- Founding member of the Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist group
- Was killed in a 1974 shootout with Los Angeles police
Born on February 17, 1951, William Lawton “Cujo” Wolfe grew up in Connecticut and attended the exclusive Mount Hermon prep school in Massachusetts. His father, a wealthy anesthesiologist, divorced the boy’s mother when William was fifteen. In 1971 Wolfe enrolled at UC Berkeley, where he majored in Anthropology and adopted the hippie lifestyle. He became a Maoist and joined the Marxist-Leninist Venceremos organization, which took its name from the battle cry of Che Guevara, the revolutionary Communist henchman of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. And a class Wolfe took in Black Linguistics, taught by Colston Westbrook, sparked his interest in prisoners’ rights.
In early 1972 Wolfe became involved with the Black Cultural Association (BCA), a black inmate organization which was active in California’s Vacaville Prison at that time. Coordinated by Colston Westbrook, the BCA brought a number of young white radicals—like Wolfe, Russell Little, Nancy Ling-Perry, Joseph Remiro, William Harris, Emily Harris, and Angela Atwood—to the prison to tutor black inmates (like Donald DeFreeze) in political science, black sociology, and African heritage. “In the eyes of the young radicals,” says PBS.org, “the black prisoners, no matter what their crime, took on heroic proportions as political prisoners, oppressed by a racist and corrupt American society.” Over time, the BCA became increasingly political and ever-more committed to black nationalism. Eventually, Wolfe and Little seized control of the Association and collaborated with DeFreeze to indoctrinate the students with Maoist politics.
In 1972 Wolfe dropped out of UC Berkeley and moved in to the Peking House, a local Maoist commune, along with such notables as Russell Little and Robyn Steiner.
In 1973 Wolfe became a founding member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a pro-Marxist, California-based terrorist group that sought to overthrow the U.S. government by means of guerrilla warfare. Among his comrades in the fledgling organization were some of the white radicals whom he had previously met through the BCA.
Wolfe went home to visit his father for Christmas in 1973. But upon learning, on January 10, 1974, that Joseph Remiro and Russell Little had been arrested for the SLA’s November 1973 murder of Oakland School District superintendent Marcus Foster, Wolfe informed his father that he had to return to the West Coast immediately.
On February 4, 1974, Wolfe was among a number of SLA members who broke into the home of heiress Patricia Hearst and kidnapped her. When Hearst eventually became a member of the SLA, she and Wolfe developed an intense emotional and sexual relationship.
On May 17, 1974, Wolfe was one of six SLA members who were killed in a two-hour shootout with police at the terror group’s hideout in South Central Los Angeles. The others who died were Angela Atwood, Donald DeFreeze, Camilla Hall, Nancy Ling Perry, and Patricia Soltysik.
Further Reading: “News of Old Revolutionaries Reopens Heartbreak” (The Morning Call, 2-10-2002); “Escape from the SLA” (PaulMorantz.com, March 2011); The Essential Mae Brussell: Investigations of Fascism in America (by Mae Brussell, 2014); “The SLA Is the CIA” (by Mae Brussell, from The Realist, February 1974); “The Rise and Fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army” (PBS.org); “The Man Patty Hearst Loved” (People.com, 6-24-1974); “What Is the Symbionese Liberation Army?” (Slate.com, 1-24-2002).