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Is The Trial of Chicago 7’s Tom Hayden Based on a Real Person? How Did He Die?

October 16, 2020
4 min read

‘The Trial of Chicago 7’ is a movie that is as relevant today as it would have been in the 60s. After protestors against the Vietnam War show up at the site of the National Democratic Convention and riots break out, 8 men are tried for conspiracy to incite a riot. This includes Tom Hayden, who is brought to life by Eddie Redmayne. If you wish to learn more about him, then this article is for you. 

Is The Trial of Chicago 7’s Tom Hayden Based on a Real Person?

Yes, Tom Hayden was a very real and prominent activist of the 60s. He was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, on December 11, 1939, and his father was a former Marine who worked for Chrysler. But he was also an alcoholic who walked out of Tom’s life when he was just 10. Growing up, the future activist slowly disassociated with the Catholic side of his identity. He attended the University of Michigan, where he was also the editor of the student newspaper called Michigan Daily. It was at this point in his life where he joined the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an organization that eventually came to be associated with the New Left ideas of the 1960s. 

Image Credit: ABC News, YouTube

As a member of the organization that he would one day lead, Tom Hayden was active in the South during the era of the Civil Rights Movements. He authored ‘The Port Huron Statement’ in 1962, a document that played a huge role in attracting thousands of young people towards the liberal philosophy. He also actively protested against America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, which is how he ended up a part of the Chicago 8. (They only became the Chicago 7 after Bobby Seale’s trial was separated). 

The trial started in 1969 and it was, undoubtedly, one of the most volatile ones in the history of the country. Many sources corroborate to the fact that Judge Julius Hoffman was already biased towards the defendants from the get-go. With encouragement from their legal counsel, the Chicago 8 would often call out the judge’s prejudicial behavior. In one instance, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin (who were also on trial) wore judicial robes to the court. They took it off when asked, only to reveal a Chicago PD uniform underneath it. 

Eventually, the Chicago 7 were acquitted on charges of conspiracy, but 5 of them, including Tom, were found guilty of crossing state lines to incite a riot. For this, they were sentenced to 5 years in prison with a $5,000 fine. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed this decision and ordered a new trial, which was never conducted. 

Image Credit: AP Archive, YouTube

Tom Hayden continued being his activism even after the extremely public trial ended. He also got involved with politics and was elected to the California State Assembly in 1982, a position he held for 10 years. Apart from this, he was also a part of the State Senate from 1992 to 2000. Although he ran for Governor in 1994 and Mayor of Los Angeles in 1997, he did not win. However, he still had a lucrative career where he brought about many reforms for the underrepresented and underprivileged. 

When it came to his personal life, Tom was first married to Sandra Cason. Then, a decade later, in 1973, he tied the knot with actress and fellow activist Jane Fonda, with whom he also had a son: Troy Garity. The activist couple was quite popular in the 70s for their harrowing documentaries on the Vietnam War. However, they got divorced in 1990. But then, in 1993, Tom married Barbara Williams, and the couple stayed together till his death. They adopted a son named Liam.

How Did Tom Hayden Die?

On the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron statement, Tom Hayden said, “You don’t navigate challenges and remain unchanged. Not that you don’t sometimes yearn to be young again, but you’ll never see the world the way you did when you were truly young.” Tom Hayden passed away on October 23, 2016, following a lengthy illness, when he was 76. He died from complications related to a stroke that he had suffered in 2015. The family was present at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica where he was admitted. 

Image Credit: Democracy Now! YouTube

Read More: Where Was The Trial of Chicago 7 Filmed?

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