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Carol Sutton Lewis

Civic leader and attorney Carol Sutton Lewis was born on September 26, 1959 in New York City, New York. Her mother, Renee Sutton, was a public school teacher; her father, Oliver Sutton, was a judge and businessman. Lewis graduated from the High School of Music and Art in New York, now Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, in 1976. She went on to receive her B.A. degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania in 1980, and her J.D. degree from Stanford Law School in 1983.

Upon being admitted to practice law, Lewis was hired as an associate at the law firm of Dow, Lohnes & Albertson in 1983. She worked there until 1987, when she was hired as an associate at the Apollo Theatre. After a brief stint at the Apollo Theatre, Sutton Lewis worked at Home Box Office from 1987 until 1989 before being hired as an associate in business development at WTTW Chicago, where she remained until 1992. In 2011, Lewis launched, and began writing for, the website entitled Ground Control Parenting, a blog designed for parents of children of color with a particular focus on issues affecting boys. She and her husband, William M. Lewis, founded the Carol Sutton Lewis and William M Lewis, Jr. Charitable Foundation, which she manages.

Lewis has served on the boards of several educational organizations, including WNET.org, Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, East Harlem Tutorial Program, Harlem School of the Arts, and Early Steps, an organization devoted to increasing the presence of students of color in New York City private schools. Since 1998, she has served on the board of directors of the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she eventually became vice chairman of the board. In 2008, Lewis was elected to Stanford Law School’s board of trustees, and, in 2010, she began serving as a board member of the Collegiate School. Lewis was also elected a board member of the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies in 2011. She has also been honored by receiving the Humanitarian Award for Leadership in Education from the National Urban Technology Center.

Lewis lives with her husband in New York City. They have three children: Tyler, Carter and Andrew.

Carol Sutton Lewis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 22, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.272

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/22/2013

Last Name

Lewis

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Sutton

Schools

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

University of Pennsylvania

Stanford Law School

Ps 116 Mary Lindley Murray School

First Name

Carol

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

SUT02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

That And Fifty Cents Will Get You On The Subway.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

9/26/1959

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Asian Food

Short Description

Civic leader and education advisor Carol Sutton Lewis (1959 - ) , founder of Ground Control Parenting, has served on the boards of WNET.org, Early Steps, Stanford Law School, the Collegiate School, the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Employment

Dow Lohnes and Albertson

Apollo Theater

Home Box Office

WTTV TV

Ground Control Parenting

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Carol Sutton Lewis' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Carol Sutton Lewis lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her uncle, John Sutton

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her paternal grandfather, Samuel Sutton

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about the education of her father's siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Carol Sutton Lewis remembers her father's desire for her to attend Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Carol Sutton Lewis recounts her family's move to Harlem, New York where her father had a law practice with his brother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her uncles, Percy and Bill Sutton

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her father's upbringing with twelve siblings in San Antonio, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about the Sutton family in San Antonio, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her mother, Renee Hopkins Sutton

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her mother's West Indian heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes how her parents met, pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes how her parents met, pt.2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Carol Sutton Lewis remembers her father's promise to pay for her college education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Carol Sutton Lewis remembers the opportunities afforded her by her parents including a trip to the South of France

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her family's political activity

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks explains why she did not attend private school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Carol Sutton Lewis remembers learning to read at an early age

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her third grade teacher, Portia Paterson

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her cultural education in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Carol Sutton Lewis remembers picketing with her parents in Rochdale Village in New York City as a young girl

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her religious background

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her grade school years

Tape: 2 Story: 16 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her father's early years as a judge in Manhattan, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her experience at P.S. 116

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Carol Sutton Lewis recounts the academic challenges of her older brother, Paul Sutton

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her half-brother, Oliver Sutton, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Carol Sutton Lewis remembers family vacations and road trips as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Carol Sutton Lewis recalls the fear she felt after being pulled over by a white policeman in Johannesburg shortly after the end of apartheid

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her memories of Christmas as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her father's law practice

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her political activism as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Carol Sutton Lewis remembers attending Attallah Shabazz's birthday party after the assassination of Malcolm X

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her family's associations with the Kennedys and President Lyndon B. Johnson

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about the political activism of her father and her uncle, Percy Sutton

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Carol Sutton Lewis remembers adapting to a new environment after moving from Queens to New York City's Harlem neighborhood

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about attending the High School of Music & Art in New York City, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her experience at the High School for Music & Art in New York City, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Carol Sutton Lewis recalls her mother's love of teaching

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes seeing her third grade teacher, Portia Paterson

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes New York City in the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Carol Sutton Lewis compares her experience of Jack and Jill of America in Queens and Manhattan, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Carol Sutton Lewis describe the privilege the Sutton family name has afforded her throughout her life

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her affinity for English and the humanities

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Carol Sutton Lewis recalls her decision to become a lawyer

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her college application process

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her experience at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Carol Sutton Lewis recalls Ralph Smith's encouragement for her to become a lawyer despite a white professor's attempts to dissuade her

