Tom Hayden Biography

Thomas Emmet Hayden, an influential figure in 1960s America, was a social reformer, writer, activist, and politician. Known for his participation in protests against the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, Hayden’s anti-religious and anti-authoritarian views were shaped by his upbringing in Michigan. He co-authored the Port Huron Statement and was a key member of the Students for a Democratic Society. Hayden faced trial for his involvement in riots and protests in Chicago. Throughout his life, he worked in academia and held political seats in the California Assembly and Senate.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Thomas Emmet Hayden
  • Died At Age: 76
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Barbara Williams, Casey Cason (m. 1961–1962), Jane Fonda (m. 1973–1990)
    • Father: John Francis Hayden
    • Mother: Genevieve Isabelle
    • Children: Liam Jack Diallo Hayden, Troy Garity
  • Born Country: United States
  • Social Activists
  • Political Activists
  • Died on: October 23, 2016
  • Place of Death: Santa Monica, California, United States
  • Ancestry: Irish American
  • Diseases & Disabilities: Heart Problem
  • Cause of Death: Prolonged Illness
  • Ideology: Democrats
  • U.S. State: Michigan
  • More Facts
  • Education: University Of Michigan

Childhood & Early Life

Tom Hayden was born on December 11, 1939, in Royal Oak, Michigan, USA. His parents were Genevieve Isabelle (née Garity) and John Francis Hayden. Hayden’s father was an abusive drunkard, and his mother divorced him when Hayden was ten years old. Hayden’s distaste for organized religions stemmed from his experience with Catholic priest Charles Coughlin, who was known for being anti-Semitic. After graduating from Dondero High School, Hayden enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he became involved with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and served as its president from 1962 to 1963. He was also active as a writer during his college years, serving as the editor of his high school newspaper and the ‘Michigan Daily.’

Political Activism

Tom Hayden is best known for his role in the New Left movement of the 1960s. He was a key figure in the anti-war and civil rights movements and was seen as one of the most radical figures on the left during that time. Hayden’s most notable contribution was the writing of the Port Huron Statement in 1962, which outlined the fundamental problems of American society and proposed a radical vision for a better future. The statement advocated for participatory democracy and non-violent civil disobedience, emphasizing the importance of individual citizens in shaping social decisions. This manifesto marked the arrival of the New Left in American politics.

During the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Hayden was one of the leaders of the protest organized by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. The protest turned into a riot when the police attempted to break it up. Hayden and six others, known as the ‘Chicago Seven,’ were charged with conspiracy and incitement to riot by the US government. Eventually, all charges were reversed and remanded in an appeal court.

Hayden was also actively involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement. He visited Southeast Asia multiple times during the war and established the Indochina Peace Campaign (IPC) in 1972, which organized public protests against the war. The IPC was active until 1975.


In addition to his activism, Tom Hayden had a career in politics. He was elected five times to the California State Assembly from 1982 to 1992 and held a California State Senate seat for eight years from 1992 to 2000. He ran for mayor of Los Angeles in 1997 but was not successful. Hayden was known for his support of animal rights and introduced the Hayden Act as Senate Bill 1785, which expanded the minimum impound time for pets.

Academia & Writings

Tom Hayden had a strong presence in academia, teaching courses on social movements at Scripps College, Pitzer College, Occidental College, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, and the University of California. He also had a successful career as an author, with notable works such as ‘The Port Huron Statement’ (1962), ‘The Other Side’ (1966), ‘Reunion: A Memoir’ (1988), ‘The Zapatista Reader’ (2002), and ‘Hell No: The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement’ (2017).

Family & Personal Life

Tom Hayden was married three times. His first wife was civil rights activist Sandra “Casey” Cason, whom he married in 1961. They divorced a year later. In 1973, Hayden married actress and social activist Jane Fonda, with whom he had a son named Troy Garity. They also informally adopted social activist Mary Williams in 1982. Hayden and Fonda divorced in 1990. His third wife was actress Barbara Williams, and they adopted a son named Liam together in 2000.

Tom Hayden passed away on October 23, 2016, in Santa Monica, California, after a prolonged illness. He was 76 years old at the time. In the 2000 biographical drama ‘Steal This Movie,’ his son Troy portrayed him on screen.

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