Bobby Seale, the son of a carpenter, was born in Dallas, Texas, on 22nd October, 1936. During the Second World War the Seale family moved to Oakland, California.
After leaving Oakland High School he joined the United States Air Force. Seale served for three years until being court-martialed for disobeying the command of a colonel at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
In 1962 Seale entered Merritt College in Oakland, California. While a student he head Malcolm X speak at a public meeting. Influenced by what he heard, Seale joined the Afro-American Association and became active in the civil rights movement.
In 1966 Seale joined with Huey Newton to form the Black Panther Party (BPP). Initially formed to protect local communities from police brutality and racism, it eventually developed into a Marxist revolutionary group. The Black Panthers also ran medical clinics and provided free food to school children.
The activities of the Black Panthers came to the attention of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Hoover described the Panthers as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and in November 1968 ordered the FBI to employ "hard-hitting counter-intelligence measures to cripple the Black Panthers".
The Black Panthers had chapters in several major cities and had a membership of over 2,000. Harassed by the police, members became involved in several shoot-outs. In 1967 Huey Newton was found guilty of killing a police officer but his conviction was overturned 22 months later.
On 6th April, 1968 a carload of BPP members, including Bobby Hutton and Eldridge Cleaver, was ambushed by the Oakland police. A shoot-out lasted for over an hour before the Panthers surrendered. Soon afterwards the police shot Hutton more than twelve times.
In 1968 Seale was one of the radicals charged with conspiring to incite riots around the Democratic Party Convention which endorsed Hubert Humphrey as its presidential candidate to take on Richard Nixon. Seale's fellow defendants included David Dillinger (Liberation), Tom Hayden (Students for a Democratic Society), Rennie Davis (National Mobilisation Committee) and Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin of the Youth International Party). When Seale repeatedly interrupted court proceedings the judge ordered him to be bound and gagged. Seale was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison for 16 counts of contempt of court.
While in prison Seale was charged with murdering Alex Rackley, a former Black Panther suspected of being a police informer. On 25th May, 1971, the trial ended in a hung jury and the judge ordered all charges against Seale to be dropped.
After being released from prison in 1972, Seale renounced political violence and concentrated on conventional politics. In 1973 Seale ran for mayor of Oakland and came second out of nine candidates with 43,710 votes.
Over the last twenty years Seale has worked on a variety of community projects and published several books including Seize the Time (1970), an autobiography, A Lonely Rage (1978) and Barbeque'n with Bobby (1987).