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her decision to attend Stanford Law School in Stanford, California

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her experience at Stanford Law School in Stanford, California

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Carol Sutton Lewis recalls watching one of her father's court cases

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her summer internships while at Stanford Law School and her desire to work for the FCC

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Carol Sutton Lewis recalls losing interest in the law after her father's death

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Carol Sutton Lewis remembers her father's death and taking the bar examination soon afterward

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about working at Dow Lohnes & Albertson after law school

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Carol Sutton Lewis remembers meeting her future husband, HistoryMaker William Lewis, and deciding to return to New York

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about working for her uncle, Percy Sutton, at the Apollo Theatre and his refusal to let her join the family business

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her disappointment after her uncle, Percy Sutton, refused to let her join the family business

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about leaving a job she loved at HBO in New York City to move to Chicago with her future husband, HistoryMaker William Lewis

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes her experience living in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about starting a production company in Chicago, Illinois with Royal Kennedy

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about working at WTTW

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her investment in the development of her three children

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Carol Sutton Lewis recalls becoming involved with the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her initial work on the board of the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Carol Sutton Lewis describes the birth of the Studio Museum in Harlem's annual fundraising gala

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about the Studio Museum in Harlem's annual gala in the wake of 9/11

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about state of the Studio Museum of Harlem

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her commitment to Harlem and changes in the neighborhood

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her next steps

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her children's education

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her parenting blog, Ground Control Parenting, pt.1

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her parenting blog, Ground Control Parenting, pt.2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her parenting blog, Ground Control Parenting, pt.3

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about her marriage

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Carol Sutton Lewis talks about how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Carol Sutton Lewis reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Carol Sutton Lewis narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$5

