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Tom Hayden, anti-war activist, dies aged 76

October 24, 2016

Tom Hayden, once described as the greatest figure of the 1960s student movement, has died. He was famously put on trial following protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Tom Hayden
Image: Getty Images/M. Buckner

Hayden died on Sunday in Santa Monica, California, after suffering from a long illness, wife Barbara Williams said.

The 76-year-old activist-turned-politician was one of the towering figures of the 1960s counter-culture movement. A founding member of the influential Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Hayden became involved in politics and anti-war activism during his time as a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

He was the principal author of SDS's manifesto, the Port Huron Statement, which called for revolutionary change around the globe. During the 1960s, he made trips to the racially divided American South and to North Vietnam, which was then at war with the US-backed South.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti posted a tribute to Hayden, a long-serving California politican in the later part of his life, on Twitter.

Radical views

Hayden said he was heavily influenced toward the end of his career as an activist by the assassination of his friend, Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968. "I went from Robert Kennedy's coffin into a very bleak and bitter political view," he told the Associated Press two decades later.

That same year, Hayden's fame skyrocketed after he was tried as one of the "Chicago Eight," who were charged with conspiracy and incitement following protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In the end, he was acquitted of the charges.

In later years, Hayden took a more sober view of politics and said that activists such as himself had a hand in helping the government reform itself.

Tom Hayden
Hayden in 1969Image: Imago/Zuma Press

From activist to politician

In the late 1970s, Hayden married actress and fellow activist Jane Fonda, who used her wealth to help launch Hayden into politics. He was elected to the California Assembly in 1982.

He later went on to win a seat in the state Senate. In all, he served a total of 18 years.

Toward the end of his life, Hayden was also a writer, penning columns and articles for The Nation, The New York Times and others, as well as a memoir, "Reunion," in 1988. In a review of the book, The Times critic called Hayden "the single greatest figure of the 1960s student movement."

blc/kl  (AP, Reuters)