Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who first became a well-known top contending middleweight boxer and then a poster child for unjust imprisonment, made the transition to join the ancestors on April 20, 2014.
He leaves behind a host of loved ones and will truly be missed.
“Hurricane” Carter a long time fighter for justice
His powerful punch and destructive style, with results that left devastation like a natural disaster, is what ultimately led to Rubin Carter being bestowed the appellation “Hurricane.”
He had a career boxing record of 27 wins, 12 losses, and one draw in 40 fights, with 19 total knockouts (8 KOs and 11 TKOs).
The flamboyant boxer, who gained international attention as a person whose civil and human rights had been violated, lost his last battle to prostate cancer.
Mr. Carter put his heart into fighting for the exoneration of those unjustly imprisoned as he was for 19 years, until the last few days of his life.
Mr. Carter was being treated in Toronto, Canada where he was the Chairman of a nonprofit organization, Innocence International. The nonprofit’s goal is to work to free prisoners who have been wrongly convicted.
He was the executive director of the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted, for over a decade (1993-2005), and remained dedicated to freeing the wrongfully convicted throughout his lifetime.
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was also the founding vice president of the Chicago Innocence Project and was ferociously fighting (while fighting his own personal health battle) to free others who are currently unjustly detained as a result of an unjust colonial court system.
Two weeks prior to his passing, Carter continued lobbying for the release of David McCallum, a Brooklyn man who had written to him from prison seeking help to overturn his wrongful conviction.
Championship career killed by unjust murder convictions
While training for his upcoming battle for the world middleweight title against champion Dick Tiger, Carter was arrested for the June 17 triple murder of three patrons at the Lafayette Bar & Grill in Paterson, New Jersey. Carter and John Artis had been arrested on the night of the crime because the police said they fit an eyewitness description of the killers—"two Negroes in a white car"—but they had been cleared by a grand jury when the one surviving victim didn’t identify them as the gunmen.
From then on, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who became a long-time friend of John Artis, embarked upon a roller coaster ride for freedom that would end in one of the most infamous cases, highlighting a miscarriage of justice.
Carter’s boxing career and life was abruptly obstructed as a result of the charges.
Despite the lack of forensic evidence such as fingerprints or a paraffin test for gunshot residue and the fact that the eyewitnesses would later admit to perjury, Carter and Artis were rearrested, tried and convicted in 1967, had their conviction overturned and then tried and convicted again in 1976 for the murders and two innocent men sat imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
While imprisoned, Carter maintained his innocence and refused to comply with a number of the prison rules. He refused to wear an inmate's uniform and became a recluse in his cell.
He used the time during his unjust imprisonment to read and study which compelled him to write his autobiography, “The 16th Round: From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472.”
Legacy of fighting for freedom
“Hurricane’s” story inspired the 1975 Bob Dylan song "Hurricane" and the 1999 film “The Hurricane” in which Carter’s character was portrayed by well-known actor Denzel Washington. Other celebrities joined Bob Dylan in support of raising awareness of Carter’s wrongful imprisonment.
Muhammad Ali also showed support for the adroit fighter who experienced a battle with discrimination and a corrupt injustice system, just as the ancestor boxing champion Jack Johnson.
Jack Johnson, at the height of the Jim Crow era, became the first African world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). He was often harassed by police and was charged with violating the Mann Act of 1912. (The Mann Act, also known as the White Slave Traffic Act made it selectively illegal to “bring white women across state lines.” This stature was also used to convict and send rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry to prison.)
Jack” Galveston Giant” Johnson, has yet to be pardoned. Johnson, like Carter was unjustly charged in a racially based case.
Prior to proceeding with any boxing bouts, the police compelled Carter to be fingerprinted and photographed for their files on the grounds that he was a convicted felon. Later, Carter discovered that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had opened a file on him and surreptitiously tracked his movements. Carter was exonerated in 1985 and became an activist for the wrongly convicted.
According to Uhuru Radio’s Diasporic Music host, Norman Otis Richmond, Rubin “ Hurricane” Carter was a huge fan of Clyde McPhatter, who was a key figure in the shaping of doo-wop and R&B and was a black patriot. McPhatter influenced Sam Cooke and Carter.
The family and friends of Carter are even said to have been involved in activism, which possibly influenced Carter’s passion for social justice, civil and human rights.
Although he worked on cases of wrongful imprisonment for people in the U.S., he resided and passed in Toronto, Canada. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter will be remembered as a fierce fighter in the ring and champion fighter for justice for the innocent.