Edward Palmer

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Buzz Palmer

Edward L. (Buzz) Palmer was a retired Chicago Police Officer and activist. He was married to activist Alice Palmer.

Buzz Palmer and Alice Palmer

He was a founder of the Afro-American Patrolman's League[1] Palmer is also the co-director of the PEOPLE Programme.[2] Chicago Public Radio interviewed Palmer on the eve of his 70th birthday.

Palmer has also been a Senior Fellow for the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, an affiliate of the Great Cities Program, the Chairman of Chicago’ s Sister Cities Committee under the late Mayor Harold Washington, Chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on South Africa, member of the International Board of United Townships in Paris, the President of the Black Press Institute.

Palmer has acted as a confidante to Prime Minister Michael Manly of Jamaica; Glyn Ford, Member of European Parliamentary (MEP) for the UK; and Harlem Desirs, MEP for France. In these capacities, he advises policy makers on the issues surrounding urban instability.[3]

Early life

Palmer was born on May 13, 1936, in Chicago and grew up in Chicago's Englewood community. He attended Malcolm X College and University of Illinois, Circle Campus.[4]

Afro-American Patrolman's League

After being on the police force for about a year, Officer “Buzz” Palmer experienced the “shoot to kill” order issued by mayor Richard J. Daley during the Black uprisings and looting that occurred on the Westside of Chicago following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Those events had a significant impact upon him.

Several Black police officers became concerned for the safety of unarmed Black leaders and Black citizens in general, being killed by white reactionaries. Officer Palmer decided to organize Black officers and began with a small cadre who also had not been on the force very long. Renault “Reggie” Robinson, Curtis Cowsen, Willie Ware, Wilbur Crooks, Jack Dubonnet and Tom Mitchell, who was not a police officer and Palmer, became the Afro-American Patrolman’s League. Howard Saffold and others came shortly, thereafter. They met initially in Palmer’s apartment and later, after chipping in, opened their first office on east 63rd Street.

From an initial group of 10 Black police officers who had been regarded as “Uncle Toms” and in the words of famed Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton,” “Dashiki Pigs”, emerged a group of African American police officers affirming their commitment to the community where they lived. At one point, Chairman Fred ironically told Buzz Palmer that Palmer stood a good chance of being assassinated because he was “more dangerous” then he was. A month later, Fred Hampton and Peoria, Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman, Mark Clark were killed by Cook County State’s Attorney Police on December 4, 1969.

Understanding that in order to adequately defend and protect the Black community, this small band of Black officers would need an umbrella of support. The endorsement of Black organizations in Chicago was imperative.

Richard Durham, although not a Muslim, editor of Muhammad Speaks was recruited. He convinced Palmer that Black police needed to demonstrate their support of the community and thus the slogan “We Support the Black Community” was born. Support came from all sides of the city and the Garfield Organization under the leadership of Frederick Douglass “Doug” Andrews proved to be one of the “League’s” staunchest supporters.

Leaders of the AAPL received training in organization development via grants from the Ford Foundation which was held at such places as the University of Chicago and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, to name a few. The League and its’ pioneers were endeared by the community and respected by law enforcement entities all over the nation. Palmer’s life later became the basis for a PBS television series titled “Bird of an Iron Feather”, written by “Muhammad Speaks” editor Richard Durham.

The League got involved in what many termed controversial situations of which eventually struck the “ire” of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Once after providing protection for Rev. Jesse Jackson during a labor dispute, Daley threatened to have members of the League removed from the Chicago Police Department, namely, Officer Palmer.

In 1970, a “coup de tat” occurred within the ranks of the AAPL and Palmer was removed from leadership. It appears that some members had taken the position that his positions were too militant and were injurious to the League’s mission. Palmer had also been on a leave of absence from the department and while doing so, was the head of security for Malcolm X College. When he applied to return to the Chicago Department, he was informed by a subordinate that his leave of absence had not been honored and that his name had been removed from the police department rolls. Quoting Palmer, “it was a blessing in disguise as I am now engaged in wider, more progressive, more encompassing international work and leadership”.[5]

Grenada invitation

Comrade Maurice Bishop, Prime Minister of Grenada, invite for 13 March 1980

In 1980, Edward Buzz Palmer and Alice Palmer were invited by the Maurice Bishop-led government of the Caribbean island of Grenada to attend celebrations marking the first anniversary of the country's Marxist-Leninist "revolution".

Fundraiser for Harold Washington

Alice Palmer and Buzz Palmer hosted the first fundraiser for Harold Washington's 1983 campaign for the Chicago mayoralty.[6]

Consulate invasion

In January 1985 Alice Palmer helped organize an invasion of the South African Consulate in Chicago. Among those arrested were Bob Lucas, Heather Booth, Addie Wyatt, and Buzz Palmer. The next day Buzz Palmer went to see mayor Harold Washington to see that the defendants went to trial, to make political capital.[7]

East Bloc visit

In 1985, a delegation of 16 Afro-American journalists traveled to the Soviet Union, German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia[8].

The delegation consisted of

The trip was organized by International Organization of Journalists executive Don Rojas, the American educated former press secretary to Grenada's late leader Maurice Bishop[10], in conjunction with the Black Press Institute, the National Alliance of Black Journalists and the National Newspaper Publishers Association-the US's largest organization of owners of black newspapers.

