Allard Lowenstein
File:AllardLowenstein (cropped).jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1971
Preceded by Herbert Tenzer
Succeeded by Norman F. Lent
Personal details
Born (1929-01-16)January 16, 1929
Newark, New Jersey
Died March 14, 1980(1980-03-14) (aged 51)
New York City
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jennifer Lyman
Children Frank, Thomas, Katherine

Allard Kenneth Lowenstein, (January 16, 1929 – March 14, 1980[1][2]), was a liberal Democratic politician, a one-term congressman representing the 5th District in Nassau County, New York from 1969 until 1971. His work on civil rights and the antiwar movement has been cited as an inspiration by public figures including U.S. Congress members John Kerry, Donald W. Riegle, Jr. and Barney Frank, California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, columnist William F. Buckley, Jr.,[3] actor Warren Beatty,[4] White House Counsel under President Obama Gregory Craig[5], former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green and musician-songwriters Peter Yarrow and Harry Chapin.[6]

Early life and start of career[edit | edit source]

Lowenstein was a graduate of Horace Mann School in New York City[7] and of the University of North Carolina.[2] As an undergraduate, he was president of the National Student Association and the Dialectic Society.[2] Lowenstein received a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1954.[2]

After completing his law degree Lowenstein became a college professor and administrator, holding posts at Stanford University, North Carolina State University, and City College of New York.[8]

Political activism[edit | edit source]

Early public service[edit | edit source]

In 1949 Lowenstein worked as a special assistant on the staff of Senator Frank Porter Graham[9] and he was a foreign policy assistant on Senator Hubert H. Humphrey's staff in 1959.[10]

South Africa and national politics[edit | edit source]

In 1959, Lowenstein made a clandestine tour of South-West Africa, now Namibia. While he was there, he collected testimony against the South African controlled government (South-West Africa was a United Nations Trust Territory). After his return, he spent a year promoting his findings to various student organizations, then wrote a book, A Brutal Mandate, with an introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt, with whom he had worked in 1957 at the American Association for the United Nations.

In 1960 Lowenstein was a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention.[8]


Allard Lowenstein at congressional race fundraiser, August 29, 1976

"Dump Johnson" movement and 1968 presidential race[edit | edit source]

Along with Curtis Gans in 1967, and later that fall joined by Wisconsin's Midge Miller, Lowenstein started the "Dump Johnson" movement, approaching Senators Robert F. Kennedy and, at Kennedy's suggestion, George McGovern about challenging President Johnson in the 1968 Democratic primaries. When Kennedy and McGovern both declined, Lowenstein, a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, recruited and worked for Eugene McCarthy, whose candidacy he remained loyal to even after Kennedy's late entry into the race (before Johnson bowed out). Johnson's withdrawal from the presidential nomination process has been attributed to the impact of the "Dump Johnson" movement, culminating in the historical precedent of McCarthy's strong showing against Johnson in the New Hampshire Primary.[11][12]

Election to Congress[edit | edit source]

Lowenstein was elected to Congress in Long Island, New York in 1968, but was defeated in a modified district in 1970 by New York State Senator Norman F. Lent by 9,300 votes, effectively gerrymandered out of office by the Republican-controlled State legislature, which determined the district's boundaries. Long Island's generally liberal Five Towns region had been removed from the district, and the far more conservative Massapequa added. Lowenstein captured 46% of the vote in the new district.

ADA leadership, "Dump Nixon" movement and Nixon Enemies List[edit | edit source]

The 1970 election was viewed nationwide as a referendum on President Richard Nixon's conduct of the Vietnam War.[13] In 1971, Lowenstein became head of the Americans for Democratic Action and spearheaded the "Dump Nixon" movement, earning himself the number 7 spot on Nixon's Enemies List.

Campaigns for Congress[edit | edit source]

In 1972, Lowenstein ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Brooklyn against Congressman John J. Rooney, a conservative Democrat supported by the party "machine", in the Democratic Primary. After Rooney's victory was challenged and the election recalled due to allegations of fraud, Rooney narrowly won the rescheduled primary, but Lowenstein continued in the race on the Liberal Party line, finishing with 28% of the vote.

After an abortive 1974 U.S. Senate bid, Lowenstein unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Republican Congressman John Wydler in a largely Republican district in Long Island in 1974 and 1976, receiving crucial support and endorsements from some local conservative Republicans as well as conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. His 52% to 48% defeat in 1974 was the strongest showing of any Democrat in that Congressional district to date, the latter largely attributed to Nixon's recent resignation, the Watergate scandal and Lowenstein's national reputation.

Robert F. Kennedy assassination[edit | edit source]

Lowenstein was one of the most vocal critics of the unwillingness of Los Angeles and Federal authorities to reopen the investigation into the June 6, 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Lowenstein's one-hour appearance on the PBS television show Firing Line in 1975, where he was interviewed by William F. Buckley Jr., was one of the first times the American public were shown that many elements of ballistic and forensic evidence were radically at odds with eyewitness testimony and the assumption that Sirhan Sirhan alone had shot Senator Kennedy.

United Nations appointment and final campaign for Congress[edit | edit source]

President Carter appointed Lowenstein as United States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and thus head the United States delegation to the thirty-third regular annual session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1977.[14] Lowenstein served with the rank of ambassador from August 1977 to June 1978 in the capacity of alternate United States Representative for Special Political Affairs to the United Nations.

In 1978 he resigned his U.N. post to run for Congress in New York City, narrowly losing the Democratic primary.

