ROMAINE “CHIP” FITZGERALD BIOGRAPHY
Romaine Fitzgerald was born April 11, 1949. His dad Leon Thayer Fitzgerald was born in Oklahoma, and his mom Marie Russell was born in Shreveport LA. His mother graduated from Jordan High in Watts, L.A. His parents met in Los Angeles got married, bought a home and started a family in the Watts/ Willowbrook community of L.A. Romaine had 3 siblings; two older sisters, and one older brother.
Romaine's mother Marie, worked as a domestic worker. Mrs. Fitzgerald enjoyed working in the flower bed and vegetable garden at home, and also did knitting and crocheting making a lot of her children's clothing. Romaine's father Leon was a Los Angeles City employee for the Department Of Water and Power. Mr. Fitzgerald enjoyed hunting and fishing.
Romaine attended grammar school at Lincoln elementary school, going to Jr. High School at Ralph J. Bunch. Romaine was also a participant in the Boys Club of America. Like many youth of the turbulent 1960's, Romaine was also rescued from a direction of criminality and became politically active. Mrs. Fitzgerald would often reflect on what a positive change her son had gone through based on him becoming more responsible and taking an interest in civil right and social justice. During this period Romaine was very affected by all the injustices associated with racism.
Upon his release from from jail in early 1969, he joined the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party.
Bruce Richard, a former member of the Party's Southern California Chapter with Chip, now a union executive, recalls: "Upon Chip's release from jail, he wasted no time joining the Black Panther Party. Chip worked tirelessly in various capacities in the Westside office of the Chapter. To be a Panther was a 24/7 commitment, and every single day seemed like weeks due to the volume of activities during that explosive period. Chip was totally consumed in the Party's Free Breakfast Program, the tutorial program, selling Panther papers, political education classes and other projects. Chip was a favorite of many in the communities we served, and the children, especially, loved him, reflected in their smiling little faces when he appeared."
In September 1969, Romaine was wounded and arrested in connection with a police shoot-out. He was tried and convicted for assault on police and other, related charges, including the murder of a security guard. He was sentenced to death. He was 20 years old.
Romaine's eventual arrest was politically motivated, he made mistakes associated with his involvement in the turbulence of the 60’s.
Imprisoned for the last 50 years due to the unfortunate death of a security guard. Romaine is now 70 years old locked up since age 20. He is the longest confined former member of the Black Panther Party. Romaine has been eligible for parole since Oct. 1976.
While confined Romaine has attended college studying anthropology, environmental biology and a host of other subjects, taking college courses whenever possible. Romaine is very effectively self-taught and an avid reader of history and social science topics. Romaine is an educator of sorts and is a mentor to young people. Romaine is a Jazz enthusiast, and was a DJ for the prison population for a number of years.
In February 1998, Romaine had a stroke that left him partially without the full use of his limbs. He is currently housed in an American disability act medical facility. Romaine remains hopeful that just as he found a way to forgive the past social injustices, that he will be forgiven someday soon and can enjoy the remaining part of his senior life with family.
Romaine comes from a good respectable family, and his parents dying wish was to see Romaine free. Unfortunately they both passed many years ago with this wish unfulfilled. Romaine has 1 son, 8 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren; and 15 nephews and nieces that he seeks to be united with.
IN PRISON 50 YEARS
“The prison administrators and their advocates within the state want to create fear in the minds of the public in an effort to persuade the people to give the ultra-conservative state authorities carte blanche in the inhumane treatment of convicts, and allow the prison administrators to operate without oversight and accountability.”