Huey Newton and fellow activist Bobby Seale
founded the radical Black Panther Party in 1966. Under their leadership, the Black Panthers became a political force both admired and feared for its militant stance. Huey Newton was born in Louisiana but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was in trouble as a youngster, and by 14 had been arrested for vandalism and gun possession. Newton finished high school in 1959 and later went to Merritt College in Oakland, where he read the works of Karl Marx
and Malcolm X
-- and met Bobby Seale. A few years later, they founded the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers were controversial from the start, and Newton was arrested in 1967 and charged with killing an Oakland police officer during a dispute after a traffic stop. That led to a much-publicized "Free Huey" campaign organized by the Panthers. He was convicted in 1968, but that conviction was overturned due to procedural errors in 1970. After two more retrials, both ending in hung juries, Newton was free. Newton was again charged with murder in a separate case in 1974, and fled to Cuba; he returned in 1977 and was released on the charges after two trials again ended without a verdict. Huey Newton earned a bachelor's degree from UC Santa Cruz in 1974, and a doctorate in social philosophy from the same school in 1980. He was killed in a dispute with a drug dealer in 1989.