“My mother used to tell me to stay away from white people because they will hurt you”

Edward Poindexter as a high school student, as a Black Panther, and as a prisoner. (credits: North High yearbook/Omaha Police Department/Mary Loan)

This is Chapter 2 of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, and the Omaha Two story, a tale of injustice and two innocent men sentenced to life in prison because they were leaders of a Black Panthers affiliate chapter. Ed Poindexter is currently serving his life sentence at the maximum security Nebraska State Penitentiary. This is the second weekly installment of FRAMED, free for the public.

Edward Alan Poindexter was born November 1, 1944, in Omaha. Poindexter’s childhood years were confined to the the Near-Northside, an area of town commonly called the ghetto.

“I was born in the Logan Fontenelle Projects….It was rigidly segregated, and we had better not get caught south of Cumings, west of 30th Street, east of 20th Street.”

“My mother used to tell me to stay away from white people because they will hurt you. And she was right. But she also said to be careful of black people too. She was even more right. I still wonder if anyone is safe.”

The motherly warnings to young Ed went unheeded as he explored the neighborhood night life when he was supposed to be in bed. “I used to walk up and down the “Deuce” at night when I was able to sneak out of the house and past the festive juke joints from Sam Flax…as far north as The Oasis, and sometimes as far as 24th & Lake to the M&M Lounge and The Snake Pit.”

“Being only between six and nine, I got the biggest kick out of listening to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Mama Thornton, Faye Adams and Elvis Presley (later on) and Little Richard songs coming out of the speakers over the doors of the juke joints and spilling out into the street. I learned to play the blues bass guitar years later.”

“I also loved the real life character Singin’ Sam, the village wine-o who’d stagger up and down the Deuce day and night belting out his own brand of the blues. I thought he was a pretty good blues singer, second only to the Wolf. Really, this drunk was good.”

Ed’s father helped him learn to read. “I remember learning how to read by sitting on the floor between my father’s legs as he read the newspaper, and would point up to words and pictures that he would either read for me or explain what the photos were.”

“Daddy worked on the railroad. He must have really hated his job and the role he had to play for white folks because he would never talk about the job, and would always return at the end of the day so angry that we’d often clear the living room until Daddy had chilled out and read the papers.”

“One day I misread Daddy’s mood, and went to sit on the floor in front of him for my daily lesson in reading, but he slapped me up side of the head and yelled to leave him alone. I ran upstairs toward the bedroom crying and mumbling under my breath, “I hate you! I wish you were dead!”

“I think that was on a Friday, because the next morning was a Saturday when I awakened and went downstairs. There was that familiar but peculiar odor of grease-fried hair under a straightening comb. The living room was filled with neighbors, quiet and somber. They all spoke to me, but said nothing else. A couple of the women were crying.”

“I entered the kitchen for breakfast, and Aunt Alice was frying Mama’s hair. She did not mince words with me or sugar coat it with typical fairy tales, but instead told me directly, “Butch honey, your father’s dead. He drown at Carter Lake last night, and you are never going to see him again.”

“I was stunned. The searing pain and shock was unspeakable. I was only eight, and Daddy was just twenty-six, and I’d never see him again.”

“I’d wished him dead on Friday, and come Saturday morning he was dead. Actually, he drowned Friday evening late. I got my wish. I blamed myself for his death, and it took me nearly two years to come out of my guilt shell and begin acting like a normal kid again. It wasn’t until 1992 that I finally come to grips with the entire issue of my father’s untimely death that was probably driven by his alcoholism. What with all the white folk’s shit he had to eat at work every day, I think I would have attempted to wash the angst away with whiskey too.”

“My Uncle Bob would come to Omaha about once a year to check on us. I remember one visit Uncle Bob said he would buy me anything I wanted. I thought for a long time, kids want a lot of things, but I didn’t want anything. I just wanted my father back.”i

“Uncle Bob was a legend. He was the first convict to break the four minute mile barrier by running around the Ft. Madison, Iowa prison yard in the mid-1950s. Ebony magazine ran an article on the achievement when the then-world record holder, Roger Banister, from England visited Bob to congratulate him and study his training techniques, having done it all on prison grub.”ii

In 1958, Omaha police were called to Burt Street in Omaha where they found a bloody and injured thirteen year-old. Ed had a cut chin and back injury when he was thrown from his bike after his shoe got caught in the wheel. The rescue squad was called and Ed was transported to County Hospital.The favorable interaction with police planted a thought about a career as a policeman in the teen.iii

Poindexter’s first expedition for entertainment outside of the Near-Northside was as a teenager to a movie downtown at the Orpheum Theater. The outing was marred by white teens in the balcony who spit at Poindexter seated below. Ed remained isolated from the larger white community save for a few acquaintances at school.

