Robert W. Blackburn was the deputy superintendent of Oakland public schools, appointed by Marcus Foster, with whom he had worked and known previously in Philadelphia. On Election Day, November 6, 1973, two members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) gunned down Robert Blackburn and Oakland Superintendent of Schools Marcus Foster, critically injuring Blackburn and murdering Dr. Foster.

Blackburn later served as the superintendent, from 1974-1976, and again in 1981.

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