Tom Hayden was one of the most important radicals of the 1960s, who as a college student at the University of Michigan helped found Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the seminal leftist student activist group. The SDS was the vanguard of the student unrest that characterized the decade of the 1960s.
Thomas Emmet Hayden was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, to Genevieve Isabelle (Garity) and John Francis Hayden, a Marine who worked for Chrysler. He was of Irish ancestry. In 1961, the 21-year-old Hayden co-authored the Port Huron Statement that was the equivalent of the Declaration of Independence for the student radicals and peace activists that were the heart of the New Left. Such an important influence was Hayden on the radicals of the ’60s, he was indicted along with seven other anti-war activists by the federal government for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy to promote riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Although The Chicago 8 (2011) (later the Chicago Seven when Bobby Seale was removed from the case) were convicted, that conviction was overturned. The trail of the Chicago 8/7 was one of the major milestones of the ’60s.
As the tumultuous decade came to a close, Hayden became more heavily involved in anti-war politics, and he created the Indochina Peace Campaign in 1972. Hayden became romantically involved with movie star Jane Fonda, who accompanied Hayden on a trip to North Vietnam in 1974 (she had previously visited the country in 1972). The trip made Fonda infamous as “Hanoi Jane” and she is still hated by many Vietnam veterans. Marriage to Hayden in 1973 was part of Fonda’s life cycle evolution that had begun in the late 1960s, when she abandoned her persona as a professional exhibitionist in such pop pap as Barbarella (1968) and evolved into both a professional actress and professional rabble-rouser, and later a physical fitness/lifestyle mogul.
Fonda’s cash helped finance his political career. While such offices as U.S. Senator and Mayor of Los Angeles eluded him, Hayden was able to get elected to the California State Assembly, first the House in 1982 and then the Senate in 1992, two years after he divorced Fonda. (The couple had a son, Troy Garity, in 1973. An actor like his mother, he played his father in Steal This Movie (2000)).
Hayden established himself as a major figure in progressive politics in the Golden State, focusing on the economic justice, the environment, and animal rights. He is a member of the Progressive Democrats of America, and endorsed Barack Obama in 2008.