According to one of the tours leaders Alice Palmer[11];

The trip was extraordinary because we were able to sit down with our counterparts and with the seats of power in three major capitals-Prague, Berlin and Moscow. We visited with foreign ministers, we talked with the editors of the major newspapers in these three cities...
It was a very unusual trip because we were given access...Every effort was made to give us as much as we asked for...We came back feeling that we could speak very well about the interest of the socialist countries in promoting peace.
This was before the (Soviet nuclear test ban) moratorium, this was before the Reykjavik offers...It was very clear to us in our conversations and interviews with people at that time, that this was already something of concern and, something that would be promoted when the opportunity arose, as we can see that it has been.


In 1987 Buzz Palmer was Executive Director of Chicago based Comprand (Comprehensive Research and Development)[12].

Soviet project

Peoples World, February 2 1989, page 12-A

In late 1966, or early 1989 Edward Palmer and the Black Press Institute began planning a project involving joint work between African-American scholars, and Soviet scholars, on the African-American experience.

In an interview with Mike Giocondo of the Communist Party USA's Peoples World of February 2 1989, page 12-A, Palmer explained the background of the project, and the involvement of the influential Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies.

World Magazine: recently the Black Press Institute became involved with a project with the Soviet Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies. What's the background of the project.
Palmer: Approximately four years ago the International Organization of Journalists requested that we form a delegation of African-American journalists to visit socialist countries....
When we arrived in the Soviet Union, we had the opportunity to meet with the editor of Pravda, who is also the chair of the Union of Soviet Journalists. Then we met with the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies.
I indicated that it would be excellent if African-Americans learned more about the Soviet union, and Soviet Union learned more about African-Americans.
I said it would make excellent sense to develop joint studies and faculty exchanges...but nothing was agreed on...in 1988. I again went to the Soviet Union on an exchange program of journalists. I again met with the chairman of the Institute, and i was presently surprised when the deputy director said "let's do it".
WM: Why were the Soviets interested in participating in this project?
Palmer: The Soviet Union is attempting to reach out to the total American community...The Soviet Union has to be commended for their willingness to open up their doors to all segments of the American community. A genuine desire for friendship motivates the Soviets to a greater extent than any other country I have ever seen.

Tribute to Golub and Montgomery

On November 16, 1989, Edward Palmer and Alice Palmer served on the Tribute Committee for the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights Tribute to Leon Golub and Lucy Montgomery, held at the Congress Hotel, Chicago. Palmer was also listed as a friend of the committee.[13]

Progressive Chicago

A Progressive Chicago report to Keith Kelleher, dated October 27, 1993 listed several more contacts and potential members of the organization.

It stated that Alderman Joe Moore had agreed to participate and that State senator Alice Palmer was interested and was awaiting a call from Peter McClennon.

Members had been allocated people to contact;

Others targeted for contact, but not assigned, included Clem Balanoff, Sue Purrington of NOW, Jane Ramsey at JCUA, Erlean Collins, Westside Black elected officials and PUSH, TWO and Joe Gardner's Project Hope.[14]

Committees of Correspondence

Coc alice-palmer.jpg

In 1994 Alice Palmer and Buzz Palmer, Chicago, were listed on a "Membership, Subscription and Mailing List" for the Chicago Committees of Correspondence, an offshoot of the Communist Party USA[15]

Letter to Obama

In March 2009 dozens of 'human rights groups' and activists in the United States, signed a statement urging President Barack Obama to rethink his decision to boycott the United Nations-sponsored anti-racism conference.

As you know, the Durban Review Conference is one of the most important international platforms for discussing the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances. Given the brutal history of slavery and Jim Crow in the United States, your Administration has much to contribute to this discussion. A boycott would be inconsistent with your policy of engagement with the international community…

Individual signers of the statement included Edward Palmer, Co-Chair of the People Programme.[16]


  1. Reality Window, Ryan Lizza on Obama making it in Chicago
  2. Profile on In These Times
  3. (http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/edward-buzz-palmer-39, Historymakers profile, accessed July 5, 2011]
  4. (http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/edward-buzz-palmer-39, Historymakers profile, accessed July 5, 2011]
  5. Founding of the Afro-American Patrolman’s League, written by Edward “Buzz” Palmer titled “A Voyage of Discovery” and can be read in its entirety in a publication being written by Dr. Useni Perkins scheduled to be published in 2008 by Third World Press.
  6. Chicago Sun-Times, Vernon Jarrett, Palmer remains the right choice to succeed newhouse, June 11, 1991, page 27
  7. Interview with Alice Palmer, Katherine Elizabeth McAuliff, Columbia College - Chicago, Spring 2010,
  8. Peoples Daily World Dec 24 1986 p 10
  9. New Deliberations Spring 1986 pages 4/5
  10. http://www.answers.com/topic/don-rojas
  11. Peoples Daily World Dec 24 1986 p 11
  12. Comprand Letterhead Sep 29 1987
  13. Tribute to Golub and Montgomery: Program, Nov. 16, 1989
  14. Progressive chicago report to K Kelleher October 27, 1993
  15. Chicago CoC "Membership, Subscription and Mailing List" 10.14.94
  16. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1074695.html