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Allard Kenneth Lowenstein, (January 16, 1929 – March 14, 1980), was a liberal Democratic politician, a one-term congressman representing the 5th District in Nassau County, New Yorkmarker from 1969 until 1971. His work on civil rights and the antiwar movement has been cited as an inspiration by public figures including Congressmen John Kerry, Donald W. Riegle, Jr., Barney Frank, California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., actor Warren Beatty,, White House Counsel under President Obama Gregory Craig and songwriter Harry Chapin.

Political activism

Lowenstein was a graduate of Horace Mann Schoolmarker in New York Citymarker and of the University of North Carolinamarker. As an undergraduate, he was president of the National Student Association. Lowenstein received a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1954.

In 1959, Lowenstein made a clandestine tour of South-West Africa, now Namibiamarker. 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.

Allard Lowenstein at congressional race fundraiser, August 29, 1976

Along with Curtis Gans in 1967, and later that fall joined by Wisconsin's Midge Miller, Lowenstein started the Dump Johnson movement and approached Robert F. Kennedy about challenging President Johnson in the 1968 Democratic primaries. Lowenstein was himself elected to Congress in 1968, but was defeated in 1970 by New York State Senator Norman F. Lent by 9,300 votes. The 1970 election was viewed nationwide as a referendum on President Richard Nixon's conduct of the Vietnam War. Lowenstein ran anyway in a new district in 1970, capturing a respectable 46% of the vote. In 1971, Lowenstein became head of the Americans for Democratic Action, and also spearheaded the Dump Nixon movement, earning himself a place on Nixon's Enemies List. In 1972, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Brooklynmarker against Congressman John J. Rooney, a conservative Democrat. Rooney narrowly won the 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 1974 and 1976.

Lowenstein was one of the most vocal critics of the unwillingness of Los Angeles and Federal authorities to reopen the investigation into the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy. Lowenstein's one hour appearance on the PBS television show Firing Line in 1975, where he was interviewed by conservative 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.

President Carter appointed Lowenstein to 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. 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 to run for Congress again, narrowly losing the Democratic primary.

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.


Lowenstein was murdered in his Manhattanmarker office on March 14, 1980, at age 51 by a deranged 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 Universitymarker, 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 Citymarker 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.

Lowenstein is the last current or former United States congressman to be murdered.

A veteran of the United States Army, Lowenstein is buried in Arlington National Cemeterymarker.

The one time Long Island congressman had a scholarship set up- the Allard K. Lowenstein Civil Rights Scholarship- in his name by Hofstra University 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 to 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.

See also


  1. Lowenstein's gravestone, Arlington National Cemetery; photo online on the cemetery's official website. Accessed online 28 October 2006.
  2. 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. 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 28 October 2006.


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