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Pierre Sutton

Broadcasting executive Pierre M. Sutton was born on February 1, 1947 in Brooklyn, New York, to parents Percy E. Sutton and Leatrice Sutton. He attended the University of Toledo in Ohio and received his B.A. degree in 1968. Sutton then pursued graduate studies at the University of Kentucky and New York University, and later completed the Owner/President Management Program at Harvard Business School.

In 1971, Sutton, along with his father, co-founded the The New York Courier, a weekly newspaper, where he served as the executive editor until 1972. During that time, he also fulfilled duties as the vice president of Inner City Research & Analysis Corporation in New York City. Also in 1971, Sutton’s father co-founded Inner City Broadcasting Corporation (ICBC), one of the first African American-owned broadcasting companies in the United States. When ICBC acquired WLIB Radio in New York City in 1972, Sutton was brought on as the public affairs director. He then served as the vice president of ICBC from 1975 until 1977. Then, in 1977, Sutton became the president of ICBC and assumed responsibilities of the company’s radio stations in New York and California.

Sutton has held leadership positions in numerous professional, business and non-profit organizations. He served as a member of the board of directors for the Better Business Bureau of Harlem from 1972 to 1977; then Sutton was named as the inaugural vice president of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB). He also became a member of the board of directors for the Minority Investment Fund. Sutton’s community involvement includes serving as the chairman of the board of directors for the Harlem Chapter of the Boy Scouts of America. He was selected to sit on the board of directors for the New York City Marathon in 1979, and was appointed as its executive commissioner. He also served as a member of the board of directors for the Hayden Planetarium, and as a member of the board of trustees for the Alvin & Ailey Dance Foundation.

Pierre M. Sutton was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 10, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.314

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/10/2013

Last Name

Sutton

Maker Category
Middle Name

Monte

Occupation
Schools

University of Toledo

University of Kentucky

New York University

Harvard Business School

P.S. 123

Intermediate School 59

Andrew Jackson High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Pierre

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

SUT03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

2/1/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Broadcast executive Pierre Sutton (1947 - ) was the cofounder of The New York Courier and president of the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation. He also served as the inaugural vice president of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB).

Employment

New York Courier

Inner City Research & Analysis Corporation

WLIB Radio

Inner City Broadcasting Corporation

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Pierre Sutton's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Pierre Sutton lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Pierre Sutton describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Pierre Sutton describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Pierre Sutton talks about his father's move to New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Pierre Sutton describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Pierre Sutton talks about his parents' relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Pierre Sutton recalls his neighborhood in Queens, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Pierre Sutton describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Pierre Sutton talks about his home life

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Pierre Sutton recalls his early personality

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Pierre Sutton describes his schooling in Queens, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Pierre Sutton describes his father's law practice

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Pierre Sutton talks about his dyslexia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Pierre Sutton describes his father's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Pierre Sutton talks about his college education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Pierre Sutton recalls his experiences in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Pierre Sutton remembers the black market during the Vietnam War

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Pierre Sutton talks about acquiring The New York Courier

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Pierre Sutton remembers the Woolfolk-Petioni family, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Pierre Sutton remembers the Woolfolk-Petioni family, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Pierre Sutton describes the content of The New York Courier

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Pierre Sutton describes the Inner City Research and Analysis Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Pierre Sutton talks about the life and death of Malcolm X

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Pierre Sutton recalls the impact of the Vietnam War on his relationship with his parents

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Pierre Sutton remembers the acquisition of WLIB Radio

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Pierre Sutton talks about the success of WBLS Radio

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Pierre Sutton recalls the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation's community involvement

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Pierre Sutton talks about the initial financing of the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Pierre Sutton describes his initial role at the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Pierre Sutton talks about the black politics of the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Pierre Sutton talks about the role of radio in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Pierre Sutton describes the programming on WBLS Radio and WLIB Radio

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Pierre Sutton remembers the invention of the circular polarized antenna

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Pierre Sutton talks about Dionne Warwick

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Pierre Sutton describes his father's mayoral campaign

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Pierre Sutton remembers David Lampel

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Pierre Sutton reflects upon the impact of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Pierre Sutton describes the founding of Essence magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Pierre Sutton recalls the expansion of the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Pierre Sutton remembers the economic and political challenges of the 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Pierre Sutton remembers his acquisition strategy for the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Pierre Sutton describes the founding of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Pierre Sutton compares the black communities in New York City and Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Pierre Sutton talks about the Harlem Clubhouse

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Pierre Sutton remembers his financial challenges

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Pierre Sutton remembers meeting Coleman Young

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Pierre Sutton talks about Inner City Broadcasting Corporation's expansion into California

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Pierre Sutton remembers the revitalization of the Apollo Theater in New York City, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Pierre Sutton remembers the revitalization of the Apollo Theater in New York City, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Pierre Sutton remembers selling KGFJ Radio and KUTE Radio

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Pierre Sutton talks about the work of Janice Campbell and Vy Higgensen

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Pierre Sutton talks about his competition from disco radio stations

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Pierre Sutton recalls the competition between WBLS Radio and WRKS Radio

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Pierre Sutton talks about the deregulation of the broadcasting industry

