Interview with Bobby Rush

Now how did you first meet Fred Hampton, and how did he become part of that back then?


Well, I met Fred in ab--about a year or two before that, about six--well, no actually about '67. Again, uh, Stokely was in Chicago speaking, and he had a speaking engagement in Maywood, which is a suburb. So we went out to Maywood and in this speaking engagement, it was organized by Fred Hampton and the, um, the youth division of NAACP. Okay? At that time Fred was head of the youth division of NAACP. And that's where I met Fred Hampton at, uh, our first meeting. But getting back to the, to the actual formation, because it's quite, 'cause it's kind of interesting. There was a, when I talked with Bobby and David, they indicated that, ahem, there was already a chapter existing here in Chicago and they didn't need another chapter. But I knew what was going on, I was from Chicago, and I just thought that was kind of arrogant of them to say that there was always this chapter, already a chapter here, because the fact of it is that I knew that the people who were claiming to be Panthers weren't really doing anything. They weren't organizing the community, they had no following, they had no office, no one was able to reach them or anything like that. So, uh, when I got back to Chicago, I said, uh, you can, after they had turned me down out there, I said, "Well, we're going to continue to organize because we know what's going on." And plus, uh, Stokely was supporting us. So the first thing we did was to try to locate an office. And I was, I remember, um, in about, um, early, the same time, '68, early part of November, I was on the bus, on the Madison Street bus, and I saw this big building that was vacant and it's for rent sign on it, so I, I immediately jumped off, went to the liquor store next door and asked them, inquired about the building, and they said that it would, that it, uh, it was for rent. And, and I asked, I went back to one of our supporters, Alderman Sammy Rainer[SIC], who was a member of the city council, and also a prominent businessman. I asked him to rent the building for us. And he did, in fact signed his name to the lease and also got the gas and things turned on. So we had a functioning office with a functioning telephone. Ah, around December of, uh, '68, uh, there were two Panthers traveling from, members of the Central Committee, from Oakland, California, and they were traveling from New York back to Oakland. And they asked, uh, uh, I guess they were having some discussion on the plane, and they asked the, the, uh, stewardess whether or not the distance from Oakland, I mean from New York to Oakland was the same as the distance between, from, uh, New York to Cuba, or some, some question similar to that. And this stewardess got hysterical, ran to the captain, the captain called in and they landed here in Chicago, landed the plane here in Chicago, and swept these guys off the plane, because they thought these guys were getting ready to hijack the plane, okay? And, uh, uh, they put them in a county jail. And, uh, we got a call from Oakland, California, saying that, "Well, look we got two Panthers there in jail, and you're the only telephone number that we have in the city of Chicago, so would you see what's going on and take care of those guys that's in jail?" And so that's how we officially became the official chapter of the Black Panther party in the, in the state of Illinois, we, uh, because of that incident.