A report by Jared McCallister for the New York Daily News.
Roy Innis, the Caribbean-born activist who led one of America’s foremost civil rights organizations from a radical black power stance in the turbulent 1960s to an opposing conservative position decades later, died in New York last week at 82.
According to his son Niger Innis, the national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, Innis died Last Sunday of complications from Parkinson’s disease. A strong leader, Innis led the organization from 1968 until his death, serving as national director.
Born in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he burst into national prominence in the U.S. as the head of CORE in the 1960s, touting a militant black power philosophy. But, over the decades under his leadership, the civil rights group became a conservative-leaning organization.
One example of Innis’ right-wing leanings can be seen in his close relationship with the conservative and politically powerful National Rifle Association. He served on NRA’s Board of Director for more than two decades, was a lifetime NRA member and the organization’s hierarchy mourned his passing.
“Roy’s passing leaves a huge void for the NRA and his many good friends among the NRA family. Rest in peace, my friend,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said in a NRA Institute for Legislative Action article about Innis’ death, which said the CORE leader’s pro-NRA sentiments developed after two of his sons were killed in shootings.
In 1988, Innis made headlines for two on-air TV scuffles — pushing Rev. Al Sharpton to the ground during the “Morton Downey Jr. Show” and chocking white supremacist John Metzger of the White Aryan Resistance on Geraldo Rivera’s TV show, “Geraldo.”
Innis, who moved to New York with his widowed mother, graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan before studying chemistry at City College of New York and working as a research chemist.