Percy Sutton, the pioneering civil rights attorney who revitalized the famed Apollo Theater when the Harlem landmark's demise appeared imminent, has died. He was 89.

Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Paterson, confirmed that Sutton died Saturday. She did not know the cause. His daughter, Cheryl Sutton, declined to comment Saturday when reached by phone at her New York City home.

The son of a former slave, Percy Sutton became a fixture on 125th Street in Harlem after moving to New York City following his service with the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. His Harlem law office, founded in 1953, represented Malcolm X and the slain activist's family for decades.

Sutton's devotion to Harlem and its people was rarely more evident than when he spent $250,000 to purchase the shuttered Apollo Theater in 1981. The Apollo turned 70 in 2004, a milestone that was unthinkable until Sutton stepped in to save the landmark.

"The Apollo and its staff stand on the shoulders of Mr. Sutton as the theater continues to flourish," said Jonelle Procope, president and CEO of Apollo Theater Foundation Inc. "(He) will be greatly missed and will always be an integral part of the Apollo legacy."

Sutton made WLIB-AM the first black-owned radio station in New York City in 1971, when he purchased it with his brother Oliver. Sutton's Inner City Broadcasting Corp. eventually picked up WBLS-FM, which reigned for years as New York's top-rated radio station, before buying stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and San Antonio between 1978-85.

The consummate politician, Sutton served in the New York State Assembly before taking over as Manhattan borough president in 1966, becoming the highest-ranking black elected official in the state.

Two years later, Sutton announced a run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Jacob Javits, although he pulled out of the Democratic primary to back Paul O'Dwyer.

Sutton remained in his Manhattan job through 1977, the same year he launched a doomed campaign for mayor that ended with Edward I. Koch defeating six competitors for the Democratic nomination.

President Barack Obama called Sutton "a true hero" to African-Americans across the country.

"His life-long dedication to the fight for civil rights and his career as an entrepreneur and public servant made the rise of countless young African-Americans possible," Obama said in a statement.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Sunday that flags on city buildings would be lowered in Sutton's honor.

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