My memories of a civil rights icon

Roy Innis, civil rights pioneer, NRA Board member. 2010 Photo by Carla Varisco-Williams

Roy Innis, civil rights pioneer, NRA Board member. 2010 Photo by Carla Varisco

Roy Innis, the former National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the last surviving member of Dr. Martin Luther King’s inner circle, and proud board member of the National Rifle Association,. has died.

The Washington Post reports Mr. Innis died of Parkinson’s disease. He was 82.

I was fortunate enough to interview Mr. Innis in 2010 for a story about the Delaware Public Housing Authority, which banned their residents from owning firearms.

As a result of this series, the NRA sued the housing authority and won. Residents there can now possess firearms. Before the series was written, if they were caught with a gun, they’d have been immediately evicted.

I told Mr. Innis about one public housing resident I’d met who kept a .25 ACP — all she could afford — in order to defend her prized sewing machines from the thieves and drug dealers who stalked the halls of her building.

The resident, like Mr. Innis, had marched with Dr. King. He gave her some advice.

“The way she fought with Dr. King and the great leaders of the civil rights era, she needs to continue fighting. She needs to get her sons, daughters and grand kids to fight with her,” he said. “She needs to see the NRA as her friend. She needs to know her friends are fighting together with her for her civil rights, in exactly the same way Dr. King fought for her civil rights. We need to continue the battle for the Second Amendment.”

Two of Mr. Innis’ sons were murdered — shot to death by thugs in street violence.
Because of their deaths, he became one of the most powerful voices to ever support the Second Amendment.
He despised gun bans of any type.
“These bans are racist. The gun laws in general have an inception in racism,” Innis told me at the time. “The old definition: a free man is free to bear arms. There’s always a connection to being able to bear arms and freedom, and therefore denial is clearly racist.”
Mr. Innis was a titan.
They don’t make them like that anymore.
I shall miss him.

About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

1 Comment

  1. Lee, I know this is a comment on one of your older articles, but I’m pretty new to your site, so I have been going back and reading your column.

    I am a security consultant that works both with corporations and non-profit organizations, and in my time I have met a lot of people on both sides of the political spectrum as I’ve done both event and organizational security. I’m a white Conservative but security professionals, good ones anyway, keep their politics in their personal lives, and if they accept a contract do their best to keep their clients alive no matter how much they disagree with their politics. I have worked events with guests that included Bill Clinton and Eric Holder. While doing event security work I have met quite a few people who consider themselves ‘civil rights activists.” This includes people like Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond and the family of the late Medger Evers. I managed to avoid meeting Al Sharpton, thank goodness. That would have pushed even me beyond my limits.

    Although I knew about Roy Innes, I never met him and I’m a poorer man for it. He was a true example of a civil rights activist, unlike so many others who seem to be under the impression that protecting American’s civil rights means disarming lawful citizens to make them easier prey for criminals. I’m glad you wrote this because I think there are a lot of American gun owners who just don;t know enough about people like Roy. Keep it up.

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