Beloved business owner passes
By By Janet Little Cooper
A well-known Atmore businessman will be remembered today as his family and friends gather to say farewell to a father and friend.
Adolph "Doc" Sutton, Sr., 95, passed away at his Atmore home Jan. 8, 2007. Sutton, a native of Berrydale, Fla., moved to Atmore many years ago where he met and married his wife, Ouida Patterson on May 12, 1935. The couple, along with two of Sutton's brothers, would move to New York during the Great Depression in search of work only to return to Atmore after WWII in the late 1940's.
"Daddy did several things while they lived in New York," Sutton's daughter Carolyn Settle said. "He drove gasoline trucks in tandem for $37.50 a week during the depression. He was a shade tree mechanic and even drove stock cars. He was also a Golden Glove Champion boxer in the feather weight division."
Settle said that her father and mother came back to Atmore in 1942 where he found work working on airplanes at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.
"Daddy was a top-notch mechanic," Settle said. "I remember him falling off the wing of an airplane and breaking his leg around 1944."
It was during this time that Sutton would make his first move in the business world. Settle said that her parents bought Sutton's Restaurant and they both worked there.
"Mom was great cook," Settle said. " The restaurant was perfect for her. She loved to go through recipes trying different dishes. We had the normal foods like fried chicken, but she was always trying new things, especially after living in New York."
Sutton's Restaurant was home to the first hamburger being served in Atmore. According to Settle, her father had his own recipe for the popular burger that was often referred to as the 'Sutton Burger'.
Settle also recalls her parents offering a T-bone steak with a salad and homemade French fries for only a $1.50.
Her father would soon purchase several other businesses as well extending his interest in Atmore and its economy.
Sutton opened a juke box company named Sutton's Music and operated a taxi service, Doc's Taxi, as well as ran two city bus lines.
"You had to use tokens to pay for your bus ride," Settle said. "I remember catching the bus out in front of the old school."
As the years passed and Sutton's entrepreneurial spirit grew, he and his wife ventured out by opening a popular beach business on the main beach of Gulf Shores, called The Hangout.
The Hangout was exactly that for hundreds of locals and natives during the peak summer season.
"They moved to Gulf Shores in the late "60s"," Settle said. "The business just grew. It was a boom time then. They were there probably 25 years or so before Hurricane Fredrick came along and whacked them good. As soon as they could, they took shovels and started digging out. My parents had a great spirit. They were determined people."
Eventually, the couple's business presence would be felt in Gulf Shores as well as the couple rebuilt The Hangout, constructed a seafood restaurant Adolph's, built a dress shop named Sutton's Place and The Barefoot Bar all on Hwy. 59 on the beach.
Settle attributes her father's business since and drive to his versatility.
"Daddy was always looking for something new," Settle said. " It was like he had an itch that he was always trying to scratch. He was a hard worker and had a great work ethic that he instilled in his children. He loved people and people loved him."
Settle said that her father achieved well in business to have no more education than he did.
"He always told us that he had an eighth grade education, but then it would change to the seventh," Settle said. "Whatever the case, he was the eighth out of 10 children and was not able to have an education like children today. He wanted us to be educated and he worked hard to ensure that we could have that opportunity and be clothed, fed and sheltered all of our lives."
Settle remembers seeing her father read a newspaper from front to back as a child. She said that it was important for her father to be informed and be involved.
"He was supportive of Atmore and the people in it," Settle said. "He encouraged his children to be good citizens also."
Atmore residents will remember Sutton for his many contributions to the city.
"My first recollection of Doc Sutton was him being in the restaurant business and the taxi service," Atmore mayor Howard Shell said. "Doc was one of the longest living business owners left in Atmore that has been a very successful businessman."
While the Sutton family will also remember their father's business legacy, his daughter, Carolyn Settle, will remember the brisk walk of purpose and meaning her father took with every step as he worked tirelessly in the community to provide for his family.
"I have to look at what my father did for me," Settle said. "I want to honor the good things that he taught me. I shall miss him greatly."