By Joseph P. Tartaro | Executive EditorI regret that because of timing and TheGunMag print schedule, we did not print an obituary earlier on the passing of Roy Innis, former president of the Congress on Racial Equality( CORE), a lifelong civil rights activist, not just for the African-American community but for all who suffered injustice. We did publish an obituary on the TGM website written by Dave Workman. However, I knew Innis somewhat better, having marched in the streets with him on more than one occasion, discussed the state of civil liberties, and particularly the Second Amendment, and the chicanery of politicians like Mario Cuomo, then Governor of New York, over a glass of Sambuca, the Italian liquor that Innis favored. In addition, I also attended a couple of the CORE Diplomat’s Dinner’s he launched in New York City, which attracted major celebrities from government, politics, the media, the music and entertainment world, and world famous sports figures.
Before reproducing Workman’s website obituary on Innis below so there are more facts, I’d like to reminisce a bit more about Roy.
I first met him back in the mid-1980s, when another old friend, Aqiel Qadir, still president of the Dorie Miller Rifle& Pistol Club in Buffalo, NY, and I were both on the board of directors of SCOPE, Inc. (Shooters Committee on Political Education). Qadir managed to arrange a reception in the New York State Capitol in Albany with legislators who were members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus for the then Coalition of New York State Sportsmen, which included SCOPE, NYSR&PA, NYS Conservation Council, and NRA-ILA.
Through the contacts of another activist friend, Jerry Preiser, president of the Federation of New York City Rifle & Pistol Clubs, the state Coalition managed to attract Innis to the meeting as one of our spokesmen. The other was another African-American firearms civil rights activist from Chicago, the late Rev. Russell Meeks.
Later, I marched through the streets of Buffalo along with Innis on several occasions. Once was in opposition to one of Gov. Mario Cuomo’s many unsuccessful attempts to ban so-called assault weapons, another was in support of Bernie Goetz, and the third was to win support for 20-year-old Yvesnande Bureau, better known as “Lady Goetz,” for having fired an unregistered handgun during an attempted car robbery (in which her friend, the driver, was later shot and killed).
Under Innis, CORE supported Goetz, offering to raise defense money, with Innis saying Goetz was “the avenger for all of us,” and calling for a volunteer force of armed civilians to patrol the New York City streets. He also helped Goetz obtain counsel in attorney Barry Slotnick.
In the “Lady Goetz” case a few years later, he not only helped support Bureau but obtained counsel for her when New York City officials moved to prosecute her for defending herself. It’s worth noting that Innis got noted defense lawyer Barry Slotnick to represent the defendants in both cases.
Of course, there were many other meetings with Innis at both ends of New York State, in Washington, and elsewhere, but I will always remember the warm, friendly, interesting and engaging one-on-one conversations. He was one of the true patriots it has been my privilege to call a friend.
Now, here is Workman’s obituary as published on the TGM website.
Roy Innis, who became a giant in the civil rights arena, and served on the National Rifle Association Board of Directors for many years, passed away Jan. 7 after a long illness. He was 82.
Innis served as chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality for many years, and was described by the Washington Times as a “civil rights icon.” Friends and admirers recalled Innis as a loyal friend and champion of the right to keep and bear arms.
Innis lost two sons to violence involving firearms, but instead of joining a chorus for ineffective gun control laws, he became a leading advocate in the African-American community for gun ownership and self-defense.
The incidents that set Innis apart from many of his contemporaries, and at face-to-face odds with one of them occurred on television. In one appearance on the Morton Downey program, Innis pushed Al Sharpton off his chair backwards and onto the stage.
But he became famous for an on-air confrontation with some white supremacists during Geraldo Rivera’s program. In that incident, he struggled with one individual who called him an “Uncle Tom.” It was during that brawl that someone threw a chair that struck Rivera in the face, leaving him with a bloody nose.
During his tenure on the NRA Board, Innis became known and admired for his energetic defense of gun rights, in public and during board meetings.