Jane B. Hart was a staunch op­po­nent of the Viet­nam War and the wife of a U.S. se­na­tor.

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY MARTIN WEIL martin.weil@wash­post.com

Jane B. Hart, whose con­science, de­ter­mi­na­tion and per­sonal con­vic­tions prompted words and ac­tions on public is­sues that some­times went be­yond those of her hus­band, a sit­ting U.S. se­na­tor, died June 5 at a care fa­cil­ity in West Hart­ford, Conn. She was 93.

Mrs. Hart, who was called Janey, was the wife of Philip Hart (D-Mich.), one of the most re­spected mem­bers of his party. He was some­times de­scribed as the “con­science of the Se­nate,” in which he served from 1959 to 1976. A Se­nate of­fice build­ing is named for him.

Ac­cord­ing to Michael Hart, one of the cou­ple’s sons, Mrs. Hart had com­pli­ca­tions from Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Few spouses of high-rank­ing public of­fi­cials were as well known for their out­spo­ken­ness on public mat­ters as Mrs. Hart.

At var­i­ous times dur­ing the fight­ing in Southeast Asia, she vis­ited North Viet­nam, was ar­rested at the Pen­tagon and pro­claimed her re­fusal to pay taxes to sup­port the war.

She also worked for equal rights, be­came a pi­lot and flew her hus­band to cam­paign events in a he­li­copter. She raised eight chil­dren, was one of 13 women who passed an as­tro­naut screen­ing test and grad­u­ated from col­lege in her late 40s.

Mrs. Hart’s vig­or­ous and in­de­pen­dent ac­tivism could at times be “a lit­tle bit . . . com­pli­cated” for the se­na­tor, Michael Hart said.

On oc­ca­sion some­one would de­mand of him, “Can’t you con­trol that wife of yours?” their son re­called. But the se­na­tor would re­spond, “Why would I?”

At the Pen­tagon in 1969, Mrs. Hart was ar­rested with dozens of oth­ers dur­ing a peace demon­stra­tion. The con­vic­tions were over­turned on ap­peal. She made a trip to Hanoi in 1972 to meet Amer­i­can pris­on­ers and to gauge for her­self the ef­fects of the U.S. bomb­ing of North Viet­nam.

In 1972, Mrs. Hart re­port­edly stopped pay­ing her fed­eral in­come taxes to protest the U.S. role in the Viet­nam War.

“I can­not con­trib­ute one more dollar to­ward the pur­chase of more bombs and bul­lets,” she wrote to the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice. She placed the funds in a spe­cial bank ac­count.

Philip Hart told his wife that he did not think with­hold­ing taxes was the best form of protest. Earnest dis­cus­sions en­sued, but she re­mained res­o­lute. Her con­science, she said, would not per­mit her to ac­cept the “killing of in­no­cent peo­ple with­out cause.”

The se­na­tor said he found him­self in an odd po­si­tion: be­ing “proud of a de­ci­sion that I dis­agree with.”

Among the is­sues that con­cerned her deeply, her son said, was pop­u­la­tion con­trol; in her view, over­pop­u­la­tion lay at the heart of many of to­day’s global prob­lems.

Jane Cameron Briggs was born Oct. 21, 1921, in Detroit. She was the youngest daugh­ter of Wal­ter O. Briggs, an in­dus­tri­al­ist who was the long­time owner of the Detroit Tigers.

She at­tended Man­hat­tanville Col­lege in New York for about a year and was mar­ried to Hart in 1943 while he was an Army cap­tain dur­ing World War II. Years later, she ob­tained a de­gree in an­thro­pol­ogy from Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity.

Mrs. Hart learned to fly, ob­tain­ing a pi­lot’s li­cense while still in her teens.

She thought she had man­aged the feat with­out her fa­ther’s knowl­edge, but one day, ac­cord­ing to her son, her fam­ily was en­ter­tain­ing noted avi­a­tor Ed­die Rick­en­backer. She overheard her fa­ther say, “You know, Ed­die, you aren’t the only flier in this house.”

Philip Hart died of can­cer in 1976. Their first-born child, Philip A. Hart Jr., died in in­fancy. Sur­vivors in­clude eight chil­dren, Ann Hart, Michael Hart and Clyde Hart, all of St. Ig­nace, Mich.; Jane Cameron “Cam­mie” Hart of New Le­banon, N.H.; Wal­ter Hart of Bryn Mawr, Pa.; Jim Hart of Pasadena, Calif.; May Colombo of Floyd, Va.; and Laura Cole of Ver­bank, N.Y.; eight grand­chil­dren; and seven great­grand­chil­dren.

Mrs. Hart main­tained homes in Wash­ing­ton and on Mack­inac Is­land in Mich­gan.

Af­ter her hus­band died in of­fice, she seemed “per­fectly happy to exit the stage,” her son said. Her public pro­file di­min­ished in later years, he said, but she was “also will­ing to write a let­ter of out­rage now and then.”


Jane B. Hart, wife of Sen. Philip Hart (D-Mich.), was a he­li­copter pi­lot. She vis­ited North Viet­nam in 1972, was ar­rested at the Pen­tagon in 1969 and pro­claimed her re­fusal to pay taxes to sup­port the war.

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