‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’: Tom Hayden had a 17-year romance with Jane Fonda before he met Barbara Williams

Married to Fonda for 17 years and later to Williams, his high-profile relationships were often in the spotlight


                            ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’: Tom Hayden had a 17-year romance with Jane Fonda before he met Barbara Williams
Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden (Getty Images)

Aaron Sorkin's film ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ shed light on how eight activists were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot and the defendants faced an unjust judge in one of the most bizarre and momentous trials in American history. Played by ‘The Danish Girl’ and ‘Fantastic Beasts’ fame actor Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hayden was one of the central characters in the film who is shown to be the most political and responsible among the group. 

“If blood is gonna flow, let it flow all over the city,” Hayden says in an intense scene in the film. In real life, he once said, “Our crime was that we were beginning to live a new and contagious lifestyle without official authorization.” A fierce warrior for social justice, his true story is even more fascinating than the snippets of his life shown in the film but it is his love life that will really take away your attention. 

Did you know Hayden was married to actresses like Jane Fonda and Barbara Williams? He once joked his life could be summed up in just four words: “'60s radical Jane Fonda.” Married to Fonda for 17 years and then later Williams until he breathed his last, his high-profile relationships were often in the spotlight. Catch a glimpse of his relationships and secrets from his personal life.

Tom Hayden and Sandra “Casey” Hayden

Sandra Casey Hayden (crmvet.org)

Hayden attended the University of Michigan, where he was editor of the Michigan Daily. At the National Student Association convention in Minneapolis in August 1960, Hayden locked eyes with Casey who got a standing ovation for turning back a motion in the struggle against racial segregation as she said: “I cannot say to a person who suffers injustice, ‘Wait,’ And having decided that I cannot urge caution, I must stand with him.” 

Born as Sandra Casey, she grew up in East Texas and was raised by her single working-mother and grandmother. “Her mother, with a cigarette in hand, would comment on the paper over breakfast, complaining about pay inequality,” an account on her early life reads. She soon got involved with the YWCA, meeting Black students and became a national officer. It was at NSA Congress that she grabbed many eyeballs with her speech and president Alan Haber of the fledgling Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) “scooped her up” on the spot for his group.

Impressed by her “ability to think morally [and] express herself poetically,” Hayden couldn't help but be swayed in her way and followed her into the left-wing grouping. The couple got married in October 1961 but parted ways in 1962. At that time, Casey was a quiet woman who shunned publicity and believed in silent protest. Meanwhile, Hayden had a gift for being in the public eye in connection with many radical causes. Hayden wrote in his book ‘Reunion: A Memoir’, “When I married Casey (my first wife), the threat of war became my excuse to forswear having children. For several years the concept of children had simply been erased, or repressed, from my desires; in the same way, I had separated myself from all conventions of society.”

Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda

Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda

Horrified by US involvement in the Vietnam war, Hayden and Jane Fonda met at an anti-war rally and fell in love. He was 32, she 34, both of them starting over. Married to French Film director Roger Vadim, Fonda was charmed by Hayden and barely three days after her divorce was officially finalized in 1973, Jane walked down the aisle with the activist. 36 at the time, she was pregnant when the couple got hitched in an intimate ceremony at her Los Angeles estate.

In his book ‘Reunion: A Memoir’, he wrote, “It was important that Jane was a woman who could not be eclipsed or diminished in my shadow, and I was a man who was not threatened by her greater fame and power,” adding, “I was a famous radical who was morally and politically skeptical about fame, she was an actress whose career itself depended on public acclaim. We must have appeared like a remake of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, but these differences were more amusing than stressful as we happily came to know each other that summer.” He also penned down how comfortable he was with her daughter Vanessa Vadim. “The first night that Jane and I made love, Vanessa marched out of her bedroom, a 3-year-old inspector and stared at me. I stared back, smiling; here I was starting over in yet another relationship with a young child not my own.”

Just months later, they welcomed their son, Troy Garity. They also later adopted their daughter, Mary Luana William, when she was 15 years old in 1982. The pair enjoyed 17 years of marriage before going their separate ways in 1990. In ‘The Fondas’, Peter Collier speculates Hayden’s alleged womanizing took its toll on the relationship or maybe he got tired of “beauty and the beast” jokes.

Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda with their son Troy Garity (Getty Images)

Much later, in an intervew with Grazia magazine, Fonda said, “My dad was married five times. I didn't know how to make a marriage work... Maybe I was afraid of having a marriage work. I don't know,” adding, “It's beautiful when it works, when people grow together and are together for an entire lifetime. How wonderful. I wish that I could have experienced that.” Hayden and Fonda had been friends even after marriage. 

After his death, she narrated how she organized his memorial along with his wife (at the time) Barbara and her son Troy. She penned down in a blog post, “What a soaring speaker Tom was. He had a non-rhetorical way of putting big new ideas together so that people saw themselves in the narrative. I would watch the audience hanging on his words as he broke their hearts open and then filled them with hope and new understanding,” and added, “He was able to whisper to me the day before he died that seeing people willing to die for their beliefs changed him forever. And it was ‘forever.’ He never stopped trying to make Democracy a reality.”

Tom Hayden and Barbara Williams

Tom Hayden and Barbara Williams (Getty Images)

Hayden tied the knot with his third wife Barbara Williams on August 8, 1993. A Canadian-born American actress, she is known for her roles in ‘Thief of Hearts’, ‘ Oh, What a Night’ and ‘Love Come Down’. Her career began with a chance after a high school teacher cast her in Tennessee Williams’s play, ‘Suddenly Last Summer’. She was most recently seen in Roland Emmerich’s 2013 film ‘White House Down’.

The couple adopted a son, Liam, together in 2000. In 2015, Tom wrote: “My wife Barbara Williams has added a new meaning to the Albert Camus story of Sisyphus, who was condemned to push the rock back up the hill eternally. In her version, in pushing the rock we become stronger, not weaker. The chant ‘Push that rock’ is realism for radicals and reformers today.”  

On October 23, 2016, Hayden died in Santa Monica, California following a long battle with heart diseases. In the next four months, Troy Garity, Fonda and Williams worked together to create a memorial that honored and celebrated Tom’s six decades of commitment to peace, justice and democracy. Along with her Liam and Barbara ended the program by performing her song, ‘Push That Rock’.

​​​​‘​​The Trial of the Chicago 7’ started streaming on Netflix this October 16, 2020.  

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