Tom Hayden was a radical left-wing activist and California state legislator known for his participation as a radical youth leader during the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s. Hayden wrote the “Port Huron Statement,” the manifesto of the radical 1960s activist group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and an ideological inspiration to the New Left.
Hayden remained in public life for several decades, being elected to the California State Assembly and the California State Senate. Hayden died in October 2016 at the age of 76.
Hayden was born in Royal Oak, Michigan on December 11, 1939 to a former Marine who worked as an accountant for Chrysler. Hayden was raised by his mother after she divorced his father when Hayden was 10 years old. Hayden had a Christian upbringing, which he went on to disavow in high school.
In 1957, Hayden began to study sociology at the University of Michigan, where he became editor of the student newspaper.
Hayden married three times. In 1961, he married fellow civil rights worker and SDS activist Sandra Cason “Casey” Hayden; they divorced in the early 1960s.
In 1973, Hayden married actress Jane Fonda. They had one child, Troy Garity, who also started an acting career. Garity’s name reportedly derived from that of Nguyen Van Troi, a Viet Cong who attempted to assassinate United States Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Speaking at his son’s wedding ceremony to Simone Bent (who is African American), Hayden said that his son’s marriage was “another step in a long-term goal of mine: the peaceful, nonviolent disappearance of the white race.”
Hayden and Fonda divorced in 1990; in 1993, Hayden married Canadian actress Barbara Williams, with whom he adopted a son.
Civil Rights Activism
Immediately after college, Hayden joined the Freedom Riders protesting segregation in his new role as the SDS field secretary in the South. Hayden was jailed after participating in a Freedom Ride from Atlanta, Georgia, and he began writing the “Port Huron Statement” from his cell. Hayden associated with Martin Luther King, Jr. and participated in numerous sit-ins and freedom rides during the civil rights movement.
Port Huron Statement
While jailed for civil rights work, Hayden drafted the “Port Huron Statement,” a manifesto marking the beginning of the radical left counterculture that came to characterize the 1960s. The Port Huron Statement is credited with giving rise to the “New Left.”
The Port Huron Statement was over 25,000 words written exclusively by Hayden and is credited with launching the sometimes violent student uprisings of the 1960s, in addition to creating the left-wing group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1960. Hayden was a founding member of SDS, and he read the Port Huron Statement at the first national SDS conference.
Anti-Vietnam War Activism
The Port Huron Statement put Hayden on the map as a left-wing leader, and he quickly became a figurehead of the radical left. Hayden supported militant anti-war demonstrations on college campuses, encouraging draft card burnings and public takeovers of campus buildings.
In 1965, Hayden travelled to the Communist North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi following mass demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, becoming one of the first Americans to visit during wartime. Hayden continued his militant opposition to the war into August of 1968 when he incited violent uprisings in the city of Chicago for five days, telling young protestors to “make sure that if our blood flows, it flows all over the city.” Hayden was at the helm of the protest, and when confronted by over 20,000 police officers and soldiers, told protesters to “turn this overheated military machine against itself.”
The protest caused hundreds of arrests and injuries, and Hayden was eventually charged with conspiracy to incite violence along with seven others, known as the “Chicago Seven.” Hayden was found guilty of intent to riot and sentenced to five years, which he never served because the conviction was overturned in 1972.
Hayden continued to push a left-wing anti-war agenda into the 1970s, alongside his then-wife Jane Fonda, as they founded the Indochina Peace Campaign to protest the war on a national level. In fall 1972, the couple went on a 90-city speaking tour.
Other Radical Statements
In 1967, Hayden advocated violence to overturn racism in the United States in the New York Review of Books, writing that African Americans must “prepare to fight back” against white Americans through a “conscious guerrilla” and that “Violence can contribute to shattering the status quo” and “create possibilities of meaningful change.”
After the end of the war in Vietnam, Hayden repositioned himself for a career in mainstream liberal California politics. In 1976, Hayden and Fonda co-founded the Campaign for Economic Democracy, a left-wing environmentalist organization, in alliance with California Governor Jerry Brown (D). Hayden was named Brown’s first solar energy commissioner in 1979. In 1976, Hayden ran for the California Democratic Party nomination for U.S. Senate, but he lost to incumbent Sen. John Tunney.
Hayden was elected to the California State Assembly in 1982, serving as an Assemblyman until 1992. During this time, Hayden introduced a bill which became Chapter 1238 of the 1987 California Statutes which would allow “student representation fees” to be charged in support of student government programs at community colleges around California. Hayden then served in the California State Senate from 1992-2000. Hayden also launched unsuccessful campaigns for Governor of California and for Mayor of Los Angeles.
In the last several years of his life, Hayden directed the Peace and Justice Resource Center in Culver City, California, which he used to oppose the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan. Hayden continued to be involved in left-wing politics after his career in public service ended, serving as a member of the advisory board for the Progressive Democrats of America and helping to initiate Progressives for Obama in 2008.   In 2016, shortly before his death, Hayden ran to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.