David Hilliard

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David Hilliard (born May 15, 1942) was a member of the Black Panther Party. He was Chief of Staff in the party.[1][2] He became a visiting instructor at the University of New Mexico in 2006.[3] He also is the founder of the Dr. Huey P. Newton foundation.[4]

Early life[edit]

David Hilliard was born on May 15, 1942 in Rockville, Alabama to Lela and Lee Hilliard. David had six brothers and five sisters: Theodore, Allen, Nathaniel, Van, Roosevelt, Arthur, Rose Lee, Sweetie, Dorty Mae, Vera Lee, and Eleanora.[5] His mother and father met in 1916 when his mother was 16, a little less than half the age of his father. In his childhood Hilliard met Huey Newton, who would later become the leader of the Black Panther movement.[6]

Family Life[edit]

David Hilliard married Patrica (Pat) Hilliard in 1959. Patricia and David met at a David's friend Malcom Newton's fraternity party. Although Pat at first resisted the perusal by David, she eventually agreed to date him. At the age of 17 David was informed that Patricia was pregnant and he dropped out of high school. At 17 David and Patricia married at Berkeley City Hall.[5]

David, due to his lack of a high school diploma and skills had a hard time finding jobs. He worked many odd jobs including: cleaning up after skilled laborers, a tile chipper, working at canneries, and a car salesman.[5]

David and Patricia Hilliard had three children: Patrice, Darryl, and Dorian. They named their daughter after Patrice Munsel, one of David's favorite singers. Dorian was named after Dorian Grey, the main character in Oscar Wilde's famous novel the Picture of Dorian Grey.[5]

During their early married life David faced alcohol addiction and a lack of anger management.[5]

During his involvement with the Black Panthers David Hilliard met Brenda Presley and the two began an intimate relationship. With Brenda David had a daughter named Dassine.[5]

Work in the Black Panthers[edit]

Hilliard became involved in the Black Panther movement in 1966 while living in Oakland, California.[6] Huey P. Newton, Hilliard's childhood friend informed him of this organization which Bobby Seale and he were founding. This organization believed in defense of minority groups by any means necessary and followed a 10 point plan outlining "What We Want" and "What We Believe." Early actions of the Black Panthers involved intercepting in police brutalities through using arms to enforce police rules of conduct.[5]

After the arrest of Huey Newton on October 28, 1967 for a armed scuffle with the Oakland Police resulting in the death of Officer John Frey,[7] David Hilliard acted as the interim leader of the Black Panthers.[5] Hilliard helped to then organize a rally in February 1968 called the "Free Huey Rally" that drew 6,000 people.[7]

Programs Organized with the Black Panthers[edit]

Hilliard was involved in the many programs organized by the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers organized programs called survival programs including: breakfast programs for schoolchildren, health clinics, and programs for prisoners. These programs were called survival programs because they simply help communities survive rather than addressing the systemic reasons behind these problems. These programs were free to those in need.[8]

In 1971 the Black Panther Party formed the Intercommunal Youth Institute. This program addressed the systematic oppression of African American students in the public school system. The Black Panthers believed that public schools failed to teach analytical skills that are necessary to survive in society. This school for children in Oakland taught children to analyze and criticize and respond with creative solutions.[8]

Free Health Care was provided to people who could not afford the cost of public health care through the People’s Free Medical Research Health Clinics. These clinics provided service ranging from testing for sickle cell anemia to providing references and rides to outside experts.[8]

Other programs that Hilliard help organize included: a community learning center, after school programs, escorts to protect the elderly, and free clothing programs.[8]


After reading Malcom X's autobiography as a teenager, David Hilliard had a deep respect for his militancy. Although he admired the charisma of Martin Luther King Jr. he did not agree with MLK's advocacy for non-violent resistance.[5]

In his early teen years Hilliard had little involvement in politics. In the summer of 1965 his nephew Bojack participated in the riots in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Seeing his nephew on tv inspire Hilliard to learn more about activism and politics.[5]

