Roy Innis, the Black nationalist, civil rights icon, and national director of the Congress of Racial Equality, died in New York City on January 8. He was 82 years old and had suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Innis became disillusioned with the leaders of the civil rights movement and increasingly embraced conservative political positions including an opposition to affirmative action, school desegregation efforts, and gun control legislation. Instead, Innis supported Black control of schools, local businesses, police and fire departments, and government agenices in Black neighborhoods. Innis supported the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court of the United States. Innis ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives and the mayoralty of New York City.
A native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, at the age of 12 Innis came to New York with his mother, several years after his father had died. He briefly enrolled at City College of New York and then worked for Vicks Chemical Company before devoting his efforts to civil rights. He joined CORE in 1963 and became leader of the organization in 1968.