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SLA Assassinates Marcus Foster

By Patrick Mondout

At approximately 7:00 p.m. on the election night of November 6, 1973, Dr. Marcus Foster, the popular African-American Superintendent of Schools for Oakland, was shot several times and his assistant Robert Blackburn was shot once as they walked from Foster's office to his car. The bullets used to shot Foster were laced with cyanide. Foster apparently died instantly while Blackburn, who was hit with a single shotgun blast, survived but was in serious condition.

Members of the previously unknown group calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army immediately claimed responsibility in a "communiqué" released to Berkeley radio station KTFA. (The group would continue to taunt the police via such messages over the coming 18 months.) The communiqué claimed Foster had be tried by a "people's court" and ordered executed by cyanide bullets. As that last bit of information was only known to the assailants at the time, officials took it seriously. (At first, the police said they had released this info but the coroner corrected them since he had not yet made that determination.)

The communiqué also announced that it was issuing "shoot on site" orders for other Oakland educators, though it rescinded the order 11 days later when the group claimed that the educators had obeyed their order. The Oakland Tribune published an interview with semanticist and former president of the University of San Francisco Dr. S.I. Hayakawa, who pronounced the communiqués to be the work of, "a high-grade intellect, devoted to revolutionary ideology."

The cyanide, it was later reveal, was stolen by early SLA member Robyn Sue Steiner. Steiner's boyfriend, Russell Little, was later arrested and charged with Foster's murder.

Patty Hearst, who was later abducted by the SLA, later testified that Bill & Emily Harris told her that Nancy Ling Perry and Patricia Soltysik had shot Foster while Donald DeFreeze shot Blackburn. She also claimed that the Harrises told her that Russell Little and Joe Remiro were nearby in a "backup" car.




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Courtesy of the National Alliance of Black School Educators

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