Roy Innis, Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), circa 1970
|Born||Roy Emile Alfredo Innis
June 6, 1934
Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
|Occupation||Activist and politician|
|Political party||Libertarian (1998–present)
|Children||Roy Innis, Jr. (deceased), Alexander Innis (deceased) Lydia Innis (adopted) Cedric Innis, Patricia Innis, Corinne Innis, Kwame Innis, Niger Innis, Kimathi Innis, Mugabe Innis|
One of his sons, Niger Roy Innis, serves as National Spokesman of the Congress of Racial Equality.
In 1946, Innis moved with his mother from the U.S. Virgin Islands to New York City, where he graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1952. At age 16, Innis joined the U.S. Army, and at age 18 he received an honorable discharge. He entered a four-year program in chemistry at the City College of New York. He subsequently held positions as a research chemist at Vick Chemical Company and Montefiore Hospital.
Early civil rights years
Innis joined CORE’s Harlem chapter in 1963. In 1964 he was elected Chairman of the chapter’s education committee and advocated community-controlled education and black empowerment. In 1965, he was elected Chairman of Harlem CORE, after which he campaigned for the establishment of an independent Board of Education for Harlem.
In the spring of 1967, Innis was appointed the first resident fellow at the Metropolitan Applied Research Center (MARC), headed by Dr. Kenneth Clark. In the summer of 1967, he was elected Second National Vice-Chairman of CORE.
Leadership of CORE
Innis was elected National Chairman of CORE in 1968, and has held the position ever since. Innis initially headed the organization in a strong campaign of Black Nationalism. White CORE activists, according to James Peck, were removed from CORE in 1965, as part of a purge of whites from the movement then under the control of Innis. Under Innis' leadership, CORE supported the presidential candidacy of Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972. This was the beginning of a sharp rightward turn in the organization.
Innis drafted the Community Self-Determination Act of 1968 and garnered bipartisan sponsorship of this bill by one-third of the U.S. Senate and over 50 congressmen. This was the first time in U.S. history that a bill drafted by a black organization was introduced into the United States Congress.
In the debate over school integration, Innis offered an alternative plan consisting of community control of educational institutions. As part of this effort, in October 1970, CORE filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in connection with Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.
Innis and a CORE delegation toured seven African countries in 1971. He met with several heads of state, including Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Liberia’s William Tolbert and Uganda's Idi Amin, who was awarded a life membership of CORE. In 1973 he became the first American to attend the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in an official capacity. In 1973, Innis participated in a televised debate with Nobel-winning physicist William Shockley on the topic of black intelligence.
Criminal justice and the National Rifle Association
Innis has long been active in criminal justice matters, including the debate over gun control and the Second Amendment. After losing two sons to criminals with guns, he became an advocate for the rights of law-abiding citizens to self-defense. An NRA Life Member, he also serves on its governing board. Innis also chairs the NRA's Urban Affairs Committee and is a member of the NRA Ethics Committee, and continues to speak publicly in the US and around the world in favor of individual civilian ownership of firearms, gun issues, and individual rights
A supporter of victims' rights, he has been involved in cases such as: the "subway gunman", Bernhard Goetz; "subway token booth clerk", James Grimes; the "candyman good Samaritan", Andy Fredericks; the "black Bernie Goetz", Austin Weeks; and the accused "remember me subway shooter" Clemente Jackson. Some of his activities include: investigating the Tawana Brawley case, defending the infamous Howard Beach boys who were later sentenced to jail for their 1986 racially motivated attack; overseeing and participating in a citizen’s anti-drug campaign, "One Street at a Time".
Innis has lost two of his sons to criminal gun violence. His first son, Roy Innis, Jr., at the age of 13 in 1978. His next oldest son Alexander, 26, was shot and slain in 1982.
Innis was noted for initiating violence in two on-air fights in the middle of TV talk shows in 1988. The first in the midst of an argument about the Tawana Brawley case during a taping of the The Morton Downey, Jr. Show, Innis shoved the Reverend Al Sharpton to the floor. Also that year, Innis was in a scuffle on Geraldo with white supremacist John Metzger. The skirmish started after Metzger, son of White Aryan Resistance founder Tom Metzger, called Innis an "Uncle Tom", and Innis grabbed the seated Metzger's throat, appearing to choke him.
In the 1993, New York City Democratic Party mayoral primary, Innis challenged incumbent David Dinkins, the first African-American to hold the office. Given his conservative positions on the issues, he explained that "the Democratic Party is the only game in town. It's unfortunate that we have a corrupt one-party, one ideology system in New York City, and I'd like to change that. But being a Democrat doesn't mean you have to be a fool." During his own campaign, Innis also appeared at fundraising events for the Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani. Innis received 25% of the vote in the four-way race with a majority of his votes coming from multi-ethnic areas, while he failed in less culturally diverse Assembly districts. Innis lost to Dinkins, who then lost to Giuliani in the general election.
In February 1994, his son Niger, who ran his primary campaign, suggested that Innis would also challenge incumbent governor Mario Cuomo in the Democratic primary.
In 1998, Innis joined the Libertarian Party and gave serious consideration to running for Governor of New York as the party's candidate that year. He ultimately decided against running, citing time restrictions related to his duties with CORE.
- Hicks, Jonathan (1993-05-25). "Innis Campaign for Mayor: A Quixotic Quest?". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
- "Executive Staff – Roy Innis". Congress of Racial Equality.
- "Interview with James Peck". Eyes on the Prize. 26 October 1979. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
- Mitchell, Alison (1993-09-13). "Mayoral Race Is Overshadowed In New York Primary Tomorrow – New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
- "Inside NRA: NRA Board Spotlight". American Rifleman. April 2010. p. 77
- "'Ricochet' Goes Behind Scenes of Gun Lobby". National Public Radio. 2007-11-15. Retrieved 2007-11-15.
- "Roy Innis re-elected to NRA Board", NRAwinningteam.com. Archived October 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- "THE CITY; 2d Innis Son Slain". New York Times. 1982-02-23. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
- "Innis Shoves Sharpton To Floor at TV Taping". The New York Times. Associated Press. August 10, 1988.
- Rosenberg, Howard (November 28, 1988). "The New Odd Couple: Metzger, Innis Take Their Feud on Road". Los Angeles Times.
- "Geraldo Rivera's Nose Broken In Scuffle on His Talk Show". New York Times. November 4, 1988. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
- "Innis passes on NY governor's run; mulls New York mayor race in 2001". May 1998. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
- "Roy & Niger Innis Endorse Alan Keyes for President of the United States." (Press release). 2000-02-11.