Nat Hentoff was a ferocious champion of the First Amendment.
The political activist, journalist, author, jazz affecionado, pro-life
advocate, atheist, and liberal who often found common ground with
conservatives and libertarians, believed strongly in the right to
express oneself, no matter how unpopular, controversial, and
provocative one's opinions were. Hentoff defended people from
both sides of the political spectrum, pleasantly surprising and edifying
those on the right while confounding and dismaying those on the left.
A man of many talents, as well as many passions, Hentoff was
a true Renaissance Man in the realms of politics and the arts.
During his long life and career, Hentoff received many awards for
his work and his advocacy of civil liberties. Among the awards he
garnered were the American Bar Association (ABA) Silver Gavel
for his coverage of the law and criminal justice in his columns. He
was a columnist and was for over 50 years a staff writer of the
very left-wing newspaper The Village Voice. A firm opponent of
the death penalty, Hentoff was also vociferously opposed to abortion
on demand, further confounding as well as angering many on the left.
Hentoff stood for civil rights for all, regardless of color, creed, gender,
sexual orientation, already born or waiting to be born, with neither
compromise nor apology.
Hentoff was also on the advisory board of the Foundation for Individual
Rights in Education (FIRE), advocating for First Amendment rights
for students battling political correctness-grounded speech codes on
campuses. He could not abide even the slightest restriction on speech
in our society, and detested censorship of both the spoken and the
written word, making many friends as well as enemies on both sides
of the political spectrum. But whether one loved Nat Hentoff or
loathed him, one couldn't help but him for his scholarliness, his
determination, his rigorous examination of all of the facts, and his
balanced solutions to the disputes which he weighed in on.
Just a few days into 2017, Nat Hentoff took his rest from his tireless
advocational work which he dedicated most of his 91 years to. Rest
in peace, Nat, and may you receive a most pleasant surprise upon
having shed this mortal coil!