I was saddened to learn of the death of Tom Hayden yesterday morning. I read a lot of his writings in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and was especially affected by The Port Huron Statement, a manifesto for the New Left and one of the most important political documents of the times, which was largely written by Tom. I talked to Tom once at an airport when he was working on Jerry Brown’s campaign for President. A few years later I wrote him to ask some organizational questions about his LA-based group, Campaign for Economic Democracy, and he wrote back and answered them.
About ten years ago I was asked to give a lecture on “Students in the Sixties” for a history course at USC. I grabbed my old copy of The Port Huron Statement and, after leaving work around 5:30, walked across the street to the old Figueroa Hotel, where I often sat at a little table in the mezzanine overlooking the hotel lobby, next to the bar, and wrote. No one was there, so it was very quiet. I started re-reading the Port Huron Statement and began writing my lecture.
After about an hour, I heard someone walking up the steps. I heard a voice ask, “Is the bar open up here?”
“No,” I replied. “It’s only open up here when the large bar downstairs is rented for a private party.”
“Ok, thanks,” he responded. I glanced in his direction, and imagine my surprise!
“Tom, come here! Take a look at what I’m reading! What a coincidence!”
He came over and we laughed. He said, “C’mon downstairs and let me buy you a beer.”
I agreed and we had a good chat for about 45 minutes, mostly sharing old war stories (or I should say, old anti-war stories).
Then Tom said, “Come out to my car for a minute,” and I followed. He opened the trunk and took out two of his latest books and handed them to me. “Just like the old times,” I said. “Handing out political tracts from the trunks of our cars.” He laughed, shook my hand, and we said our goodbyes.
I never saw him again.