Jim Ingram (244396)

Despite the overwhelming recognition and attention Detroit is receiving in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the rebellion, there are sure to be many interesting elements that will not be covered. Each day another aspect of the rebellion that wasn’t previously mentioned pops up. I’m almost certain that the name Jim Ingram will not be among the people cited in the various accounts of the rebellion. However, he not only reported on the disturbance but also was a victim of police brutality at that time.

Ingram was born Oct. 17, 1938, in Hamlet, N.C., and raised in Detroit. He was in the 10th grade when he left high school to pursue a career as a boxer.

Apparently the hard knocks in the ring interfered with his musical desires, and he hung up the gloves and began a short stint as a self-taught musician. The next muse to call was the world of journalism and radio. During the ’70s and ’80s, Ingram’s column appeared in the Michigan Chronicle and his voice was heard on WJLB, where his boxing show was extremely popular. He was also the host of “Drumbeat Commentary,” and he gained a reputation as a “take no prisoners” commentator.

All of these activities and developments followed on the heels of his encounter with the police during the rebellion of ’67. Here’s his account of what happened on that unforgettable day, recounted in part by the television documentary “Eyes on the Prize”:

“I was arrested along with my brother and two other companions for allegedly being at a gas station where a ban had been placed on the selling of gasoline. We were taken to the 7th Precinct. I knew that because the ride was very short and the doors were flung open and somebody started yelling, ‘Run, Niggers, run.’

“An officer started slinging us out of the van. I couldn’t see that clearly what was going on in front of me, but I was the last one out of the van and I saw my brother in front of me being swung at. There were National Guardsmen on the right and police on the left and they were swinging rifles … and red pick axe handles, and I was trying to dodge some of the swings.

I don’t know how I got through there with only being hit hard one time with a rifle barrel, and that’s what broke my right arm. We sort of ran, I guess, as fast as we could and tried to dodge those, some of them were really swinging quite widely. It was like I was going to myself ‘What have we done?’ I mean, we were guilty of Lord knows what in these guys’ minds, you know. I mean they were treating us like we were hardened criminals or something. And all we were doing was attempting to buy some gas in a gas station. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Four years later, Ingram was in the right place at the right time, so to speak, when an uprising occurred at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, N.Y. Because his columns were sympathetic to the plight of the incarcerated, the prisoners who held the guards as hostages requested Ingram as one of the reporters to relay their demands.

In an op-ed piece for The New York Times, Ingram explained his role in the uprising as a member of a citizens’ observing committee. He wrote that when he entered D Block with two white reporters, “I felt the ‘hate stare’ of the all-white guards.”

Most of the prisoners, Ingram reported, were Black, which came as no surprise to him. “There was a general disgust of prison officials among the inmates,” Ingram said, “and this was the reason they gave for emerging from the D Block area and meeting on neutral ground” with Russell Oswald, the commissioner of correction.

Ingram said members of the committee were often in loud disagreement about the situation. But they did agree that the prisoners and hostages did not have to die, and “it grew increasingly evident to us, that time was really running out.”

Eventually, time did run out and the negotiations failed to end the stalemate. In the end, 33 prisoners were killed and 10 correctional officers were among the fatalities.

It was an experience that lived with Ingram for years after he returned to his desk at the Michigan Chronicle and behind the microphone at WJLB radio.

In 1987, for all his bad moments with the Detroit police, Ingram became the third deputy Detroit police chief and was in charge of the audio-visual services for the police department.

June 9, 1994, Ingram died. Not much is known about the cause of death, although it was rumored that he had a heart condition. He left behind a very large family.