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Karen Avenue namesake not as locally known as her father

The history behind Karen Avenue in Paradise and downtown Las Vegas is a mystery to some people.

In fact, little information about its namesake, Karen Sutton, is found in local history books and documents other than that she was a runner for George Foley Sr.'s law office, according to Mark Hall-Patton, Clark County Museums administrator.

While little information about Sutton was available, her father, Raymond E. "Bud" Sutton, was more well-known the community.

"Bud" Sutton was the tax attorney for the property's developer, according to Hall-Patton. In a March 14, 1981, interview with then-University of Nevada, Las Vegas, student Ronnie Peters, Sutton said he had been a resident of Nevada since 1941.

"I was in junior high school, and the war had just started," Sutton said in the interview. "There were about 1,000 homes in Henderson (at that time) … It was an old area in a state of upheaval."

Sutton spent most of his young life in the Whitney area. His father, according to the same interview, owned the only restaurant between Las Vegas and Henderson before the area boomed with development.

In addition to the Korean War, Sutton served in the Navy during World War II. He lied about his age to go into service.

After the Korean War, Sutton started school at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque but claimed it was "too tame" for his taste. As a result, he enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1948 and later moved to Washington, D.C., for law school at American University.

He gave the nation's capitol a week before moving back to Nevada with his wife and young child Karen, who was born in 1954.

Sutton took jobs as an accountant by day and a titanium metal worker by night until 1955 before he gave law school another try at the University of Denver.

Sutton's first job in the legal industry, after taking the bar exam in 1958, was with Judge George Marshall. Through work with Marshall, Sutton became intimately familiar with the valley and its growth in the 1960s.

"This area has always been deeply involved with union activity," Sutton said. "(With) the development of the town … you didn't get the murder cases (and) the open narcotics (cases) until after the wars."

Sutton watched his part of town develop from a small American Indian village at the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Boulder Highway to a four-lane road booming with businesses. During that time, Sutton worked with several clients, land developers and residents , at little to no cost.

"It was an attorney's duty -- and I should say honor and privilege -- to represent (people) without pay," Sutton said.

Sutton worked with the U.S. Attorney's office in Carson City and argued several Supreme Court cases, according to an April 19, 2005 interview with Sutton as part of an oral history project with Henderson Libraries. He practiced law throughout the state before eventually settling in Henderson.

Sutton had six children, with Karen Sutton being the oldest, according to the interview as part of the Henderson Oral History Project. Although Karen Avenue runs through Paradise and downtown, it was in Henderson that Sutton witnessed major developments to the valley.

"Every time I mention or I go into Henderson, I'm just flabbergasted," Sutton said in the 2005 interview. "It's amazing, and it's going. You have great people up there in Henderson now."

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at or 383-4686.