Tom Hayden, activist known for Vietnam protests, dies at 76
Tom Hayden, a ‘60s anti-war activist whose name became forever linked with the celebrated Chicago 7 trial, Vietnam War protests and his ex-wife Jane Fonda, has died. He was 76.
He died on Sunday after a long illness, said his wife, Barbara Williams, noting that he suffered a stroke in 2015.
Hayden, once denounced as a traitor by his detractors, won election to the California Assembly and Senate where he served for almost two decades as a progressive force on such issues as the environment and education. He was the only one of the radical Chicago 7 defendants to win such distinction in the mainstream political world.
He remained an enduring voice against war and spent his later years as a prolific writer and lecturer advocating for reform of America’s political institutions.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised Hayden. “A political giant and dear friend has passed. Tom Hayden fought harder for what he believed than just about anyone I have known. RIP, Tom,” Garcetti said Sunday night on his Twitter account.
Hayden wrote or edited 19 books, including “Reunion,” a memoir of his path to protest and a rumination on the political upheavals of the ‘60s.
“Rarely, if ever, in American history has a generation begun with higher ideals and experienced greater trauma than those who lived fully the short time from 1960 to 1968,” he wrote.
Hayden was there at the start. In 1960, while a student at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, he was involved in the formation of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), then dedicated to desegregating the South. By 1962, when he began drafting the landmark Port Huron Statement, SDS and Hayden were dedicated to changing the world.
Hayden was fond of comparing the student movement that followed to the American Revolution and the Civil War.
In 1968, he helped organize anti-war demonstrations during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that turned violent and resulted in the notorious Chicago 7 trial. It began as the Chicago 8 trial, but one defendant, Bobby Seale, was denied the lawyer of his choice, was bound and gagged by the judge and ultimately received a separate trial.
After a circus-like trial, Hayden and three others were convicted of crossing state lines to incite riot. The convictions were later overturned, and an official report deemed the violence “a police riot.”
Thomas Emmet Hayden was born Dec. 11, 1939, in Royal Oak, Michigan, to middle-class parents. At Michigan, he took up political causes including the civil rights movement. He wrote fiery editorials for the campus newspaper and contemplated a career in journalism. But upon graduation, he turned down a newspaper job. As he wrote in his memoir, “I didn’t want to report on the world; I wanted to change it.”
Political activist Tom Hayden, husband of Jane Fonda, tells newsmen in Los Angeles that he believes public support was partially responsible for the decision not to send him and others of the Chicago 7 to jail for contempt on Dec. 6, 1973.