Eldridge CleaverAugust 31, 1935 - May 1, 1998) was a prominent black leader and activist, beginning as a founding member of the Black Panther Party.
Born in Wabbaseka, Arkansas, Cleaver's family moved to Phoenix and then to Los Angeles. As a teenager he became involved in petty crime, and in 1957 he was convicted of assault with intent to murder. While in prison, he wrote a book of essays, Soul on Ice, which was influential in the black power movement.
He was released from prison in 1966, after which helped to found the Oakland-based Black Panther Party and served as its Minister of Information (spokesperson).
He was a candidate for President in 1968 on the ticket of the Peace and Freedom Party. That same year, he was injured in a conflict between the Panthers and Oakland police. Charged with attempted murder, he jumped bail to flee to Algeria, Cuba, and France
Cleaver returned to the United States in 1975, and subsequently renounced the Black Panthers. Legal wrangling ended in his being sentenced to probation for assault.
He became a born-again Christian and a conservative Republican, even unsuccessfully running for the Republican nomination for United States Senate from California. At one point he became involved with Sun Myung Moon's campus ministry organization CARP and became involved with Mormonism.
In the mid-1980s, Cleaver became addicted to crack cocaine. In 1992, he was convicted of cocaine possession and burglary, but in 1994, after nearly dying in a cocaine-related assault, he kicked his addiction and returned to Christianity.