The Survival of the Fittest

Sumner’s father eventually broke into the nightclub business, buying Boston’s Latin Quarter from Lou Walters, father of Barbara Walters. He also opened a drive-in theater business, which he expanded into a small chain that flourished after the war.

The Redstones’ wealth was slowly growing. His parents sent him to Boston Latin School, which is the oldest and, at that time, toughest, public school in the U.S.

“In those days, it was the best school in the country,” remarks Sumner. “It beat schools like Andover and Exeter in terms of the kids that got into Harvard. I wanted to be number one. I didn’t go out, no dates, no girls. I studied, studied, studied, and ended-up being number one in my class with the best record the school had in its 350-year history.”

It was the first of many wins for Sumner Redstone.

Sumner got into Harvard at the age of 17 and finished in less than three years, studying languages and the classics. During his time at Harvard, he was a member of an elite group recruited by the U.S. government to crack the Japanese military code during WWII. Having a language background in Italian, Spanish, French, Greek, Latin, and Japanese, his Professor Reischauer, who later became the ambassador to Japan, took Sumner and another student to Washington. Their mission was to help break the high-level military and diplomatic codes of the Japanese, something that had never been done. Using a combination of language and mathematics, they succeeded. This extraordinary accomplishment might be enough to satisfy most men’s desire to leave their mark. But for Sumner it was a just one step in a long journey to achieve greatness in the media world.