East St. Louis Oral History Project:

Neighborhood Activism & Community Change

Richard M. Suttle, Sr., Emerson Park Neighborhood Interview

Date of Interview: September 29, 2001

Location: East St. Louis, IL

Interviewers: Leon Edmond, Veida Holdman, Lauren Kerestes, and John Sanders

Architectural students breaking
ground for ramp at NTAC office

 Cutting wood for bus stop benchs



Richard M. Suttle Sr. has been an active member of the Emerson Park Development Corporation, a neighborhood organization within the East St. Louis community, for many years. He received an Associates Degree in Life Insurance. He is a retired life insurance salesman of  Texas based American National Insurance.  He is the oldest of four siblings, all born in East St. Louis. He has one son, Richard Suttle, Jr. It was at Mr. Suttle home that the first meeting was held with former University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign staff member, Ken Reardon, to begin planning the ESLARP and NTAC programs. Raised in the East St. Louis after the age 9, Mr. Suttle has a great familiarity with the history, dynamics, and geography of the area. He has seen the changes the city has gone through politically, culturally, socially, and economically, for better or worse, over the past 50 years. In addition to serving as President of the Emerson Park Development Corporation, Mr. Suttle also sits on the boards of the East St. Louis Community Action Network (ESLCAN), the New Spirit Organizing Office, and the Urban Resources Partnership Program. He is a member of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.


This project is an attempt to preserve and create a permanent oral history for the future East St. Louis residents, students and faculty at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and generations to come. We had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Suttle Sr. regarding the history of East St. Louis. The first part of the interview is more personal, to give the readers and listeners an idea of what kind of man Richard Suttle, Sr. is, his background, and a time frame for the events he relayed to us. Then next section deals with the history and changes that have occurred more generally in East St. Louis. Following that section, Mr. Suttle, Sr. paints a picture of his neighborhood, Emerson Park, and the changes and challenges that this particular neighborhood has faced. Mr. Suttle, Sr. was very generous, patient, and cooperative in sharing his life, struggles, and successes as an active member of the East St. Louis community. The atmosphere of the interview was very informal, relaxed, and candid.


"I think they've done a really good job since I've been on ESLARP, before it was ESLARP. We planned all this stuff in my living room with Ken Reardon and some other professors from the college. The whole idea was for them to come down here and teach a class in urban renewal and teach the people who live here how to revitalize their neighborhood. and that's how all this got started. But they've done a beautiful job."

                                                                                                                                                          -Richard M. Suttle, Sr.

"Well, it's the try-hard folks like me who were determined to stay here and try to bring the city back to life, because it was truly dying."                                                                                                                                                -Richard M. Suttle, Sr.

"...our neighborhood's coming back."    -Richard M. Suttle, Sr.

New Housing Developments in Emerson Park

Click here to read the transcribed interview with Mr. Suttle, Sr.