Otis "Buddy" Sutson
“I thought there were only a few hundred gays in the whole world. I walked into Nob Hill and saw all these guys and thought 'There are so many of us.' It was an eye-opening experience for me. I wasn't alone. There was a community ... ”
“The Best of Washington provided another outlet for the black gay community. Now we are more philanthropic, supporting AIDS and community organizations but [when we started] we were all about having fun ... We're a safety net; we don't have the funds to be a primary care organization. We can lend a hand, raise funds, and volunteer.”
For over thirty years, Buddy Sutson has been the backbone of the Best of Washington, one of Washington, DC's most successful and enduring black social clubs. With his friend Bob Lomax, Sutson founded the Best of Washington in 1973. The black social club provided for the African-American gay community during and after segregation by organizing house parties and spectacular social events.
Sutson, more often known as “Buddy”, has served the Best of Washington in nearly every leadership position and is chairman of the group. During his leadership the group organized the dance parties for which Best of Washington was famous in the African-American gay community. The club's annual Alice Awards provided much sought after recognition for community contributions as well as awards for outstanding social events.
As more opportunities opened up the community for African American gay men and lesbians, Sutson worked to redefine the role of the Best of Washington and of other black social clubs, spurring them to support community HIV/AIDS organizations, other community organizations, and to provide role models for younger African American gays and lesbians. Where there was once rivalry among the city's social clubs, he has built bridges and common interests. “We see ourselves as on the same journey,” he notes.
Since retiring from the Federal Reserve, Sutson has devoted himself to a new career as a client service manager for Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry and subsequently for Damien Ministries, continuing the support activities that he spurred Best of Washington to take on. He serves on the Max Robinson Center's advisory board as well. It's a second career that he loves.
Sutson tries to serve as a role model for younger gays. He understands that though much has changed and improved over the years, it is still difficult for young African-American men and women to be gay in their community.
Resources on Buddy Sutson:
Oral history in the Rainbow History collection