DAStory

7$11

DATitle
Carol Sutton Lewis remembers her father's desire for her to attend Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia
Carol Sutton Lewis talks about leaving a job she loved at HBO in New York City to move to Chicago with her future husband, HistoryMaker William Lewis
Transcript
But the funny story about their emphasis on education, and how it translated into my life is that my father [Oliver Sutton] decided, based on his family--two things: He decided where I was going to school and what I was going to do. He decided--and this always when I was very young (laughter) before, before I am--I am sure when I was five, he decided these things. He decided that I was going to go to Spelman [College, Atlanta, Georgia] because either a sister had gone to Spelman, or no one had gone to Spelman, but Spelman was a school that I should go to. And he decided that I should be a doctor because his sister, Carrie [Jane Sutton], had been a doctor, and there was time for another doctor in the family. Well, when I was twelve, he took--we went, we used to drive a lot from San Antonio [Texas], from New York to San Antonio. We would make road trips in the summer time. And on one road trip, we stopped in Atlanta [Georgia], and he showed me Spelman University. The purpose of this particular stop was to show me the university to which I, I would--it's a college, university? But he would show where I was going to college. My, my--11, 10, 12-year-old recollection of this, when I got out of the car, I, you know, it's sort of like, I can see it, like a scene from a movie in my mind. I got out of the car, and the tumbleweed blew by. And the sun beat down on me as this tumbleweed, and I didn't even know what a tumbleweed was, but some big dust ball blew by. It was very dusty. It was extremely hot. I saw the gates of this university, you know, the black gates, and I thought, there is no way, whatever this is (laughter). I'm in a prison in (laughter), and a hair dryer--it's really hot, it's a prison. I'm not going there (laughter). And I--what I, I, I, so it's like, thanks, daddy, this is great. I mean, we didn't do a tour. He just sort of showed me. He's like, this is Spelman, this is where you'll be going to college (laughter). And so, I said, great, daddy--got back in the car and thought, okay, I know one thing (laughter), I don't know anything this place, but I'm not going here (laughter). And so, I mean, no disrespect to Spelman. I had no clue. But it was a real hint in terms of parenting--do not take your child to the college you want them to attend when they are twelve in the middle of the summer if it's in the South. So, that was a bad move on my father's part, but I understood his desire. I mean, I don't want to paint him into the--I, I don't want to paint a picture of him of a guy that tried to dictate things. I mean, he did actually try to dictate things, but he knew enough (laughter). He was a smart enough guy to understand that he could, he could voice his opinion, but he wasn't--there was no, there was no desire to sort of make me do something that I didn't want to do. I mean, for example, when I decided to go to the University of Pennsylvania [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], he was completely and fully supportive, and there was no talk of, go or I'll say--I mean, something like that. He just, he wanted me to be happy.$$Right.$$But he figured, since he could probably figure that out me if I couldn't figure out for myself (laughter). Why not tell me what I should do.$$He had dreams.$$He had dreams.$$But, but the important part of that story, I think, it leads towards my family's emphasis in education. I mean, at twelve, he was telling me. I've always said that in my family, it really wasn't a question. It was never a question of are you going to college. It was a question of, okay, where you're to grad-, what are you going to do? You're going to college. You probably should go to graduate school. You probably think about what that is. And so, it was a presumption and expectation that, that it was, that was what would happen. My father would say to me when I was really young--$So, what, what happens next for you?$$Then I went to HBO, and they made a great job for me because I had a friend from college actually who was working in the HR. And they developed this--it, it wasn't just for me, but they were in the process of developing it. And I was the person that did it first--a, a program that took you through various departments of HBO. And so, I started out in business affairs which made sense because I was a lawyer. And then I went on to original programming. And it was there that I felt out, aha, the sun, like the, aha moment, like I really want to be in the making of TV. And I wanted to do a little bit of the negotiating, I wanted to be in the world of how to create a television show. And what better place than HBO that had subscriber money up the wazoo, and nobody to answer to in terms of critics or--not critics, but ratings. Because at that time, they just had all that money from the movies and they could just put on shows, so I was--it was thrilling. And so, I was very, very happy there. And that would have been the end of my story except that then, I was with my then-boyfriend, Bill [HM William Lewis] who--Morgan Stanley, the company for which he worked--gave him an offer he couldn't refuse to move to Chicago [Illinois] to run the Chicago investment banking office. And I had to face the question of what I would do. We were not engaged, but we had been going out for a while, and it was kind of heading in that direction. So what I made clear to Bill is that I'm not going to Chicago (laughter), I'm not going to Chicago as your girlfriend, so let's be clear. So then, he asked me to marry him. Then I thought, okay, well, I'll stay in New York and stay in my dream job, and I'll just be married to a guy that lives in Chicago. That didn't--I decided that, but he wasn't all that thrilled with that as a concept, like we're going to get married, and you're going to live here, and I'm going to live there? It would have made sense if I was running something in HBO, but it was--I was only there for a year. So, I had the unenviable--the decision was actually relatively easy to make. And I made it on this basis. What are the odds of me running HBO because that would be my, you know, it's like two paths. What are the odds of really, of great happiness in either one? If I ran HBO, that would make me really happy 'cause I love this company. What are the odds? And if I marry this guy and it works out, that would make me really happy, and what are the odds? And I looked at the structure of HBO, and there was already a ceiling with all these faces smooshed up against it because everybody who loved working at that company stayed there forever. And the guy--there was, the executive suite was filled with people who were waiting for their turn. And I was just what--twenty-something? So, the odds of me--I couldn't see the path where I could just blow through, and I was going to be at the top. It was going to take a long time, and I was going to have a lot of competition, and I couldn't see it. Maybe it would--if I had worked there for more years, I could see it, but I couldn't see it at that time. So that seemed like, although it was a great dream, that that was not going to happen any time soon, and if it happens at all. And, and on the flip side is if I don't, if I--by giving up the other one, how unhappy will I be? Like, if I don't make it to the top of HBO, how devastated--and I'm happily married, how devastated will that be? And if I am--if I don't get married or in the, how does that work (laughter), if I, but I, I, which would--how worse was the downside? If I stayed at HBO, I make it to the top, and this was the guy for me in life, and I miss that out, you know, is it worse to be in a very good position in my life, marriage-wise, or sort of outside of work-wise, and not good with work, or really good with work? And I figured, you know, how do I make decision? And I decided that, you know, what, I'm not going to run HBO--at least I don't know how, so that should not be the reason that I don't get married because if I had a clear path, maybe I would think that would--but I got to be realistic. I'm not even sure, you know, so.$$So, what date was the marriage? What--$$May, May 7, 1988. The interesting thing was I made that decision relatively quickly. I mean, because I could sort of--even though I am not known to be the most decisive person, there were the big issues. And I could sort of sort through, and then I made it instantly. Telling people was really difficult. I truly felt--I had all these women bosses, and I felt like I was really letting everybody down and myself to some degree. I felt like I was--how could I, after all this, I'd finally gotten to the job that I really wanted. And I sobbed--I couldn't see the pathway to the presidency, but I could see like I can flourish, and I had to give it up. I was really not happy about that, about saying that. I meant, I decided it, I was not happy about saying that. And it was hard to tell people. And I felt, and I'll never forget, that the guy that was running HBO at the time--Michael Fuchs said to me, how romantic, you're giving up your career for love. And if I could have been able to hit him, and not have been arrested, I really would have--and lose the job, did I still have a job? I was so angry that he had verbalized my greatest fear of the perception of what I was doing. It's like, no, I am not doing that. In fact, I worked for HBO in Chicago [Illinois], but it was some marketing position 'cause they didn't have production there. So that was, it was tough. It was a good life lesson though. It was sort of like--I mean, you know.$$But you gained a great life.$$I got a great life (laughter), you know. But that, it just tells you, you know, it's not easy. You have tough decisions in life because you know, I, I have, I, I had a great life, I have a great life. It was not the one that I perceived. I mean, and I don't know what would have happened if I had stayed at HBO. And, but it was interesting to have to make that decision--$$Right.$$--to stay, to, to like--rarely does it like face you like that, you know. Had I been married for a while, it might have been different. Had I been at HBO for a while, it might have been different. But I was sort at the beginning of both things, so.