John Sutton Papers
Scope and Contents
This collection documents the activities of John Sutton, who worked as a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman between 1973-1980, before becoming Director of General Services for Travis County. Materials in this collection include documentation connected to Sutton’s work as a staff writer and his coverage of legal, political, and other community matters within Travis County between 1973 and 1980. It also includes a series of files that Sutton inherited from his predecessors at the paper, which predominantly covers the period 1971-1973. Sutton’s work has historical significance as much for its characterization of a cultural moment as for its direct documentation of noteworthy events. His efforts as a beat reporter in the county courts and his coverage of local politics are noteworthy, especially given the time period during which he was active in this role. The late 1970’s saw changes in county government that included the expansion of the office of County Commissioner, something that is well-documented in Sutton’s work.
Significant topics covered by the materials in this collection include local crimes, court cases, and law enforcement information; county campaigns, elections, and official meetings; as well as county policies, programs, and veterans-related materials. It also includes correspondence between Sutton and other newspaper staff and various public bodies. Information related to the 45th Governor of Texas, Ann Richards, as well as Travis County Commissioners Bob Honts and Richard Moya are also included.
Materials are primarily newspaper articles and other published materials; personal notes, drafts, and manuscripts; press releases; correspondence; and ephemera. The collection comprises physical formats including typed notes and copies, newspaper clippings, spiral reporter’s notebooks, legal pads, photographic negatives and prints, letters, and business cards.
The Subject Files include subject files each pertaining to journalistic topics or stories covered by John Sutton during his time at the Austin American-Statesman. The subject files provide the best indication of how Sutton worked. They also contain relevant information for those researching Travis County and its government during the period. His files on subjects such as court cases and elections often contain official materials and press releases issued directly from government bodies. His coverage otherwise documents details of actual and proposed policies, and campaigns of important historical figures on their way to prominence including Ann Richards, and County Commissioners Richard Moya, Bob Honts, and David Samuelson.
The Predecessor Files series include Austin American-Statesman newspaper articles written by Sutton’s predecessors on the courthouse beat. The period covered in this series correlates to the years preceding Sutton’s employment at the Statesman, from 1971-1973. The articles contained therein were not written by Sutton but were given to him by his colleagues as reference materials. “Dog Bite Cases,” “Indecent Exposure & Other Show-offs,” “Swinging Swindler,” and “Teacher vs. Taxicabs” are among those oft-playfully-named subject files.
The Newspaper Clippings are a series of articles pertaining to the period 1974-1976. The series includes a selection of the “At the Courthouse” columns written by Sutton in 1975, as well as several other subject files pertaining to Travis County.
The Reporter’s Notebooks series contains those notebooks of Sutton’s whose use was not dedicated to a specific news story. The “Missing Mormon Missionaries” file in the Subject Files series also contains reporter’s notebooks, specific to that particular court case.
The Negatives series contains the developed contents of three short rolls of film, each from a particular event. Sutton himself is captured in “Jalapeño Eating,” the second of these three files.
- Creation: 1971 - 1980
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1973 - 1980
- Bob Honts (Person)
- Richard Moya (Person)
- Richards, Ann (Person)
- General Services Department (Person)
John Mack Sutton was born in Gorman, Texas on the 8th of December 1947 to John Edward Sutton and Ethel Irene Capers. After the sale of the family-owned Sutton Brothers dry goods store, he and his parents briefly moved to California, before re-settling back in Gorman after the birth of his two brothers. In school, Sutton played many sports including football, basketball, and track.
After graduating high school in 1966, Sutton moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas. There, he studied History and English, completing his studies in 1970. Sutton originally intended to attend law school, but was unsuccessful in his attempts. Instead, he spent some time working before deciding to pursue journalism. He returned to UT in 1972. Despite falling three credit hours short of achieving his journalism degree, he was still hired to work for Austin’s local daily newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman. He began, as many journalists did at the time, by writing obituaries. Over the years, he moved into police reporting. Along with his coverage of crime in Austin, he also took up investigative journalism. He was named Investigative Reporter of the Year by the Headliners Club in 1974, along with Dave Mayes, for their reporting on the abuse of mentally disabled and delinquent youth within county and state institutions. Given his longtime interest in law, Sutton eventually came to focus on local politics, acting as a beat reporter covering elections, trials, and other Travis County government affairs.
In 1980, Sutton went to work as an aide to Richard Moya, a member of the Travis County Commissioners Court. Sutton and Moya had formed a professional relationship during the time that Sutton had worked as a reporter. After six months working for Moya, Sutton was appointed as a building manager for the county. Originally overseeing the Stokes Building (since renamed the Granger Building), his role would expand to include oversight of many more of the county’s services. In 1982 he was promoted to Director of the Travis County General Services Department and would serve as its Director until the department was dissolved in 1995. During his time working for the county, he managed leasing, printing, maintenance, and other functions within the county’s operations, and he applied his communications knowledge to establish a county TV station. After leaving county government, he worked at the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation (now known as Trellis Company) for 23 years until his retirement.
After the birth of his first child in 1976, Sutton and his family moved from Austin to Round Rock, TX, where he presently lives. Shortly thereafter, he and his wife, Anita Lea Acrea, had twins. Today his family includes seven grandchildren.
Language of Materials
The John Sutton Papers comprise the professional records of Austin, TX journalist and government official John Sutton during his time as a staff writer for the daily newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman. The records span the duration of his employment with the paper, from 1973–1980. Topics represented in his work are mostly local and state news with a focus on government and crime.
1.Subject Files 2.Predecessor Subject Files 3.Newspaper Clippings 4.Reporter’s Notebooks 5.Negatives
The materials contained within the collection were in the possession of journalist and public servant John Sutton. After his tenure working for Travis County, the boxes were then transferred to a county storage facility, where they were housed for an undetermined number of years. They were finally transferred to the Travis County Archives circa 2013 and have been held there since.
This collection was processed by Neal Baker and Ashley Bower, Fall 2021
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