Crystal Sutton, 'Norma Rae' model, dies

BURLINGTON, N.C., Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Crystal Lee Jordan Sutton, the North Carolina union activist whose story inspired the movie "Norma Rae," has died at the age of 68.

Sutton was diagnosed two years ago with a brain tumor, the Raleigh News & Observer reported Tuesday.


A child of textile workers, Sutton was working for the J.P. Stevens Rosemary Plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., when she was inspired in 1973 by Eli Zifkovitch, a union organizer.

When she was fired, she quickly drew a sign that said union and stood on a table, holding it up, and briefly shut down production, a scene that became a highlight of the movie.

The Amalgamated Clothing Workers organized the plant in 1980. But the union's success came at a time when southern textile mills were closing down and production moving overseas.

Sutton remained an advocate for unions and for racial justice and women's rights.

"She found a mission and a goal and she stayed with it," said Syd Alexander, a lawyer and friend. "She was not an articulate, polished speaker, but she was absolutely unabashed about telling her story and what she believed in. And she was such a natural, because the story was true."


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