[COMM-ORG] Passing of David Hackett

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sat Apr 30 10:19:59 CDT 2011

 [ed: from time to time on COMM-ORG we saddened to note the passing of
those who have made our world a better place, and inspired to learn from
their example.]

From: David Beckwith <dbeckwith at needmorfund.org>

David Hackett was character. He was part of the Kennedy phenomenon – a
prep school hockey player who befriended the new kid, who was Catholic
and not a great student when he arrived at the private school. He was a
do-er, a practical idealist who knew how to get things done. He counted
delegates for John and Bobby; he helped move the War on Poverty from
idea to reality. He started the Youth Policy Institute, where a
generation of young activists learned to pay attention to detail, to
take risks and speak out. A giant has departed.

David Hackett, 84, Youth Advocate and Kennedy Administration Official, Dies.

David Hackett, a national leader in youth advocacy and a key player in
the political lives of both John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, died
Saturday in Rockville , Maryland from complications of vascular disease.
He was 84 and lived in Bethesda , MD since 1962.

>From 1959-1968, Hackett played central roles in the presidential
campaigns of both John and Robert Kennedy – and in Robert Kennedy’s 1964
U.S. Senate campaign in New York . In the Kennedy administration, he
served as Executive Director of the President’s Committee on Juvenile
Delinquency and Youth Crime from 1961-1964. He also led The National
Service Corps in 1962, envisioned as a domestic equivalent of the Peace
Corps, which became the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program.

After leaving government service, Hackett served as Executive Director
of the RFK Memorial 1974-1979, a nonprofit organization focused largely
on anti-poverty and human rights issues and established in the wake of
Robert Kennedy’s death.

In 1979, Hackett founded the Youth Policy Institute, a Washington-based
news and research non-profit addressing youth and education policy. YPI
published a highly regarded national newsletter and trained several
generations of public policy interns.

Hackett came to Washington in 1959 when he was hired to join the
presidential campaign of John Kennedy on the recommendation of Robert
Kennedy. Hackett had befriended the younger Kennedy at Milton Academy in
the 1940s – and their close friendship lasted until Robert Kennedy's
assassination in June 1968.

During the 1960 presidential run, Hackett managed the pre-computer-age
delegate-counting operation known as the “boiler room,” which profiled
and tracked the political preferences of delegates to the democratic
national convention. The operation proved a critical component of the
successful – and razor-thin – victory over Richard Nixon.

Hackett later reprised this role for the 1968 presidential run of Robert

Following John Kennedy’s election, Hackett was appointed Executive
Director of the President’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth
Crime. The community action program that emerged was a groundbreaking
effort to engage poor people themselves in the decision-making process
related to federal government programs meant to help them. It was later
incorporated as Title II of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as part
of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Hackett’s athletic prowess was legendary. His physical skills and
spontaneous personality helped inspire the award-winning novel A
Separate Peace. Written by John Knowles, the best-selling book has been
a staple of high school English classes for more than 40 years.

While at Exeter for the 1942 summer session, and in the shadow of World
War II, Hackett met Knowles. The author later described using Hackett as
the model for the central character of Phineas, who excelled in physical
activities and was an inventive, spontaneous and sympathetic social force.

"He possessed an extra vigor, a heightened confidence in himself, a
serene capacity for affection which saved him,” Knowles wrote of Phineas.

David Low Hackett was born in Dedham MA in 1926. He was the son of
William Henry Young Hackett, a Boston banker, and Louisa Haydock, a
Quaker from Philadelphia .

Hackett was a celebrated New England schoolboy athlete, starring in ice
hockey, football and baseball at Milton Academy . There he met and
befriended Robert Kennedy.

After prep school and a stint in the 11th Airborne Division of the U.S.
Army as a paratrooper during World War II, Hackett used the G.I. Bill to
attend McGill University in Montreal , Canada , an unusual choice for a
Boston-area hockey star. At McGill, he once scored three goals in 48

Hackett went on to be selected for two U.S. Olympic hockey teams, in
1948 and 1952. In 1952, a broken ankle kept him from playing on the
silver-medal team. And he later played for the Baltimore Clippers of the
Eastern Amateur Hockey League.

While living in Baltimore , he met his future wife, Judith Williams,
born in Maidenhead , England , while she was on tour with the London
Festival Ballet. A determined Hackett pursued his bride-to-be to England
and persuaded her to move to the U.S. , where she appeared in the
original 1956 Broadway cast of My Fair Lady.

In 1957, Hackett briefly returned to Montreal to found a magazine, The
Montrealer, modeled after The New Yorker.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Judith, of Bethesda , MD ; by
five children Louisa Hackett of Montclair , NJ ; Christopher Hackett of
Bethesda , MD ; Kimberly Hackett of Cambridge , MA : Robert Hackett of
Princeton , NJ ; and Victoria Hackett of Beverly , MA ; and 11 grand

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