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Former ’60s Radical Abbie Hoffman Found Dead

April 13, 1989

NEW HOPE, Pa. (AP) _ Abbie Hoffman, the 1960s radical who inspired one generation and outraged another in the troubled days of protest and Yippie pranks, has died at his home.

He was 52.

Hoffman, who was a defendant at the Chicago Seven antiwar conspiracy trial and wrote books such as ″Revolution for the Hell of It″ and ″Steal This Book,″ was found dead in his home Wednesday evening, said Solebury Township Police Chief Richard Mangan.

He was fully dressed and under the covers of his bed.

Michael Waldron, Hoffman’s landlord and neighbor, found him and told police Hoffman had been depressed about an auto accident in which he suffered a broken leg last June.

But Mangan said no evidence suggested suicide. An autopsy is planned for this afternoon or tonight, the coroner’s office said.

Waldron said he went to the two-bedroom apartment after a friend of Hoffman’s, Joanna Lawrenson, asked him to check because she had not been able to contact Hoffman by telephone.

He said he looked trough a bedroom window and saw Hoffman in bed, but he couldn’t wake him by tapping on the window. ″I went back to my house and got my key and opened the door and found him, dead in bed, looking peaceful and comfortable,″ Waldron said.

Hoffman’s death shocked those who knew him.

″Oh, God. I’m stunned. He was brilliant,″ Dr. Timothy Leary said. The LSD guru then added he needed time to collect his thoughts before he could comment further.

″Abbie Hoffman was an American legend,″ Leary said later.

Gerald B. Lefcourt, Hoffman’s long-time attorney, remembered him as a humorous man devoted to correcting what was wrong with society.

″He threw money on the (American) stock exchange floor in the late ’60s and was able to show in that satirical event, when hundreds of people on the stock exchange on Wall Street chased flying money on the floor, how silly it all was,″ Lefcourt said from his New York City home.

″It’s the end of an era,″ said Hoffman’s 49-year-old brother, Jack, from his Framingham, Mass., home.

″He was 52 years old and I think he gave up. ... Maybe he was tired. I know he was disappointed in the young people of today. He didn’t feel he was getting through to them. He was disenchanted.″

Just last week, Hoffman, who criticized college campuses in recent years as ″bastions of rest,″ told a Vanderbilt University audience that he was saddened by the interest today’s young people have in the 1960s.

″Nostalgia is a sign of middle-age,″ he told them during an appearance with Leary. ″We’re reminiscing about our youth. When you see young people nostalgic for a youth they didn’t even experience, it’s a little sad. They’re supposed to be out making one for themselves.″

Hoffman was writing a book when he died, said his publisher, John Oakes.

″He was somebody who stayed true to what he believed in unlike so many of his contemporaries who sold out and became just what they detested when they were 20 years old,″ said Oakes.

A native of Worcester, Mass., Hoffman rose to prominence with the Chicago Seven, a group of radicals who stood trial on charges of conspiring to disrupt the bloody 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

The others were Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Reynard C. Davis, Lee Weiner and John Froines.

The 4 1/2 -month-long federal trial’s theatrics featured wild-haired defendants and a 74-year-old judge, Julius Hoffman, who ordered Bobby Seale, a former Black Panther leader, bound and gagged in the courtroom. Seale’s trial later was severed from the others.

Hoffman and four others also were charged with crossing state lines with intent to riot. They were acquitted of conspiracy but convicted of the second charge. The convictions eventually were overturned.

During a reunion of the Chicago Seven last year, Hoffman characterized himself as ″an American dissident.″

″I don’t think my goals have changed since I was 4 and I fought schoolyard bullies,″ said Hoffman.

Two years ago, he was arrested for the 42nd time while protesting CIA recruitment at the University of Massachusetts. Hoffman, Amy Carter, daughter of former President Carter, and 13 others eventually were acquitted of trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Hoffman, whose given name was Abbott, was born Nov. 30, 1936.

His activist roots can be traced to Worcester, where in the early ’60s he was a chairman of the Friends of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and vice chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality.

He started the loosely organized Yippie movement, or Youth International Party, in 1968 to bring together radicals to protest the government and the Vietnam War.

Hoffman went underground in 1974 to avoid trial on cocaine possession charges. He emerged nearly seven years later and revealed he had lived in upstate New York and had undergone plastic surgery.

He moved to this Philadelphia suburb several years ago during the height of a losing battle against a Delaware River pumping station.

Jack Hoffman arrived here this morning and spoke to reporters on the lawn in front of his brother’s home. He said his brother summed up his reason for living best when he once said: ″There is absolutely no greater high than challenging the power structure as a nobody, giving it your all and winning.″

Hoffman is also survived by his mother, Florence, and three children.

Jack Hoffman said no funeral arrangements have been made yet. But he said his brother believed strongly in cremation.

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