Allard K. Lowenstein

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Allard Lowenstein
Allard K. Lowenstein.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1971
Preceded byHerbert Tenzer
Succeeded byNorman F. Lent
Personal details
Allard Kenneth Lowenstein

(1929-01-16)January 16, 1929
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedMarch 14, 1980(1980-03-14) (aged 51)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Jennifer Lyman
EducationUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (BA)
Yale University (LLB)

Allard Kenneth Lowenstein (January 16, 1929 – March 14, 1980)[1][2] was an American Democratic politician who served as the U.S. representative for the 5th congressional district in Nassau County, New York, for one term from 1969 to 1971.

Early life and start of career[edit]

Lowenstein was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants Gabriel Lowenstein and Augusta Goldberg Lowenstein.[3][4] Lowenstein had two older brothers, Bert and Larry. His mother died from breast cancer when he was very young, and his father remarried soon after.[3] Lowenstein was a graduate of the Horace Mann School in New York City[5] 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 served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956, then became a college professor and administrator, holding posts at Stanford University, North Carolina State University, and City College of New York.[6]

Political activism[edit]

Early public service[edit]

In 1949 Lowenstein worked as a special assistant on the staff of Senator Frank Porter Graham[7] and was a foreign policy assistant on Senator Hubert H. Humphrey's staff in 1959.[8] In the 1960s Lowenstein spent time in Mississippi as part of the Freedom Summer, and an interview of Lowenstein was featured in episode 5 of the Civil Rights Movement documentary Eyes on the Prize.[9]

South Africa and national politics[edit]

Allard Lowenstein at congressional race fundraiser, August 29, 1976

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 and 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.[6]

In 1964, he attended the 1964 Republican National Convention[citation needed] with his close friend and Congressional colleague[10] Donald Rumsfeld.

In 1966 he helped Senator Robert F. Kennedy in writing his famous Day of Affirmation Address, given to the National Union of South African Students at the University of Cape Town.[11]

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

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, to whose candidacy he remained loyal, 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.[12][13]

Election to Congress[edit]

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]

The 1970 election was viewed nationwide as a referendum on President Richard Nixon's conduct of the Vietnam War.[14] 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]

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, largely attributed to Nixon's recent resignation, the Watergate scandal and Lowenstein's national reputation.

Robert F. Kennedy assassination[edit]

External audio
audio icon Allard Lowenstein speaking at UCLA (Apr. 7, 1969)

Lowenstein was one of the first public figures to cast doubt upon the official account of the June 6, 1968, assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Lowenstein made a one-hour appearance on the PBS television show Firing Line in 1975, where he was interviewed by William F. Buckley Jr., in which he stated that he did not believe that Sirhan Sirhan alone had shot Kennedy.[15]

United Nations appointment and final campaign for Congress[edit]

President Carter appointed Lowenstein as United States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and thus head of the United States delegation to the thirty-third regular annual session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1977.[16] 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 Manhattan's "Silk Stocking District", narrowly losing the Democratic primary to Carter Burden, who in turn lost the general election to Republican S. William Green.

Associations with conservatives[edit]

Lowenstein was a close friend of conservative commentator William F. Buckley, Jr., who featured Lowenstein on numerous Firing Line programs, publicly endorsed his candidacies for U.S. Congress, and delivered a eulogy at his funeral.[17][18]

Lowenstein reportedly was Republican Donald Rumsfeld's "best friend in Congress" during Lowenstein's term of office, the two having become good friends while serving as Congressional aides in the late 1950s. Despite their party and ideological differences, Rumsfeld joined Lowenstein on the victory platform upon Lowenstein's election to Congress in 1968. In 1970, Rumsfeld publicly defended Lowenstein against his Republican opponent's attacks, only to recant and endorse the opponent, Norman Lent, under pressure from the Nassau County (Long Island) Republican organization and Nixon White House. Rumsfeld's public reversal contributed to Lowenstein's reelection defeat and the end of their friendship.[10]

Lowenstein's subsequent campaigns for Congress from Long Island against Republican incumbent John Wydler in a largely Republican district were significantly aided by active, public support from several local conservative Republicans.


Lowenstein was married to Jennifer Lowenstein (née Lyman, now Littlefield) from 1966 to 1977, when they divorced, and the two had three children: Frank Graham, Thomas Kennedy, and Katharine Eleanor.[19]

Katharine Lowenstein is a victims rights attorney and juvenile justice advocate.[20][21] Thomas Lowenstein founded and directs the New Orleans Journalism Project, and has worked with the New Orleans Innocence Project.[22] He is author of "The Trials of Walter Ogrod."[23] Frank Lowenstein is the U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State.[24]


Lowenstein's grave at Arlington National Cemetery

Lowenstein was known for his ability to attract energetic young volunteers for his political causes. In the early 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 including David Harris and Dennis Sweeney.