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Pierre Sutton talks about Charles Warfield, Jr.'s career at WBLS Radio

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Pierre Sutton remembers 'Showtime at the Apollo'

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Pierre Sutton remembers the introduction of cable television

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Pierre Sutton talks about the changes in cable franchise agreements

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Pierre Sutton talks about the Queens Inner Unity Cable System and Urban Cable Works

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Pierre Sutton describes his partnership with Time Warner Cable

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Pierre Sutton talks about the merger of the National Black Network and Mutual Black Network

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Pierre Sutton recalls the pressure to expand the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Pierre Sutton remembers his failed deal with Cathy Hughes

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Pierre Sutton recalls the problems with the Apollo Theater revitalization project

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Pierre Sutton recalls his father's ambition to develop Africa's cable infrastructure

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Pierre Sutton talks about his father's impact on New York City's Harlem community

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Pierre Sutton remembers the Telecommunications Act of 1996

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

3$11

DATitle
Pierre Sutton describes the programming on WBLS Radio and WLIB Radio
Pierre Sutton remembers the revitalization of the Apollo Theater in New York City, pt. 1
Transcript
So let's talk about those early years and what you're learning about radio and the immediacy of radio. You know, because you spoke about a little bit, you know, the difference. So you--you're head of news and public affairs. What are--who is already in place on air, and who do you bring in place?$$Well, we were fortunate in that we had a terrific program director, the famous Frankie Crocker, Frankie "Hollywood" Crocker, a unique man who became--we spoke about the club scene earlier. We became number one for a reason. It was, it was in ra- in radio because we were, we would, we had it all. We had all--on FM radio, we had all of the music. They came to us first, and they came to us often with their music. We got it first because we're the biggest radio station, as we saw it, in America (laughter), you know. Frankie Crocker--we used to--he is something, Frankie Crocker. "I am the originator, not the imitator, not the flower or the root or the rod. While others are laughing and joking, Frankie Crocker," or he would supplant that with WBLS [WBLS Radio, New York, New York], "WBLS is taking care of business, cooking and smoking, too much to take too soon. If you don't dig where we're coming from, you got a hole in your soul. Don't eat chicken on Sunday" (laughter). You know, you know, that is kind of a rap. But it's--it was, it expresses pride, and it certainly got people's attention. We would, so we had a great deal of influence of course in music that's being played. But we brought the music to the people. There was, record day was an interesting day. That was the day when people from the record companies would come to our place of business and would bring their wares. "Will you play this, will you play this?" And it was kind of well organized, that day. However, if you would walk into our lobby, I sometimes described it as a scene, the bar scene from 'Star Wars,' because people looked wild, you know. They were from a different kind of world. You know, the music scene is very different from our relatively conservative (laughter) broadcasting environment. So, but it, but it was--there were two sides of it. It was, there was entertainment, which was WBLS. And then there was a much more serious side at WLIB [WLIB Radio, New York, New York], where we were still on the AM band. We were doing more talk radio, we were doing black news and information. We were, we were communicating with the Caribbean. We would, we had shows where we were interacting with continental Africa. We were doing our best to interact with the African diaspora on WLIB--a very serious other side of Inner City Broadcasting [Inner City Broadcasting Corporation]. The AM station made no money. It was completely flipped. FM is god now; and all the money is coming in from the FM side in order for us to do this work on the AM side.$Your father [Percy Sutton] comes on. I want to move into the Apollo Theater [New York, New York] because that besides--that becomes part of Inner City [Inner City Broadcasting Corporation], but that's a huge project, take on project. And you're really, you're becoming an entertainment conglomerate sort of, with--am I right? No?$$That would be the idea, but that's not really how it worked out (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Okay. I know, I know, I know. But that was the concept, that was--$$That was--oh boy--$$Okay.$$--was it the concept. There's--there was very few monies that we saw that we could make money in this man's world and one of whom of course is entertainment. And you have to put sports in there, too, that's part of entertainment. It is what it is. The Apollo Theater, we talked earlier about the death of the Chitlin' Circuit and the radio--I'm sorry, the venues, the theaters, that were a part of that Chitlin' Circuit that existed, that died with the end of segregation. Well, the Apollo Theater was like many of these other theaters, going to become a church, and it was in bankruptcy. And my father thought it was a good idea to buy it out of bankruptcy.$$Wow.$$Now here was the trick. There would be a conversion of this theater, taking its mere fifteen hundred seats and making it into a television production and post-production facility, thereby effectively increasing the size or the seating capacity by the number of people who had television sets, potentially. So that--the theater was bought and it was supported by--and its--bought by Inner City, basically bought and supported by Inner City Broadcasting--and its, and its building, its state of the art television production and post-production facilities--only to discover that the people who were producing things wouldn't come to Harlem [New York, New York], just would not come to Harlem. I can kind of understand. The only thing that was on Harlem that was still sta- was standing was the Apollo Theater. The rest of 125th Street was an absolute mess. And to get through that mess to get to the Apollo Theater--why would they, why would they do that, when they can stay downtown and be comfortable? So the grand idea of the Apollo Theater becoming, re- revitalizing the Apollo Theater, bringing back the glory of the Apollo Theater was greatly diminished by the lack of enthusiasm for the project in the producing community downtown.