmon recalls his childhood neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Russell Sugarmon describes his childhood activities
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Russell Sugarmon recalls his high school football career
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Russell Sugarmon recalls the football rivalry between Manassas and Booker T. Washington High Schools in Memphis
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Russell Sugarmon talks about the Crump political machine's control of black voters in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Russell Sugarmon remembers some of his favorite teachers from high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Russell Sugarmon recalls his youth in the Depression and 1940s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Russell Sugarmon reviews his pursuit of higher education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Russell Sugarmon describes his mischief at Morehouse College
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Russell Sugarmon remembers notable figures from his years at Rutgers University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Russell Sugarmon shares memories from his college football career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Russell Sugarmon recalls a piece of environmental analysis he wrote at Rutgers University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Russell Sugarmon recounts his experience at Harvard Law School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Russell Sugarmon recalls Harvard Law School professors and classmate Bob Adelman who became a photojournalist
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Russell Sugarmon recounts his military tour in Japan in the mid 1950s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Russell Sugarmon describes his ex-wife's scholarly pursuits
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Russell Sugarmon discusses beginning his involvement in Memphis, Tennessee politics
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Russell Sugarmon recounts running in a racially-charged Memphis, Tennessee election in 1959
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Russell Sugarmon describes his participation in Memphis, Tennessee politics at the precinct level
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Russell Sugarmon recounts the effects of Tennessee's 1959 gubernatorial election
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Russell Sugarmon discusses national interest in Tennessee's 1959 gubernatorial election
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Russell Sugarmon describes networks of information in Memphis, Tennessee's black community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Russell Sugarmon recalls how black political activists influenced Tennessee State Senate candidate Frank Clement
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Russell Sugarmon remembers Tennessee legislator A. W. Willis and black voters' increasing power in state politics
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Russell Sugarmon details changes in the local government structure and blacks' political role in Memphis in the 1960s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Russell Sugarmon discusses "Freedom Summer" in Mississippi and praises Fannie Lou Hamer
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Russell Sugarmon compares Democratic National Conventions in Atlantic City, New Jersey (1964) and Miami, Florida (1972)
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Russell Sugarmon remembers the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Russell Sugarmon talks about contacts with Bobby Kennedy during the Freedom Rides and during JFK's campaign
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Russell Sugarmon remembers John Jay Hooker's 1966 and 1970 runs for governor of Tennessee
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Russell Sugarmon tells about being warned of an alleged assassination plot during the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Russell Sugarmon recalls an unusual meeting between a Mau Mau and a Ku Klux Klan member
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Russell Sugarmon recalls a Jordanian delegation visiting his court room
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Russell Sugarmon reflects on his career as a judge
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Russell Sugarmon discusses the current financial situation of Tennessee
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Russell Sugarmon discusses discipline and criminality
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Russell Sugarmon reflects on his life's course
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Russell Sugarmon reflects on Elmwood Cemetary, Memphis, Tennessee