Family[edit | edit source]

Lowenstein was married to Jennifer Lowenstein (née Lyman, now Littlefield) from 1966 to 1977 and the two had three children: Frank Graham, Thomas Kennedy, and Katharine Eleanor. Their children ultimately pursued careers in public service.

Death[edit | edit source]

Lowenstein was murdered in his Manhattan office on March 14, 1980, at age 51 by a mentally ill gunman, Dennis Sweeney.

Lowenstein was well known for his ability to attract energetic young volunteers for his political causes. In the mid-1960s, he briefly served as dean of Stern Hall, then a men's dormitory at Stanford University, during which time he met and befriended undergraduate students David Harris and Sweeney. Over a decade later, in 1980, Lowenstein was shot in New York City by Sweeney, now mentally ill and convinced that Lowenstein was plotting against him; Sweeney subsequently turned himself in to the police. Lowenstein, Sweeney, and the shooting are discussed in Harris's autobiographical book Dreams Die Hard as well as in Richard Cummings's biography of Lowenstein, "The Pied Piper."

Sweeney was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to full-time psychiatric treatment for schizophrenia. By 1992, Sweeney was on 16-hour-a-day furloughs. Members of the Lowenstein family, who had opposed prosecutorial plans to seek a sentence of death for Sweeney, expressed grave concern about the supervision Sweeney would receive and anger that a murderer was being given such privileges.

Later, two of Lowenstein's children (Thomas and Kate) would go on to work in the death penalty abolition movement. Kate Lowenstein served as the Executive Director of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation.[15]

At his funeral in New York City on March 18, 1980, eulogies were delivered at his family's request by William F. Buckley, Jr. and Senator Edward M. Kennedy.[16][17]

A veteran of the United States Army, Lowenstein is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[1]

Honors and memorials[edit | edit source]

Hofstra University established the Allard K. Lowenstein Civil Rights Scholarship in 2007.

Yale Law School also has several programs named in honor of Lowenstein. The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Project was founded in 1981 shortly after Lowenstein's death to honor his contributions in the field of human rights and provide law students with a vehicle to continue his work. The Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic, an outgrowth of the Project, is a clinical course in which law students participate in legal and advocacy research and writing projects for academic credit.

Lowenstein's papers are held as a special collection of the Long Beach (New York) Public Library and offer much material relative to his activities and his times. The Long Beach, NY Public Library is also named after Lowenstein since the 1980s.

An area adjacent to the United Nations headquarters in New York City is named Allard K. Lowenstein Square.

In 1983, the documentary film Citizen: The Political Life of Allard K. Lowenstein was produced by Brogan De Paor, Mike Farrell and Julie Thompson and directed by Thompson.[18][19] It was broadcasted on PBS Television in 1984.[20]

Folk singer Harry Chapin dedicated his song Remember When the Music to Lowenstein as part of the live introduction to the song on the album "Bottom Line Encore Series: Harry Chapin".

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Lowenstein's gravestone, Arlington National Cemetery; photo online on the cemetery's official website. Accessed online 28 October 2006.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Biography of Allard K. Lowenstein, Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic, Yale University. Accessed online 28 October 2006.
  3. "Allard Lowenstein on Firing Line: A Retrospective", summary on the site of the Hoover Institution Archives: Firing Line Television Program, Stanford University, accessed 28 October 2006.
  4. Warren Beatty Speech Upon Being Honored by Southern California Americans for Democratic Action at the Eleanor Roosevelt Annual Awards Dinner, Beverly Hilton Hotel, September 29, 1999. Accessed 28 October 2006.
  5. "Crisis Quarterback: Gregory Craig Is Calling the Plays On Clinton's Team",[1]
  6. Re: song title, posting on Harry Chapin Archive forum. Accessed online 28 October 2006.
  7. American Students Organize: Founding the National Student Association After World War II, by Eugene G. Schwartz, 2006, page 285
  8. 8.0 8.1 Official Congressional Biography, Allard Kenneth Lowenstein, published by Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, accessed March 26, 2011
  9. Allard Lowenstein: Silhouette, by Sanford J. Ungar, The Harvard Crimson, January 17, 1964
  10. Biography, Allard K. Lowenstein, Yale Law School web site, accessed March 26, 2011
  11. Lowenstein: The Making of a Liberal 1968: Catalyst for McCarthy, by Robert M. Krim, The Harvard Crimson, January 8, 1968
  12. Magazine article, Coalition Against the Humphrey Steamroller, by William A. McWhirter, LIFE Magazine, July 12, 1968
  13. William Chafe, author of Never Stop Running: Allard Lowenstein and the Struggle to Save American Liberalism, interviewed January 30, 1994 on C-SPAN's Booknotes. Transcript online accessed online 30 December 2011.
  14. "LOWENSTEIN, Allard Kenneth - Biographical Information". Retrieved 2010-11-20. 
  15. [2][dead link]
  16. Firing Line, "Allard Lowenstein: A Retrospective", Episode #415, May 18, 1980
  17. Buckley, Jr., William F., On The Firing Line: The Public Life of Our Public Figures, 1988, pp. 423,433-434.
  18. IMBd, Citizen: The Political Life of Allard K. Lowenstein (1983)
  19. Activist Video Archive, The Filmmakers: Julie M. Thompson
  20. Activist Video Archive, The Filmmakers: Julie M. Thompson

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Herbert Tenzer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Norman F. Lent

de:Allard K. Lowenstein

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