The Hamer Institute mourns the passing of our friend and beloved colleague Mr. Tracy A. Sugarman. His contributions to the Hamer Institute included 93 photos, 89 drawings/sketching and a variety of items such as Mr. Sugarman’s book, “Stranger at the Gate,” his biographical sketch, his Keynote Speech in honor of Fannie Lou Hamer and a Program Booklet Mr. Sugarman participated in called “The Values and Ethnics in the Life of Fannie Lou Hamer.” Tracy Sugarman was a great contributor to the work of the Hamer Institute.
Tracy Sugarman, the Westport artist, author and chronicler of the American civil-rights movement, died Sunday at age 91.
A Westport resident for more than 60 years, Sugarman was one of the nation’s most prolific illustrators for more than a half century, documenting major news events with his sketch pad and drawing illustrations for hundreds of magazines, books and record covers.
With a rare talent for both images and words, Sugarman also wrote several books, including three dealing with the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s South.
He is survived by his wife, Gloria Cole Sugarman, and two children from a previous marriage.
Sugarman was born in 1921 in Syracuse, N.Y., and as a naval officer in World War II led troops in the amphibious D Day assault on Normandy. From his war experiences, Sugarman wrote the memoir “My War: A Love Story in Letters and Drawings.”
The civil-rights struggles of the 1960s inspired three more books — including two chronicles of events and a late-in-life novel published in 2009.
“Stranger at the Gate — A Summer in Mississippi” recounts the so-called “Freedom Summer” in 1964, when more than 1,000 volunteers went to Mississippi to register voters and run freedom schools
The summers or 1964 and 1965 inspired a second book — “We Had Sneakers, They Had Guns: The Kids Who Fought for Civil Rights in Mississippi” — which chronicled the civil-rights work of white college students, hundreds of whom were arrested an many of whom were beaten.
His experiences in the south also inspired “Nobody Said Amen,” a novel published in 2009 when Sugarman was 88. It prompted his wife Gloria to refer to him as “the oldest first novelist in the world,” a distinction not literally true but pretty close.
Sugarman moved to Westport in 1950 and lived here until his death. He was known locally as a generous humanitarian and a man of grace and wit. The town honored him for his war service in 2011, naming him Grand Marshal of the Memorial Day Parade.