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James Kilgore grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and is the son of a wealthy Marin County lumber dealer, the Los Angeles Times reports.
In 1969, he graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a degree in economics. By then, a high school classmate said, it was clear that "getting caught up in politics had pushed him over the top" in a radical direction.
Kilgore's introduction to the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) came via his girlfriend, Sara Jane Olson, known then as Kathleen Soliah.
Kilgore and Soliah joined forces with the SLA after Soliah gave an impassioned speech at a memorial rally in Berkeley for six members of the group who had died in a shootout with Los Angeles police.
In Patty Hearst's book, Kilgore emerges as a voice of moderation, or what passed for it in the SLA.
During an introductory meeting, Hearst wrote, that Soliah said she was ready to go underground and get involved in revolutionary action.
Kilgore's response, Hearst said, was: "No! I don't think any of us should get into any action now. It is just too hot for that."
More important, in the context of Kilgore's arrest, Hearst wrote that he had argued against using guns in the robbery of a bank in Carmichael, in which SLA member Emily Montague now says her shotgun went off accidentally, killing client Myrna Opsahl.