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The Life of Frank Sutton

Frank Spencer Sutton was born October 23, 1923 in Clarksville, Tennessee. He was the only child of Frank Sims Sutton and Thelma Spencer Sutton, who met while employed at the local newspaper, the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle.

This is the birth announcement that ran in the Leaf-Chronicle on Oct. 25, 1923 (I apologize for the quality - it was a microfilm copy):

This is the childhood home of Frank Sutton, located on South 2nd Street in Clarksville.

When young Frank was about eight years old, his father took a position as a linotype operator at another newspaper, the Nashville Tennessean. The family made the 45-mile move to Nashville. Frank Sims Sutton suffered from gastrointestinal problems and on March 16, 1938, he died from a gastric hemorrhage, leaving his widow and 15-year-old son to grieve.

Young Frank graduated from East High School in Nashville, TN, where he was an active member of the drama club. He went on to become a disc jockey at a Clarksville radio station before going off to war. After WWII, he went to Columbia University, and became an actor.

In 1949, he married Toby Igler. He spent the 1950's and early 1960's playing small roles in many TV shows and movies, including "Marty" and several episodes of "The Untouchables" and "Gunsmoke." In 1964 he landed the role that made him a household name: the tough sergeant Vincent Carter in "Gomer Pyle, USMC." He extended his role as Gomer's drill instructor for four seasons, until the show's cancellation in 1968. His friendship with co-star Jim Nabors lasted on into the run of "The Jim Nabors Hour," in 1969.

After the cancellation of those shows, he continued to make guest TV appearances and performed in dinner theater. While preparing for a stage performance in Shreveport, LA, on June 28, 1974, Frank Sutton died of a heart attack. He was 50 years old. In addition to his wife and his mother, he was survived by two children, Joseph David, then 16, and Amanda Lee, then six. He was buried in his hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee, near his father and other members of his mother's family.

Though the world lost a great talent that night 27 years ago, Frank Sutton's work lives on in re-runs of "Gomer Pyle, USMC" as well as his other roles. Many of his biggest fans were not even born when the show originally aired.

His wife and children are still alive today, and living in New York. Toby, his wife, has been a writer for soap operas. Joseph, his son, is a playwright. His mother passed away in 1986 and is buried beside him in Clarksville's Greenwood Cemetery. Many of his cousins are still living in the Clarksville, TN area.

 

 

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