Biography

Joe Sutton

Joseph Sutton was born in Brooklyn and raised in Hollywood. He played football at the University of Oregon and graduated with a degree in philosophy. He earned a teaching credential and a degree in history at Cal State University Los Angeles and taught high school history and English for many years. Sutton, who has been writing for more than 50 years, has published a total of 23 books. His essays and short stories have appeared in numerous national magazines and journals. Sutton lives in San Francisco with his wife Joan.

A More Detailed Biography

Joseph Sutton went to Fairfax High School in Hollywood and excelled in football. After playing football for two years at Valley Junior College in Los Angeles, he entered the University of Oregon in 1960 on a football scholarship. He didn’t become an All-American running back as he had wished. What happened was that a knee injury led to his getting on the bad side of his coach. Hence, he was a lowly fourth string football player who saw sporadic action in the two years he was on the team.

One day, in his senior year, a fellow fourth stringer asked him, “What are you going to do in life?”

Sutton thought for a second and said, “I’m going to be a writer. I’m going to let the whole world know what it feels like for a fourth string football player to be treated like cannon fodder.”

Upon graduating Oregon with a degree in philosophy, Sutton joined the Coast Guard reserve. Late in the morning on November 22, 1963, their ship docked in Alameda, CA, the crew heard the news of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. That night, because the president’s death greatly affected him, Sutton did something he had never done before: he picked up a pen and started writing down his thoughts and feelings. Little did he know that he’d be doing the same thing to this very day.

After completing his six-month military obligation, Sutton went on to earn a secondary teaching credential and a degree in history at California State University Los Angeles. He started teaching social studies at Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles. Five years later, in June 1969, he quit teaching to follow his dream of becoming a writer. His first project was an autobiographical novel, A Class of Leaders, about a history teacher in a predominately Black high school who throws away all teaching conventions and lets his students teach. Sutton’s next work, a semi-autobiographical novel called Highway Sailor, deals with a man hitting the highways of America in his VW bus in search of himself and his country. Both books weren’t published until many years later.

Ever since his Coast Guard days in Alameda, Sutton had always wanted to live in San Francisco. He finally made the move in 1977. Within a span of four years, he met Joan Bransten, married her, and they had a son Raymond. After his son’s birth in 1981, writing took a backseat to supporting his family, and so he returned to teaching full-time.

Sutton taught until he contracted asthma in 1984. He took his doctor’s advice and quit teaching due to the stress it caused him. He quickly landed a job as a sales rep for a costume jewelry company and within six months his asthma faded away. Although he was earning twice as much as a salesman than he did as a teacher, selling costume jewelry didn’t offer much meaning to his life. The only thing that mattered was to get back to writing. But how was he going to support a family when all he had earned in fifteen years as a writer was $4000? In his fourth year of jewelry sales, Sutton hit upon the idea to compile a book of quotations on all aspects of health and, most importantly, to categorize those quotations. His idea caught a publisher’s eye and Words of Wellness: A Treasury of Quotations for Well-Being was released in 1991. It was the success of that book that gave him a chance to become a full-time writer again. Sutton has published many books since. His last printed book was launched in 2019: In the Time of My Life: Selected Writings, a compilation of chapters and stories extracted from three novels, three story collections, a book about the San Francisco Giants winning three World Series titles, and a memoir of his 30 year relationship with his son Raymond.

The last nine books Sutton has produced spring from the yearly journals he began in 1970. The Journals cover the years 1970-1972, 1990, 1993, 1994, 2000, 2008, 2010, 2020, and 2021. It’s a fascinating and captivating way to find out what was going on in a writer’s mind, a husband and father’s mind, a former athlete and sports fan’s mind, a lover of democracy’s mind, as well as what was going on in our country. The eight are e-books that you can read for free in the POSTINGS category of this website.  

Sutton never forgot what he told his Oregon teammate about being treated like cannon fodder. “The Fourth Stringer” was published years ago in his story collection The Immortal Mouth and Other Stories and is now included in his latest print book, In the Time of My Life: Selected Writings.