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The Passing of Dedicated Activist and Black Panther Party Co-Founder, Big Man Elbert Howard

Updated: Jul 31, 2018

After a long illness, Big Man (Elbert Howard) passed away in Santa Rosa on Monday morning, July 23. Born in Tennessee in 1938, he dedicated most of his life to the struggle for justice for the African American community.

Image from San Francisco Bay View Newspaper. From left to right, Professor Darius Spearman, Professor Roberta Alexander and Big Man (Elbert Howard)

He was one of the six founding members of the Black Panther Party. He never sought the spotlight, rather he was the man who took care of essential Panther projects. He served as the editor of the newspaper, the minister of information, and the central strategist for community programs such as massive food distributions.

BPP Headquarters photo courtesy of IIlka Hartman

He travelled, representing the Party, to Japan and Europe. After retiring and moving to Santa Rosa, he organized against police brutality against Latinos. In the summer of 2015, Big Man came to San Diego to meet with community members. He was enthusiastic about the work of Pillars of the Community, and when asked what advice he would give to young activists today, he answered, “Organize.”

Pillars would also like to give a shout out to Carole Hyams, the incredibly strong sister who supported Big Man in every way for so many years. They were a powerful couple, and with Carole’s support, he was able to realize many of his projects and organizing efforts.

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