Legendary civil rights leader, anti-war activist and longtime California lawmaker Tom Hayden died Sunday in Santa Monica after a lengthy illness. He was 76.
News of his passing was reported by major media outlets across the country, and on blogs and the facebook pages of a diverse mix of civil rights activists spanning multiple generations.
They recalled his significant role in shaping the anti-war movement during the 1960s and his part in the founding of Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, The group’s founding document, the Port Huron Statement had been hailed in many corners as the bedrock on which the student movement of the 1960s was built. It called for participatory democracy, at all levels of government and in every community.
Hayden — a native of suburban Detroit, was editor of the student newspaper at the University of Michigan — was an early participant in the 1960s civil rights movement, an activity that earned him a number of arrests in the South.
He was a leader in demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
In 1969, Hayden and seven other demonstration leaders were indicted by the Justice Department on charges of inciting a riot at the convention.
His subsequent conviction and five-year prison sentence was overturned by a higher court and he was not re-tried.
“My first remembrance [of Tom Hayden] was his assertion …that the Chicano Moratorium was the foremost development in the 1970 peace movement, pointing to the working class makeup of our peace movement,” wrote Rosalio Munoz, one of the architects of the moratorium on his facebook page. “A few years later when he ran for US Senate he came to Epiphany Church [in Lincoln Heights] and sought our support,” Munoz recalled.
Along the way, Hayden met activist and actress Jane Fonda in 1971 and a relationship ensued that culminated in their 1973 marriage.
They divorced in 1989.
Hayden served in the California Assembly in 1982-92 and the state Senate in 1992-2000. He also made unsuccessful runs for the Democratic nomination for senator in 1976 and governor in 1994 and lost races for Los Angeles mayor in 1997 and a City Council seat in 2001.
His move into elected office was a surprise to some who saw him more as a radical fighting injustice from the outside, but to many of those who knew him well and worked with him over the years, Hayden was a pragmatist and an astute political strategist who recognized the potential to make significant changes as an elected representative of the people.
Over the years, he continued to work on social justice causes ranging from the plight of the homeless, inequality in criminal sentencing, incarceration and workers rights. He worked with people from different backgrounds, including Latinos and African-Americans, rich and poor, grassroots organizers and established political strategists.
After his U.S. Senate loss to Jon Tunney, Hayden and then-wife Fonda, went on to found the Campaign for Economic Democracy, (CED), which they ran out of their home in Santa Monica and their Laurel Springs Ranch.
CED was a grassroots movement that included a number of Latino political activists, including Dolores Sanchez, publisher of this newspaper.
“CED was a place where people who favored liberal causes would come together and discuss their positions in roundtable discussions intended to build collaboration and unity in purpose,” Sanchez said.
“We would discuss wide ranging issues and strategies for addressing economic inequality, many of the same issues that have taken center stage during this campaign election. The difference then was that we wanted to find solutions, not just throw blame and tear down institutions with no plans for something better,” Sanchez recalled. “Tom was at the forefront of that effort.”
Hayden suffered a stroke in May 2015, telling City News Service from his hospital bed at UCLA Medical Center that it happened when he was in Kern County “with a group of people concerned about the effects of fracking and oil drilling.”
Tom Quinn, Gov. Jerry Brown’s former campaign manager, worked with Hayden during Quinn’s tenure as head of the California Air Resources Board.
“(Hayden) was an extraordinary man who was one of the earliest and most vigorous leaders of the anti-Vietnam War movement,” Quinn said. “He was a visionary, he was hard-driving and very focused on his goals.”
Quinn, who spent time with Hayden and Fonda at the couple’s Laurel Springs Ranch, said Hayden also found time to focus on his favorite sport of baseball.
“He was a lover of baseball,” Quinn said. “I spent several weekends at his ranch and played baseball. He had a whole baseball diamond set up. He loved politics, baseball and fishing, I’m not sure in what order.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti mourned Hayden’s death on Twitter.
“A political giant and dear friend has passed,” Garcetti said. “Tom Hayden fought harder for what he believed than just about anyone I have known. RIP Tom.”
Hayden is survived by wife Barbara Williams, their adopted son Liam, his son with Fonda, Troy Garity; and sister Mary Hayden Frey.