Tom Hayden, 76, author and political activist


Author, activist and former California state assemblyman and senator Tom Hayden has died in Santa Monica. Details are scant but the Los Angeles Times obituary tonight says that Hayden died after a lengthy illness. His wife confirmed his death to AP. Hayden was 76. He had suffered a stroke last year and talked of having advanced heart disease.

Hayden came to public prominence as an anti-Vietnam War activist, leader of Students for a Democratic Society and principal author of the 1962 Port Huron Statement, that set out an agenda for student protests in the 1960s. His activism had begun while he was editor of the student newspaper at the University of Michigan and took part in freedom rides during the civil rights battles of the early 1960s. He was prosecuted as part of the Chicago 7 after protesting outside the 1968 Democratic convention, which followed that year's assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and the decision of President Lyndon Johnson not to run for a second term.

In 1973 he married actress and antiwar activist Jane Fonda, who like Hayden had traveled to North Vietnam during the war. They moved to Santa Monica and built a political organization together. Hayden lost the 1976 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate to John Tunney, and was blamed by some Democrats for Tunney's loss that November to Republican S.I. Hayakawa. In 1982, Hayden was elected to the California Assembly from the Los Angeles Westside, and he stayed there until moving to the state Senate in 1992. In 1994 Hayden lost a run for govenor, and in 1997 he ran for mayor of Los Angeles and lost to Richard Riordan. He ran a final time, for the Los Angeles Council in 2001, and lost to newcomer Jack Weiss.

From the LA Times obituary:

In March 1969, the Justice Department had Hayden and seven others indicted for conspiracy to incite a riot at the convention. The group included Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale and counterculture icons Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, leaders of the Youth International Party, best known as the Yippies.

Frequent courtroom outbursts marred the trial and the judge, Julius J. Hoffman, was openly scornful of the accused and their lawyers. The dramatic high point came when marshals carried out his threat to have Seale gagged and chained to a chair. Seale’s case ended in a mistrial, leaving the “Chicago 7” as the remaining defendants.

Hayden was convicted of traveling across state lines to incite a riot and sentenced to five years in prison. The conviction was overturned on appeal, largely because the judge had sided openly with prosecutors. The government declined to retry Hayden.

After the trial, he moved to a commune in Berkeley but fellow residents kicked him out. They decided “I was an oppressive male chauvinist,” Hayden wrote in his memoir. Angry and humiliated, “I drove away in my beat-up Volkswagen convertible to Los Angeles, the notorious New Left leader and national security threat alone in a world of hurt.”

Hayden’s first marriage, to fellow student activist Sandra Cason, ended in divorce. He crossed paths with Fonda in 1971, when both were speaking at an antiwar event in Michigan. The following year, Hayden saw Fonda again at an antiwar event in Los Angeles. He had just written a book on Vietnam and was traveling the country doing a multimedia “teach-in” on Indochina.

Fonda invited him to her Laurel Canyon house to share his slide show. “I wanted a man in my life I could love, but it had to be someone who could inspire me, teach me, lead me, not be afraid of me. Who better than Tom Hayden?” she wrote in her 2005 autobiography, “My Life So Far.”

Hayden is the author of more than 20 books, and as he notes in his bio at the Peace and Justice Resource Center, he would not want it forgotten that he also was the batting champion of the Los Angeles Dodgers fantasy baseball camp in the 1980s. Hayden played in a local hardball league on the Westside into his 70s. For all I know, he may still have been getting out there.

Hayden talked to the Washington Post in 2012 about getting old and contemplating death:

Physically, the deterioration is kind of obvious, but I’m on the lucky side of things. I’ve had heart surgery 10 years ago and carotid [artery] surgery last year. I am aware I have advanced heart disease. The interesting news is that I still play first base every Sunday on a baseball team. I have a 12-year-old son, a wife and quite a healthy family life.

How I take care of myself is I’ve stopped drinking any alcohol and changed my diet to try to manage the onset of diabetes 2, which can erupt as a pain in the nerve endings of my feet. That is manageable by a drastic reduction in sugar and an increase in kale.


What I have to adjust to is that I am in the dying zone, the dead zone. No one knows what I am talking about unless they’re in the zone. There’s a finality coming, and I have to accept that and prepare spiritually for that and have a sense of humor. But you can’t prepare for the end while dreaming about recapturing your youth. That’s ridiculous. I don’t wish that.

Hayden and Fonda divorced in 1990 and he later married actress Barbara Williams. He is survived by Williams and their adopted son, Liam, and by Fonda and their son, actor Troy Garity.

Previously on LA Observed:
Tom Hayden at UCLA recovering from a stroke*
Smogtown panel
Robert Graham as gang counselor

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