Tom Hayden, University alum and civil rights activist, dies at 76

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Monday, October 24, 2016 - 12:36pm

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Tom Hayden, civil rights proponent and antiwar activist, died Sunday at the age of 76 after suffering from heart problems and falling ill over the summer.
 
The Michigan native, University of Michigan alum and former Michigan Daily editor in chief founded the Students for a Democratic Society, a left-wing student activist movement instrumental in coordinating students, one year after graduating from the University. The movement was restarted again in 2006.
 
Hayden was also instrumental during the Civil Rights movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s. During a protest in Mississippi, he was badly beaten and arrested. In a Georgia jail, he began writing the Port Huron Statement, the manifesto of the SDS, which called upon college students to peacefully oppose racism and oppressive government.
 
In 1965, Hayden travelled to Vietnam, where he advanced the the American peace movement with Hanoi. Hayden was key in liberating prisoners of war after negotiating with North Vietnamese leaders in 1967.
 
The activist opposed violent protests but supported militant demonstrations — such as one in Chicago, where he and others were arrested on accounts of inciting riots and conspiracy for protesting the Democratic National Convention in 1968 — similar to other important figures of the time period.
 
Hayden’s most notable activist achievements include working for the Newark Community Union Project, founding the Indochina Peace Campaign and working on the Vietnam War protest documentary, “Introduction to the Enemy,” which depicts Hayden’s travels with his wife at the time, Jane Fonda, through North and South Vietnam in 1974.
 

Following his early years of protest and resistance, Hayden went on to pursue a lengthy political career, serving as a member of the California State Assembly from 1982 to 1992 and the California Senate from 1992 to 2000.

More recently, Hayden taught classes at schools in California and at Harvard University. Additionally, he was in charge of the Peace and Justice Resource Center, which notably opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He penned more than 20 books during his lifetime about his reflections of the Civil Rights and antiwar movements, the war in Vietnam and America’s future. His personal papers — 120 boxes containing documents covering his life since the ‘60s — are housed at the University.
 
In a 2012 submission to the Daily, Hayden encouraged future generations of students to continue advocating for participatory democracy, pointing to movements like Occupy Wall Street.
 
We know that movements begin unexpectedly,” he wrote. Rebellion begins anew, like a first flower forcing winter’s passing, as it happened in Ann Arbor in that springtime long ago. The Port Huron Statement is a message sent in a bottle, and participatory democracy a tradition for future rebels to drink from.
 
Hayden is survived by his wife, Barbara Williams, and son, Troy Garity.