Robert Hillary King is a campaigner for justice and penal reform, writer, former member of the Black Panther Party, and for 31 years an inmate of America's infamous Angola prison. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from ARU in 2012.
Born in 1942, Robert grew up in an America and as a teenager he became involved in petty crime and carried out several burglaries. At the age of 18, he was arrested for robbery, a crime which to this day he maintains he did not commit. Robert was convicted and sent to the Louisiana State Penitentiary, more commonly known as Angola prison, notorious for its brutal conditions.
It was during this period that Robert lost faith in the American justice system, and he became involved in the civil rights movement. He joined the Black Panther Party, the focus of America's Black Power Movement in the 1960s and 70s.
In 1972 a prison guard was murdered in Angola and members of the Black Panther party, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were put under investigation and placed in closed-cell restriction. Robert was also put under investigation for the murder, even though at the time he was in another prison 150 miles away. The cases against all three men had been built on evidence that was later shown to be fictitious and entirely unreliable.
In 1973, knowing they could no longer keep Robert incarcerated for the murder of the guard, Robert was charged with the murder of a fellow inmate. Although another prisoner claimed sole responsibility for the murder, Robert was tried alongside him. Robert was kept bound and gagged throughout the trial and he was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment and placed in solitary confinement, where he was to spend the next 29 years of his life.
It was in Angola's closed-cell restricted area that Robert met Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace. Collectively, they began campaigning for better conditions for their fellow inmates and the three men built up a relationship that lasts to this day. They were frequently punished for their activism and would be locked in a cell known as 'the dungeon'.
In 2001, after a complex arrangement of plea bargaining, Robert walked free from Angola prison. Since his release, he has worked tirelessly to free Herman and Albert. He has undertaken speaking tours across the world and has attended many international events, speaking on behalf of the Angola 3 and political prisoners around the world. In 2008 Robert published From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of a Black Panther.
Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace remain in Angola prison, serving their 40th year in solitary confinement, and Robert has vowed to continue to tour, to campaign and to speak on their behalf until they are released.
After 31 years living in the most brutal conditions imaginable, Robert emerged not only with his sanity intact, but his humanity too, and this bears testament to his courage and fortitude. His commitment this cause is an inspiration.