Henry “Poison” Gaddis is a native of the South Side of Chicago. He was born on Texas Independence Day in 1951 as the eighth child of Bowen Sr., a laborer, and Mary a homemaker.
In the fall of 1968 while enrolled as a freshman at Northeastern Illinois State College, Gaddis traveled to East St. Louis, IL to attend the Illinois Chapter of the NAACP State Convention. Also in attendance was the newly-elected Chairman of NAACP Youth Council Fred Hampton. As a result of this encounter and impressed by Hampton’s eloquence and world view, Gaddis agreed to join the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party (ILBPP) as soon as an office was established in Chicago. “Poison” went on to serve on the Chicago Central Staff of the ILBPP. He held the rank of Lieutenant on the Field Cadre under the direct command of Field Secretary Robert “Bob” Lee Jr. His functional specialty in the ILBPP was organizing and maintaining relations between the member organizations of the Rainbow Coalition on the North Side of Chicago. Henry Gaddis received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Government from Texas Southern University, and a Master of Public and International Affairs from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. He has done further studies in Comparative Government in several European countries and has also studied at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (Mexico City, DF), Universidad Central de Venezuela and the US Department of State Foreign Service Institute. He is a recipient of the Franzheim Synergy Trust Fellowship in International Affairs.

Gaddis has traveled to six continents and worked in several countries and served as an advocate for issues affecting the African Diaspora. Most notably as a volunteer consultant to Afro-Venezuelan fishing cooperatives and combating racism on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast.