Nat Hentoff has died. As the New York Times reports,
“Nat Hentoff, the author, journalist, jazz critic and civil libertarian who called himself a troublemaker and proved it with a shelf of books and a mountain of essays on free speech, wayward politics, elegant riffs and the sweet harmonies of the Constitution, died on Saturday.”
He came to my campus while I was a college student and was shrieked at by a number of students, but he stood his ground even when a large rugby playing woman marched onto the stage and seized a piece of chalk to inscribe her outrage on the chalk board behind him. After she left, too enraged to even speak, Nat Hentoff continued peaceably with his talk on the injustice of abortion and his opposition to laws in its favor.
I worked for a time at the Human Life Review, which would frequently reprint Hentoff’s columns from The Village Voice in its Appendices section. Hentoff worked with the Review to put together a collection of his syndicated columns that appeared in the journal from 1984 to 2005, Insisting on Life. And they awarded him the “Great Defender of Life” award in 2005. He was an unlikely friend of John Cardinal O’Connor, the archbishop of New York, who quipped that he did not want to convert Hentoff, since a atheist pro-life Jew was too valuable a hook to get people to look at pro-life arguments.
May he rest in peace.