February 2, 2021 – In the weeks after he lost his bid to be the Democratic nominee in the 1988 U.S. Presidential race, the reverend Jesse Jackson’s once lofty political hopes were on the ropes. Those hopes were rocked by the indictment of his half-brother Noah (Loc) Robinson, Jr. on murder charges out of South Carolina related to Chicago street gang activity. It proved a deathblow.
While Jackson was in the thick of the race that summer, Robinson, Jr., previously perceived as a millionaire businessman with goodwill in the community, was arrested for engaging in a conspiracy to kill a witness in a gangland murder he would eventually be charged and convicted for. Jackson and Robinson share a father.
Black P Stone Rangers street gang affiliate Leroy (Hambone) Barber was gunned down on January 2, 1986 in a small commercial business complex Robinson owned in Greenville, South Carolina by a Chicago hit team. Months prior, Robinson had gotten into a fist fight. Robinson was found guilty of ordering the hit and aiding and abetting a gang member who stabbed a witness to the hit.
Boasting an MBA from the uber prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Robinson was an “advisor” for the leadership of the Black P Stone Rangers street gang, specifically the gang’s legendary founder and boss Jeff Fort. By the time Robinson was arrested and Jackson was making a run for the White House, Fort had rebranded the Black P Stone Nation as El Rukn, trying to give the impression that the gang was now a Muslim-based community activism forum .
Fort was busted for drug trafficking and sent away to prison in 1983. He communicated with his soldiers and lieutenants through people like Robinson, who he nicknamed “Loc” or “Local.” Soon, Fort was found to be planning domestic terrorist attacks in tandem with Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in exchange for funding for El Rukn.
According to prosecutors at his trial, Robinson paraded as a legitimate businessman in Chicago and Greenville, owning several fast-food restaurants and a construction company, but in reality, acted as Fort’s unofficial “consigliere.” The September 21, 1988 indictment alleged Robinson complained to Fort about a beef with Hambone Barber and Fort green-lit the murder contract, dispatching a five-man hit team to Greenville to handle the matter.
On the night of December 20, 1985, Robinson and Barber got into a fist fight at Bridges Lounge located in a strip mall owned by Robinson as part of a robust real estate portfolio he used to launder drug and extortion money. Both men lived in Chicago, but did business in South Carolina. Barber was a longtime friend of Robinson’s and worked for him as an enforcer.
The pair fell out over a bad drug deal, per DEA records, and during a meeting at Robinson’s luxury downtown Chicago high-rise apartment, kicked Barber off the payroll of one of his companies and fired him as his personal muscle. Barber, according to these records, followed Robinson to Greenville to confront him, leading to the fisticuffs at Bridges Lounge.
Robinson immediately took off for a holiday trip with his family to New Mexico and Arizona. Fort assigned his half-brother Henry (Toomba) Harris to put a hit crew together and go to Greenville to execute Hambone Barber. Harris became a government witness and admitted to luring the 46-year old Barber to Bridges Lounge on January 2, 1985 and then to a phone both where he was killed in a hail of automatic weapon fire.
The Jackson family traces its roots to Greenville and migrated north to Illinois in the 1960s as Jesse’s star was on the rise in the Civil Rights movement under Dr. Martin Luther King. Jackson was with Dr. King on the balcony of a Memphis motel that fateful day in April 1968 when the civil rights icon was slain by a sniper’s bullet.
At the time of his Presidential aspirations growing into full-blown candidacy in the 1980s (he ran in ’84 and ’88), Jackson kept his distance from his half-brother because he knew Robinson was being investigated by the FBI and DEA, per an internal DOJ memo circulated in 1987.
As Jackson’s 1988 Presidential campaign wound to a close in the early days of summer, he was given a knockout blow when Robinson was arrested for trying to kill Janice Rosemond, a witness to the Hambone Barber murder. Robinson was freed on a $500,000 bond and waited until the other shoe dropped and he was indicted for the Barber hit itself.
Jackson’s campaign was dead. On July 21, 1988 in Atlanta, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis accepted the nomination to run against Vice President George H. W. Bush. Jackson, 79, never ran for office again. He was the first African-American to get traction in a campaign for the U.S. Presidency.
Robinson’s legal woes continued. The feds dropped a racketeering and tax fraud case at his doorstep, accusing him of skimming $650,000 from the half-dozen Wendy’s franchises he owned.
Today, at age 77, Robinson is doing life in prison after being found guilty twice (1990, 1996) for the Hambone Barber homicide. An appellate court threw out the first guilty verdict because the prosecutors withheld discovery evidence. Fort, 73, is serving his time in the federal SUPERMAX facility in Florence, Colorado.