Mr. Cleaver also began teaching an experimental course at the University of California at Berkeley in fall 1968, which infuriated then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, who declared, ”If Eldridge Cleaver is allowed to teach our children, they may come home one night and slit our throats.”

At the time, Mr. Cleaver regularly referred to Mr. Reagan as Mickey Mouse in his speeches. It is a measure of Mr. Cleaver’s many changes that in 1982 he was booed and hissed by the Yale Afro-American student society for supporting Mr. Reagan.

As tensions between the Panthers and the authorities rose, Mr. Cleaver was caught up in a shootout in April 1968 in which a 17-year-old Panther, Bobby Hutton, was killed and Mr. Cleaver and two policemen were wounded. Facing the revocation of his parole and new charges, Mr. Cleaver jumped a $50,000 bail late that year and fled into exile, first to Cuba and then to a home in Algeria, then a leftist haven.

Mr. Cleaver married Kathleen Neal in 1967, the daughter of Foreign Service officer. She followed him to Algeria, and they had two children, a son, Maceo, and a daughter, Joju. The couple divorced in 1987, and Mrs. Cleaver is now a lawyer and professor.

At first Mr. Cleaver toured Communist countries triumphantly, hailing Kim Il Sung of North Korea, among others. But disillusion set in, and there was increasing friction between the Algerian Government and Mr. Cleaver’s entourage. There was an internal struggle between Mr. Cleaver and Mr. Newton, too, and Mr. Cleaver broke with the Panthers in 1971.

Spiritual Awakening And Surrender to F.B.I. ~ The family moved to France. There, Mr. Cleaver said, contemplating suicide one night with a gun in his hand, he suddenly had a vision in which his old Marxist heroes disappeared in smoke and a blinding light led him to Christianity. In 1977, he returned to the United States and surrendered to the F.B.I. under a deal with the Government by which he pleaded guilty to the assault charge stemming from the shootout. Charges of attempted murder were dropped, and he was sentenced to 1,200 hours of community service.

But, Mrs. Cleaver said in a 1994 interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, ”he came back a very unhealthy person, unhealthy mentally, and I don’t think he’s ever quite recovered. He became a profoundly disappointed and ultimately disoriented person.”

Mr. Cleaver drifted in his enthusiasms. He opened a boutique for the trousers he created featuring what he called the Cleaver sleeve. He embraced various religions. He ran a recycling business for a while, but other recyclers accused him of stealing their garbage. He was treated for addiction to crack cocaine in 1990. A crack charge two years later was dropped because of an illegal search, but in 1994 Berkeley police found him staggering about with a severe, never fully explained, head injury and a rock of crack in his pocket. He proclaimed himself a conservative and ran, unsuccessfully, for various local offices as a Republican.

His political turnabout was such that, in the 1980’s, he demanded that the Berkeley City Council begin its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance, a practice they had abandoned years before.  ”Shut up, Eldridge,” Mayor Gus Newport told the man who had once been the fiercest emblem of 1960’s radicalism. ”Shut up or we’ll have you removed.”