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Black Panther Party Press Conference

Source: David Fenton / Getty

Elbert “Big Man” Howard (center), the former Minister of Information and co-founder of the Black Panther Party who was the logistics genius behind the group’s popular social programs has died. He was 80.

Howard’s wife, Carole Hyams, said Howard died Monday in Santa Rosa, California after a long illness.

Described as a “gentle giant” who could paint in words what a jazz song was saying, Howard was an author, volunteer jazz DJ, author, lecturer and activist in Sonoma County, where he had made his home.

He was one of six people who founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in Oakland, California in October 1966 alongside Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The political organization started out patrolling police for possible abuse against blacks.

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Key members left the Black Panther Party in 1974 after years of fatal fights with the police such as the death of Fred Hampton and in-fighting within the party. Later it became established that the FBI had engaged in surveillance and harassment to undermine the party and incriminate its leaders.

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