Allard K. Lowenstein

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Allard Kenneth Lowenstein

Birthdate: (51)
Death: March 14, 1980 (51)
Manhatten, NY ( Shot to death)
Place of Burial: Arlington, Arlington, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Gabriel Abraham Lowenstein and Augusta Lowenstein
Ex-husband of Jennifer Lowenstein
Father of <private> Lowenstein; Thomas Kennedy Lowenstein and Katherine Eleanor Lowenstein

Managed by: Private User
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About Allard K. Lowenstein

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 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, Bill Bradley, Gary Hart, Donald W. Riegle, Jr. and Barney Frank, California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., actor Warren Beatty, White House Counsel under President Obama Gregory Craig, former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green and musician-songwriters Peter Yarrow and Harry Chapin.

Early life and start of career

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

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.

Political activism

Early public service

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

South Africa and national politics

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.

"Dump Johnson" movement and 1968 presidential race

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.

Election to Congress

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

The 1970 election was viewed nationwide as a referendum on President Richard Nixon's conduct of the Vietnam War. 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

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

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

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. 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.


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.


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.

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.

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

Honors and memorials

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. It was broadcasted on PBS Television in 1984.

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".

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Allard K. Lowenstein's Timeline

January 16, 1929
March 14, 1980
Age 51
Manhatten, NY
Arlington, Arlington, Virginia, United States