Sculptor Phil Sumpter and his son. I ran into Phil by chance today. I hadn't seen him since 1999. Phil had me over for Thanksgiving a couple of times, and I have never had better mac and cheese. Phil's been living in Puerto Rico, where his wife is from, but they're thinking of moving back to Philly.
Phil was in town for Joe Tiberino's funeral. I've known the Tiberino family since 1983. I mention Joe's son, Raphael, in my "Pope Francis in Philadelphia."
Wild West, In Living Color A Kid At Heart At 63, Artist Honors Heroes
Joe Clark, Daily News Staff Writer
September 21, 1993
Philip Sumpter couldn't read, couldn't write. But he could draw lines. Could make dots and fancy curlicues, too. And when he put them all together he had a smiling, button-nosed little cowboy.
It wasn't much, but to Sumpter's 4-year-old son it was like magic. "I thought it was great that my father could do something like that," Philip Jr. said.
One night, Sumpter, who labored in a Pittsburgh steel mill, sat little Philip down at the dining room table and taught him how to draw the cowboy. Over and over the youngster drew lines and made dots "until I made that cowboy to my father's liking.
"I guess you can say he was my first teacher."
Philip Sumpter Sr. taught his son well.
Philip "Boots" Sumpter Jr., 63, is still drawing cowboys. Sketches and sculpts them, too. Some are on exhibit in the gallery of the Free Library on Logan Square.
Only Sumpter's cowboys aren't the kind he usually saw in those 10-cent, Saturday afternoon shoot-'em-ups at his neighborhood movie house in West Philadelphia.
Sumpter's exhibit is titled, "The Black Cowboy."
It portrays the real thing, too.
"I have a nose for authenticity," he smiles.
Before putting his hand to clay, brush and pencil, Sumpter researched his subject for more than 10 years. "I must have read a good 150 books or so about the West in general," he said "I'm still reading."
"I'll tell you something," he added. "If I wasn't an art teacher, I would have been a history teacher."
But Philip Sumpter Jr. was an art teacher. Before retiring last June, he taught art in the Philadelphia school system for 29 years. For nine of those years he taught in the same classroom where he once sat as an art student, at Sulzberger Junior High, 48th Street and Fairmount Avenue.