On March 14, 1980, Lowenstein was shot in his Manhattan office by Sweeney, who was mentally ill and believed that Lowenstein was plotting against him. Sweeney then calmly waited for the police to arrive.

At Lowenstein's funeral in New York City on March 18, 1980, eulogies were delivered by William F. Buckley, Jr. and Senator Edward M. Kennedy.[17][25] Lowenstein is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[1]

Sweeney was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to full-time psychiatric treatment for schizophrenia. In 2000, a judge found that Sweeney was no longer a danger to society and granted him a conditional release.[26]

Honors and memorials[edit]

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,[27] 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, New York Public Library is also named after Lowenstein (since the 1980s).

In 1980, Lowenstein received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[28]

In 1980 singer/songwriter Harry Chapin, a personal friend of Lowenstein's, wrote his song "Remember When the Music"[29] after hearing the news of Lowenstein's death. On his posthumous live album The Bottom Line Encore Collection, Chapin dedicated the song to Lowenstein and John Lennon, who also died in 1980.

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.[30][31] It was broadcast on PBS Television in 1984.[31]

In popular culture[edit]

Lowenstein was portrayed by Brent Spiner in the 1984 television miniseries Robert Kennedy and His Times, based on the book by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lowenstein's gravestone, Arlington National Cemetery; photo online on the cemetery's official website. Accessed online 28 October 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d Biography of Allard K. Lowenstein, Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic, Yale University. Accessed online 28 October 2006.
  3. ^ a b Chafe, William (1993). Never Stop Running: Allard Lowenstein and the Struggle to Save American Liberalism. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 9780465001033.
  4. ^ Hertzberg, Hendrick (October 10, 1985). "The Second Assassination of Al Lowenstein". New York Review of Books. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  5. ^ American Students Organize: Founding the National Student Association After World War II, by Eugene G. Schwartz, 2006, page 285
  6. ^ a b Official Congressional Biography, Allard Kenneth Lowenstein, published by Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, accessed March 26, 2011
  7. ^ Allard Lowenstein: Silhouette, by Sanford J. Ungar, The Harvard Crimson, January 17, 1964,
  8. ^ Biography, Allard K. Lowenstein, Yale Law School web site, accessed March 26, 2011
  9. ^ Biography, Allard K. Lowenstein, Yale Law School web site, accessed January 1, 2014
  10. ^ a b Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party, Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 322
  11. ^ Halberstam, David (5 March 2013). The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy. Open Road Media. ISBN 9781480405899.
  12. ^ Lowenstein: The Making of a Liberal 1968: Catalyst for McCarthy, by Robert M. Krim, The Harvard Crimson, January 8, 1968
  13. ^ Magazine article, Coalition Against the Humphrey Steamroller, by William A. McWhirter, LIFE Magazine, July 12, 1968
  14. ^ 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 Archived 2011-11-15 at the Wayback Machine accessed online 30 December 2011.
  15. ^ "Who Killed Bobby Kennedy?" (Full transcript). Episode 181 (Apr. 11, 1975). Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. Archived. — via Hoover Institution.
  16. ^ "LOWENSTEIN, Allard Kenneth - Biographical Information". Retrieved 2010-11-20.
  17. ^ a b Firing Line, "Allard Lowenstein: A Retrospective", Episode #415 Archived November 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, May 18, 1980
  18. ^ Buckley, Jr., William F., On The Firing Line: The Public Life of Our Public Figures, 1988, pp. 423–34.
  19. ^ Kaiser, Robert (March 15, 1980). "Ex-Rep. Lowenstein Fatally Shot By Gunman in N.Y. Law Office". Washington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  20. ^ "Beyond the Death Penalty: A Conversation with Family Members of Murder Victims". The Tip Sheet. Retrieved 2018-03-31.
  21. ^ "Forgiving the Murderer : Rolling Stone". 2007-10-10. Archived from the original on 2007-10-10. Retrieved 2018-03-31.
  22. ^ "Lowenstein, Thomas | Chicago Review Press". Retrieved 2018-03-31..
  23. ^ Bunch, Will. "Walter Ogrod: A death row inmate and a murder victim's son's 16-year quest for justice | Will Bunch". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  24. ^ "Lowenstein, Frank". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2018-03-31.
  25. ^ Buckley, Jr., William F., On The Firing Line: The Public Life of Our Public Figures, 1988, pp. 423,433-434.
  26. ^ Blaine Harden and Nina Bernstein, Legally Insane/A special report; Voices in His Head Muted, A Killer Rejoins the World, The New York Times (July 31, 2000). Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  27. ^ "Central Authentication Service | Yale University".
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2013-08-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "The Harry Chapin Archive at". Retrieved 2018-03-31.
  30. ^ IMBd, Citizen: The Political Life of Allard K. Lowenstein (1983)
  31. ^ a b Activist Video Archive, The Filmmakers: Julie M. Thompson Archived 2013-07-10 at the Wayback Machine


External links[edit]

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

Succeeded by