Progressive Activist Tom Hayden Dies

The outspoken '60s radical also enjoyed a long career as a mainstream politician and author, and he was married for a time to actress/activist Jane Fonda.

Published Oct. 24, 2016

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Tom Hayden, who achieved notoriety during the 1960s as a civil rights and anti-war activist, then served as a California state legislator for 18 years, is dead at 76, according to an Associated Press report. Hayden's wife, Barbara Williams, said he died at UCLA Medical Center on 23 October after a long illness following a stroke.

Born in Royal Oak, Michigan in 1939, Hayden first entered the public consciousness at the age of 21 as a founding member of the civil rights group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). He was one of the drafters of the Port Huron Statement (1962), which aimed to be nothing short of the political agenda of an entire generation:

Loneliness, estrangement, isolation describe the vast distance between man and man today. These dominant tendencies cannot be overcome by better personnel management, nor by improved gadgets, but only when a love of man overcomes the idolatrous worship of things by man.

As the individualism we affirm is not egoism, the selflessness we affirm is not self-elimination. On the contrary, we believe in generosity of a kind that imprints one's unique individual qualities in the relation to other men, and to all human activity. Further, to dislike isolation is not to favor the abolition of privacy; the latter differs from isolation in that it occurs or is abolished according to individual will. Finally, we would replace power and personal uniqueness rooted in possession, privilege, or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason, and creativity.

As a social system we seek the establishment of a democracy of individual participation, governed by two central aims: that the individual share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life; that society be organized to encourage independence in men and provide the media for their common participation.

In 1968, Hayden was one of the organizers of the anti-war demonstrations aimed at disrupting the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Though Hayden himself opposed political violence, the demonstrations turned violent, and he was one of those arrested and charged with incitement to riot, culminating in the infamous Chicago Seven trial. Hayden was one of five organizers convicted, though the charges were eventually reversed on appeal.

During the early '70s, Hayden protested the Vietnam War, making several highly-publicized trips to Southeast Asia, including a still-controversial tour of North Vietnam with his then-wife-to-be, actress Jane Fonda, in 1972. The two were wed in 1973, had a son, Troy, and would divorce in 1990.

After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, Hayden turned his attention to mainstream politics and ran for U.S. Senator in the state of California, losing in 1976 to incumbent John Tunney. In 1982, he won a seat in the California State Assembly, in which he served for 10 years, then held the office of state senator till 2000.

Though Hayden went on to become an author and professor, his political activities did not end with his legislative career. He spoke out against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and as recently as 2012 actively lobbied on behalf of animal rights causes.


McFadden, Robert D.   "Tom Hayden, Civil Rights and Anti-war Activist Turned Lawmaker, Dies at 76."    The New York Times.   24 October 2016.

Associated Press.   "Tom Hayden, Famed 1960s Anti-war Activist, Dies at 76."    24 October 2016.

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.

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