Tom Hayden: From SDS and Viet Cong to Progressives for Obama

Tom Hayden, the Vietnam War protester and SDS founder, died this past weekend at age 76.

Hayden’s journey was in many ways tragic. Born December 1939 in the Detroit suburbs, he was not, unlike many radical leaders, a red-diaper baby. His parents were Irish Catholics who named him after St. Thomas Aquinas and sent him to Catholic school. His father was a Marine who worked for Chrysler, and an abusive drunk. Hayden’s parents had a rocky marriage and divorced when he was a boy, which affected him terribly. Hayden’s friend and ex-radical, David Horowitz, observed that Hayden harbored what Irving Howe once described as an “obscure personal rage,” possibly from his estrangement from his father. “Tom was indeed an angry man,” wrote Horowitz, “who seemed in perpetual search of enemies.”