Hilliard's Arrests[edit]

In January 1968 Hilliard was arrested for handing out pamphlets outside of Oakland Technical High School.[9][5]

Hilliard was convicted on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon for his part in a 1968 encounter with the Oakland Police in retribution for the assassination of Martin Luther King.[10][11] The April 6, 1968 encounter led to the murder of party member Bobby Hutton, who was shot by police while surrendering with his hands up, and the capture of Eldridge Cleaver, who masterminded the botched operation. Hilliard left this standoff unscathed having taken shelter under a family friends bed.[5]

The attention placed on the Black Panthers by the FBI heightened after the 1968 encounter. J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI called the Black Panthers "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country."[5]

On December 3, 1969 Hilliard was arrested for threatening to kill Nixon.[9] This threat was given in Hilliard's speech given on November 15, 1969 at Golden Gate Park. In his speech Hilliard was quoted saying "We will kill Richard Nixon."[5] In July 1971, Hilliard was sentenced to one to ten years and incarcerated at Vacaville Prison.[2] In January 1973 while serving a sentence of six months to 10 years, he was denied parole.[10]

In his autobiography Revolutionary Suicide, Huey P. Newton claimed the district attorney of Alameda County was attempting to send Hilliard to prison on "trumped up charges".[2]

Later life[edit]

After being released from prison Hilliard moved to Los Angeles and secured a job at Tom Hayden's organization called the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED). During this period, post prison, Hilliard struggled with drug addiction. After moving to Connecticut Hilliard worked as an organizer for the New England Health Care Employees Union. After going through drug treatment, Hilliard relapsed and continued to struggle with addiction. Hilliard lost contact with Huey Newton.[5] Newton was murdered during a drug deal on August 22, 1989.[12] Hilliard gave his eulogy.[5]

Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation[edit]

With Huey Newton's second wife, Fredrika Newton, Hilliard later formed the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation.[2] The mission of this organization is "to preserve and promulgate the history, ideals and legacy of the Black Panther Party and its founder Huey P. Newton through development and distribution of educational materials, establishment of educational conferences and forums, maintenance and exhibition of historical archives."[4]


  1. ^ "David Hilliard". Black Panther Party. Archived from the original on June 20, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d Newton, Huey (2009) [1973]. Revolutionary Suicide. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-310532-9.
  3. ^ "Black Panther Founder to Teach Courses at U. New Mexico". The New York Times. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation". Archived from the original on N/A. Retrieved November 29, 2017. Check date values in: |archive-date= (help)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Hilliard, David (1993). This Side of Glory. New York: Lawrence Hill Books. ISBN 9781556523847.
  6. ^ a b Hilliard, David (April 2004). "Hear Our Roar: The Black Panther Party, Self-Defense, and Government Violence". Satya.
  7. ^ a b Calhoun, Bob (October 12, 2017). "Yesterday's Crimes: The Living Martyrdom of Huey Newton". San Francisco Weekly. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d Hilliard, David (2009). Black Panther Party: Service to People Programs. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 9780826343949.
  9. ^ a b "A Huey P. Newton Story - People - David Hilliard | PBS". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 2017-11-28.
  10. ^ a b "Black Panther David Hilliard Denied Parole". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. January 31, 1973. p. B2. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  11. ^ Hugh Pearson, The Shadow of the Panther, p. 154
  12. ^ None, None (August 26, 1989). "ARREST IN MURDER OF HUEY NEWTON". The New York Times. Retrieved December 8, 2017.


  • Black Panthers Speak, Philip Foner, ed. New York: Da Capo, 1970
  • Shadow Of The Panther: Huey Newton And The Price Of Black Power In America, Hugh Pearson, Da Capo Press, April 21, 1995; ISBN 0201483416/ISBN 978-0201483413
  • David Hilliard and Lewis Cole, This Side of Glory. Boston: Little, Brown, 1993; ISBN 0-316-36421-5