The Baltimore Sun


Former Black Panther headed rehabilitation program for ex-convicts

Warren Kimbro, a former Black Panther whose 1969 murder of a suspected informant brought on the unsuccessful prosecution of party co-founder Bobby Seale in one of an unruly era's most raucous episodes, died Tuesday in New Haven, Conn., where he rebuilt his life as head of a rehabilitation program for ex-felons.

The cause was believed to be a heart attack, according to Douglas Rae, a Yale School of Management professor who knew Mr. Kimbro for two decades and co-wrote a book about him.

On May 20, 1969, Mr. Kimbro fatally shot Alex Rackley, a 19-year-old Black Panther member who party members believed was an FBI informant. Prosecutors said the killing was ordered by Mr. Seale, whose 1970 trial in New Haven became a cause celebre for the radical left.

Mr. Seale was freed after the jury failed to reach a verdict, but Mr. Kimbro was convicted of second-degree murder and went to prison for nearly five years. In prison, he received a master's degree in education from Harvard University, and after his release he led Project MORE, a nonprofit agency devoted to helping ex-convicts re-enter society.

Mr. Rae, a longtime Project MORE board member, said Mr. Kimbro never made excuses for his involvement in Mr. Rackley's murder. Nor did he let a day pass without remembering that he had killed a man.

He still sought to right society's wrongs, but, as he told a young audience in New Haven several years ago, there are better paths to justice than the one he chose in 1969.

"I don't want you to pick up a gun like me," he told them. "I want you to do this revolution by getting into Yale Law School."

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