Marengo County loses public servant

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Jean Rodgers Sutton, a relentless news reporter of nearly four decades at the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, died Tuesday, Sept. 16, at her home. She was 62.

Tommy McGraw, a close friend of Sutton’s and a business partner with her husband, Goodloe Sutton, said funeral arrangements were not complete as of press time. O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home will handle arrangements.

According to McGraw, Sutton had been diagnosed with cancer "and her prognosis was good, we thought," he said.

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Last week, Sutton began chemotherapy treatments and became sick over the weekend. On Monday, she was taken to the emergency room and was scheduled for a doctor’s visit on Tuesday. She died at her home before leaving for the doctor, McGraw said.

In the courthouse is where Sutton earned her trademark as one of the best reporters in the state of Alabama.

Nichols agreed, calling Sutton "intelligent and very knowledgeable about the court system."

Sutton’s oldest son, Goodloe Sutton Jr., works as the state director for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby.

A series of investigative pieces by Jean and Goodloe Sutton marked the long journalism career of Jean Sutton. During the mid-1990s, the two used the Democrat-Reporter to uncover corruption in the Marengo County Sheriff’s Department.

According to McGraw, Sutton was responsible for most of the investigative work done during the Democrat-Reporter’s series of stories and editorials on the sheriff’s department.

Around Marengo County and Alabama, news of Sutton’s passing moved quickly.

Jeff Manuel, public safety director in Demopolis, characterized Sutton as a fair journalist.

In Marengo County, Sutton and the Democrat-Reporter earned a reputation for hard-charging journalism that focused on improper action by public officials.

Max Joiner, a member of the Marengo County Commission, watched Sutton cover his governmental body for years.

Born June 12, 1941, in Jackson, Miss., Sutton graduated from Hinds Junior College in Raymond, Miss., before finishing her college career at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1963.

In 1964, she and Goodloe Sutton married, and she moved to Linden as a part-time reporter. She also taught girls physical education at Linden High School from 1965-1967.

After two years in education, Sutton went to work, full-time, for the Democrat-Reporter.

Sutton is survived by her husband, Goodloe; sons Howard Goodloe Sutton Jr., and Willian Robert Sutton; sisters Billie Melton of Clinton, Miss., and Susan Womack of Jackson, Miss.; and bother Will Rodgers of Tampa, Fla.