By Robert D. McFadden –
Tom Hayden, who burst out of the 1960s counterculture as a radical leader of America’s civil rights and antiwar movements, but rocked the boat more gently later in life with a progressive political agenda as an author and California state legislator, died on Sunday. He was 76.
His wife, Barbara Williams, confirmed the death to The Associated Press. Mr. Hayden had been suffering from heart problems and fell ill while attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
During the racial unrest and antiwar protests of the ’60s and early ’70s, Mr. Hayden was one of the nation’s most visible radicals. He was a founder of Students for a Democratic Society, a defendant in the Chicago Seven trial after riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and a peace activist who married Jane Fonda, went to Hanoi and escorted American prisoners of war home from Vietnam.
As a civil rights worker, he was beaten in Mississippi and jailed in Georgia. In his cell he began writing what became the Port Huron Statement, the political manifesto of S.D.S. and the New Left that envisioned an alliance of college students in a peaceful crusade to overcome what it called repressive government, corporate greed and racism. Its aim was to create a multiracial, egalitarian society.
Like his allies the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who were assassinated in 1968, Mr. Hayden opposed violent protests but backed militant demonstrations, like the occupation of Columbia University campus buildings by students and the burning of draft cards. He also helped plan protests that, as it happened, turned into clashes with the Chicago police outside the Democratic convention.
In 1974, with the Vietnam War in its final stages after American military involvement had all but ended, Mr. Hayden and Ms. Fonda, who were by then married, traveled across Vietnam, talking to people about their lives after years of war, and produced a documentary film, “Introduction to the Enemy.” Detractors labeled it Communist propaganda, but Nora Sayre, reviewing it for The New York Times, called it a “pensive and moving film.”
Later, with the war over and the idealisms of the ’60s fading, Mr. Hayden settled into a new life as a family man, writer and mainstream politician. In 1976, he ran for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate from California, declaring, “The radicalism of the 1960s is fast becoming the common sense of the 1970s.” He lost to the incumbent, Senator John V. Tunney.
But focusing on state and local issues like solar energy and rent control, he won a seat in the California Legislature in Sacramento in 1982. He was an assemblyman for a decade and a state senator from 1993 to 2000, sponsoring bills on the environment, education, public safety and civil rights. He lost a Democratic primary for California governor in 1994, a race for mayor of Los Angeles in 1997 and a bid for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council in 2001.
He was often the target of protests by leftists who called him an outlaw hypocrite, and by Vietnamese refugees and American military veterans who called him a traitor. Conservative news media kept alive the memories of his radical days. In a memoir, “Reunion” (1988), he described himself as a “born-again Middle American” and expressed regret for “romanticizing the Vietnamese” and for allowing his antiwar zeal to turn into anti-Americanism.
“His soul-searching and explanations make fascinating reading,” The Boston Globe said, “but do not, he concedes, pacify critics on the left who accuse him of selling out to personal ambition or on the right ‘who tell me to go back to Russia.’ He says he doesn’t care.”
Tom Hayden, pictured far left, longtime activist and former California state senator. He was one of the founders of Students for a Democratic Society. In 1962 he was the principal author of the Port Huron Statement – the revolutionary SDS document.
(Photo – C. Clark Kissinger)
“I get re-elected,” Mr. Hayden told The Globe. “To me, that’s the bottom line. The issues persons like myself are working on are modern, workplace, neighborhood issues.”
Thomas Emmet Hayden was born in Royal Oak, Mich., on Dec. 11, 1939, the only child of John Hayden, an accountant, and the former Genevieve Garity, both Irish Catholics. His parents divorced, and Tom was raised by his mother, a film librarian.
He attended a parish school. The pastor was the Rev. Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic radio priest of the 1930s and a right-wing foe of the New Deal.
At Dondero High School in Royal Oak, Mr. Hayden was editor of the student newspaper. His final editorial before graduation in 1957 almost cost him his diploma. In his exhortation to old-fashioned patriotism, he encrypted, in the first letter of each paragraph, an acrostic for “Go to hell.”
His turn to radical politics began at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he was inspired by student protests against the anti-Communist witch hunts of the House Un-American Activities Committee and by lunch counter sit-ins by black students in Greensboro, N.C. In the summer of 1960, he met Dr. King in California, and he soon joined sit-in protests and voter registration drives in the South.
Perceiving a need for a national student organization to coordinate civil rights projects around the country, he joined 35 like-minded activists at Ann Arbor in 1960 and formed Students for a Democratic Society. He also became editor of the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Michigan in 1961 and did graduate work there in 1962 and 1963.