In 1962, Poindexter decided to join the Army and volunteered within months of graduating from North High School where he was active in sports. “I went to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood and my next duty station was Frankfurt, Germany, and then I came back to the States and I re-enlisted….I went to another school at Fort Lee, Virginia. And from there to Fort Lewis, Washington, for a couple of months and then to Vietnam….My next permanent duty station was Fort Benning, Georgia.”iv

Ed became politically conscious while serving in Vietnam where he spent time in the stockade for discipline issues. Poindexter’s sister mailed him an article on the Black Panther Party while he was in the Army and he was intrigued.v

In December 1968, Poindexter received an honorable discharge from the Army, found a job at the Post Office, lost his wife, and moved, all in a short period of time as he made his transition to civilian life. “Following my discharge from the Army I took a job for a few months at the post office in Atlanta, Georgia. Gloria had agreed to join me later after I got settled in. It never happened, as she began accusing me of having affairs and spending my money on drugs. She was right and we separated. I was at a crossroads in my life.”

“Uncle Irvin had been a postal worker ever since I could remember and arranged a job transfer for me in the spring of 1969. So I worked full time at Omaha’s main post office.”

Back in his hometown, Poindexter had an opportunity to explore Black Panther activism. “After hearing about a Black Panther Party chapter in Omaha, I decided it was time that I made my life count for something.”

“From the first Panther meeting I attended, I knew it was my calling to become a revolutionary black militant, because I never felt more of a sense of belonging or a sense of kinship with any real organization before. It’s difficult to explain, but I just knew I belonged.”vi

“I attended a Panther meeting when Eddie Bolden was the Deputy Chairman, and instantly fell in love with the concept of the Black Revolutionary Marxist, socialism and everything associated with it.”vii

“One of the important lessons I learned during my work with the Black Panther Party was how to communicate with people and how to resolve problems in a creative, intelligent manner. I was proud of myself, as I’d come a long way from the days when I’d bust someone in the mouth first, then talk later.”viii

Poindexter’s infatuation with the Black Panthers and the excitement of black power became obsessive to the Army veteran trying to reenter the civilian world. “I was once codependent, took a vow of poverty and owned exactly two pair of ragged trousers, two ragged shirts and one pair of shoes. My sole mission was to serve the “poor and oppressed masses” for they couldn’t live without me. My entire identity was wrapped up in serving them.”

“I couldn’t even keep a job or sustain a relationship with a woman because I didn’t have time, for my time belonged to the “people.” I was once ill with the flu and took a day off, but only worried myself into an even sicker state because I thought the community couldn’t survive a couple of days without me.”

“I believed I’d eventually become a “people’s martyr” by dying in a shootout with the police, and actually looked forward to it.”

“As long as I was busy trying to fix the community, I didn’t have to look inside myself and see a lonely young man with a void that I only knew how to fill by submerging myself in the “struggle,” totally ignoring my own needs because I was brainwashed to believe my needs were secondary to those of the people.”ix

FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, & the Omaha Two story is available at Amazon and in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at Northomahahistory.com. Patrons of the Omaha Public Library also enjoy free access.

i Edward Poindexter, prison interview, undated

ii Edward Poindexter, letter to author, March 24, 2008

iii “Police Calls,” Omaha World-Herald, April 11, 1958

iv Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 961-962, April 12, 1971

v “The Cases of David Rice and Edward Poindexter,” Group 489, Amnesty International, p. 2, April 7, 1980

vi Edward Poindexter, unpublished autobiography, p. 27, undated

vii Edward Poindexter, letter to author, March 24, 2008

viii Edward Poindexter, unpublished autobiography, p. 27, undated

ix Edward Poindexter, EsteemQuest, p. 24, undated


Author: richardsonreports

Author of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two Story.

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