paulnewman1a.thumbnail.jpgI am proud now to stand with a new generation of Democrats against a president who poses what I believe to be the biggest internal threat  to American democracy in my lifetime–Paul Newman, June 2007.

Actor, activitist, philanthropist Paul Newman, whose name appeared both on lists of Academy Award winners and Nixon’s enemies, died Friday at his home in Westport, Connecticut, survived by his wife actress Joanne Woodward and five daughters.

The truly all-American icon combined grit and grace both in his roles and real life: He acted, drove race cars, gave of his time and money to causes he believed in.  Throughout his life was an enduring image of American strength, sensitivity and style, while his acting career he seamlessly transitioned from stage to film then to television and animated film without loss of his trademark dignity, wit and charm. Humbly he credited "luck" for his 0ver fifty years of career success.

A long time liberal, in 2006 Newman appeared in a video supporting Democratic senator Ned Lamont’s run for Congress, donated to Democratic Presidential candidates continuing an arc that began when he famously photographed at a fundraiser in 1968 during Eugene McCarthy‘s run for the White House, helping land him at #19paul_newman_menomonee_falls_wisconsin_mcarthy_eugene_rally.thumbnail.jpg on President Nixon’s enemy list. Commented Newman years later:

 It was one of my life’s proudest achievements. More than the films, more than the awards — finding out that I was on Nixon’s Enemies List meant that I was doing something right.

His inspirational political activism included participating as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, as a delegate to a United Nations conference on nuclear proliferation and as part-owner of (and occasional guest columnist for) "The Nation" magazine.

In 1982 Newman launched another career as a philanthropist, making him a household name to a generation that had missed seeing the actor in films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, Long Hot Summer and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.   Newman’s Own brand of salad dressings, spaghetti sauce and popcorn, followed by Newman’s Own Organics, grew out of the  death of the actor’s only son to an overdose. The latter company is run by his daughter Nell, and has helped move organics into the the mainstream market.

It has been estimated the two companies have given away more than $240 million to charities, most going to the Hole in The Wall Gang camps that provide vacation experiences for sick children. And it was recently learned that Newman has donated another $120 million of the remaining assets of the companies to a charitable foundation for similar distribution.

Newman continued to act and speak out until he announced retirement last year.  In June, 2007 he issued this statement:

I am proud now to stand with a new generation of Democrats against a president who poses what I believe to be the biggest internal threat  to American democracy in my lifetime.

In 2006 he discussed young voters and their responsibilities:

I was campaigning at the University of Cincinnati and they admitted with a certain amount of shame that only 19% of the eligible students had voted in the 2004 election. But they had taken polls, the polls had looked good but the kids were on cell phones and they weren’t being polled and the figures were going to be staggering because the kids were engaged.

Figures came out, 19%. So if people who have the privilege of voting don’t vote, then you have to ask if they’re really getting what they deserve. We have less of a percentage of eligible voters voting than voted in Iraq which I think is shameful. So if people get engaged, they can make the changes, but if they don’t, then we just have a chauffer up there motoring us wherever he wants to go instead of us giving the directions.

Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.