His 1961 marriage to Sandra Cason, a civil rights worker, ended after two years. He met Ms. Fonda at an antiwar rally. They were married in 1973 and had a son, Troy Garity. Ms. Fonda had a daughter, Vanessa, by her former marriage to the film director Roger Vadim. Mr. Hayden and Ms. Fonda divorced in 1990. He married Ms. Williams, a Canadian actress, in 1993. They adopted a son, Liam. Along with his wife, Mr. Hayden is survived by the three children.
In 1961, Mr. Hayden joined the Freedom Riders on interstate buses in the South, challenging authorities who refused to enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings banning segregation on public buses. His jailhouse draft of what became the 25,000-word S.D.S. manifesto was debated, revised and formally adopted at the organization’s first convention, in Port Huron, Mich., in 1962.
“We are people of this generation,” it began, “bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.” It did not recommend specific programs but attacked the arms race, racial discrimination, bureaucracy and apathy in the face of poverty, and it called for “participatory democracy” and a society based on “fraternity,” “honesty” and “brotherhood.”
Mr. Hayden was elected president of S.D.S. for 1962-63.
In 1965, he made the first of several trips to Vietnam, accompanying Herbert Aptheker, a Communist Party theoretician, and Staughton Lynd, a radical professor at Yale. While the visit was technically illegal, it was apparently ignored by the State Department to allow the American peace movement and Hanoi to establish informal contacts. The group went to Hanoi and toured villages and factories in North Vietnam. Mr. Hayden wrote a book, “The Other Side” (1966), about the experience.
At Hanoi’s invitation, Mr. Hayden attended a 1967 conference in Bratislava, in what was then Czechoslovakia, and met North Vietnamese leaders, who agreed to release some captured American prisoners as a gesture of “solidarity” with the American peace movement. Mr. Hayden then made a second journey to Hanoi to discuss the details, and soon afterward picked up three American P.O.W.s at a rendezvous in Cambodia and escorted them home.
Mr. Hayden directed an S.D.S. antipoverty project in Newark from 1964 to 1967, and in his last year witnessed days of rioting, looting and destruction that left 26 people dead and hundreds injured. In “Rebellion in Newark” (1967), he wrote, “Americans have to turn their attention from the lawbreaking violence of the rioters to the original and greater violence of racism.”
In 1968, Mr. Hayden helped plan antiwar protests in Chicago to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. Club-swinging police officers clashed with thousands of demonstrators, injuring hundreds in a televised spectacle that a national commission later called a police riot. But Mr. Hayden and others were charged by federal officials with inciting to riot and conspiracy. The Chicago Seven trial became a classic confrontation between radicals and Judge Julius Hoffman, marked by insults, angry judicial outbursts and contempt citations.
In 1970, all seven defendants were acquitted of conspiracy, but Mr. Hayden and four others – Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger and Rennie Davis – were convicted of inciting to riot and sentenced to five years in prison. The verdicts were overturned on appeal, as were various contempt citations, on the basis of judicial bias. Mr. Hayden’s book “Trial” (1970) recounted the events.
Although Ms. Fonda was a wealthy movie star and financially supported Mr. Hayden’s early political career, she and Mr. Hayden lived for years in a modest home in Santa Monica, near but not on the ocean. They did their own shopping and laundry, cooked meals in a tiny kitchen with an old stove and shared child-care duties for Troy and Vanessa.
Mr. Hayden was Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointed chairman of the SolarCal Council, which encourages solar energy development, from 1978 to 1982. He lost a Democratic primary for governor in 1994 to Kathleen Brown, the governor’s sister, who lost the general election to the Republican governor, Pete Wilson. In 1997, as the Democratic candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, Mr. Hayden lost to the Republican incumbent, Richard J. Riordan.
After his legislative career, he directed the Peace and Justice Resource Center in Culver City, Calif., a platform for his opposition to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He taught at California colleges and at Harvard, and wrote articles for The Times, The Washington Post and The Nation.
Mr. Hayden, who lived in Los Angeles, wrote more than 20 books, including several memoirs, re-examinations of the civil rights and antiwar movements, and volumes on street gangs, Vietnam, his own Irish heritage, the environment and America’s future. His last book, “Listen Yankee!: Why Cuba Matters,” was published in 2015.
His personal papers, 120 boxes covering his life since the 1960s, were given in 2014 to the University of Michigan. Besides troves on civil rights and antiwar activities, they included 22,000 pages of F.B.I. files amassed in a 16-year surveillance of Mr. Hayden.
“One of your prime objectives,” J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, said in one memo, “should be to neutralize him in the New Left movement.”
Originally published in the New York Times. Republished here from the Justice Initiative in Atlanta.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.