Tom Hayden, the anti-Vietnam War activist, “Chicago 7” member and former husband of the actress Jane Fonda has died at the age of 76.
His wife Barbara Williams told CNN that he died Sunday from complications related to a stroke he suffered in 2015. She told the broadcaster that he passed away surrounded by his family at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif.
Royal Oak, Michigan-born Hayden was one of the “Chicago 7” activists who was tried for conspiracy and incitement charges after protests at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. He was later acquitted and went on to serve on the California Assembly and Senate for almost 20 years
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted: "A political giant and dear friend has passed. Tom Hayden fought harder for what he believed than just about anyone I have known. RIP, Tom.”
“Rarely, if ever, in American history has a generation begun with higher ideals and experienced greater trauma than those who lived fully the short time from 1960 to 1968,” Hayden wrote in the book Reunion — one of 19 he wrote or edited.
In 1960, while a student at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, he was involved in the formation of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), then dedicated to desegregating the South.
In 1968, he helped organize anti-war demonstrations during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that turned violent and resulted in the notorious Chicago 7 trial. It began as the Chicago 8 trial, but one defendant, Bobby Seale, was denied the lawyer of his choice, was bound and gagged by the judge and ultimately received a separate trial.After a circus-like trial, Hayden and three others were convicted of crossing state lines to incite riot. The convictions were later overturned, and an official report deemed the violence “a police riot.”
Hayden joined the fledgling Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), went freedom-riding during civil rights protests in the South and was beaten and briefly jailed in Mississippi and Georgia. He married a fellow activist, Sandra “Casey” Cason, and together they witnessed the violence of the battle against segregation.
In 1965, Hayden made his first visit to North Vietnam with an unauthorized delegation. In 1967, he returned to Hanoi with another group and was asked by North Vietnamese leaders to bring three prisoners of war back to the United States.
Firmly committed to the anti-war movement, Hayden participated in sit-ins at Columbia University, then began traveling the country to promote a rally in Chicago for the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
In the interim, a single event galvanized him — the 1968 assassination of his friend, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in Los Angeles. “I went from Robert Kennedy’s coffin into a very bleak and bitter political view,” Hayden told the Associated Press in 1988.
In 1971, Hayden met Jane Fonda, a latecomer to the protest movement. After he heard her give an eloquent anti-war speech in 1972, Hayden said they connected and became a couple. He was divorced from Cason. Fonda was divorced from director Roger Vadim and had a daughter, Vanessa Vadim.
Hayden and Fonda were married for 17 years and had a son, Troy.
With heavy financial support from Fonda, Hayden went into California politics in the late 1970s. He formed the Campaign for Economic Democracy and was elected to the Assembly in 1982.
In 1992, Hayden won election to the state Senate advocating for environmental and educational issues. By then, he and Fonda were divorced.
Hayden went on to marry actress Barbara Williams, and they had a son, Liam.
In 1994, Hayden was defeated in a run for the state governorship, and he lost a bid to become mayor of Los Angeles.
After leaving public office, Hayden wrote and traveled extensively, lecturing, teaching and speaking out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also an advocate for animals, and in 2012 he lobbied Gov. Jerry Brown to preserve a piece of legislation known as Hayden’s Law, which he had authored to protect shelter animals from premature euthanasia.
Contributing: The Associated Press