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Why ‘Kayo’ Hallinan Wasn’t a Freedom Rider

John Dolan, Freedom Rider

The Freedom Rides were a model of several management principles en vogue, at least until recently, in the new economy. The Riders were strategically nimble, adeptly abandoning their original destination of New Orleans to pursue “jail, no bail” in Jackson. They employed just-in-time inventory controls: within a day or two of their arrival in one of the three staging cities (Nashville, New Orleans and Montgomery), new Riders were assembled into smallish groups and sent on to Jackson. They also practiced very decentralized management, pushing out to the edges of the enterprise the responsibility to find Riders and raise travel funds.

Recruiting also meant screening: potential Riders were vetted especially for a commitment to practice nonviolence, as well as any political liabilities. John Dolan (above), then a student at Berkeley, California, recalls one candidate who didn’t make the cut.

Vincent Hallinan was a well-known activist lawyer in the ’30s and ’40s in San Francisco, a Communist, pretty open. He had six or seven sons, and he taught them all to box. I knew two of them–Kayo and Dynamite. Kayo was a couple of years ahead of me at Berkeley. He was a light-heavyweight boxing champ and very left-wing.

Kayo wanted to go on the Freedom Rides. Ed Blankenheim, one of the original Freedom Riders, came out to organize our group.  He didn’t want Kayo to go on a Freedom Ride. I said, well, you tell him, not me. He did, and Kayo was pretty upset.

We were scared stiff that we’d be Red-baited if the Communists joined. At that point in the United States if you found a Communist involved in something, the whole thing was smeared. So that was one thing. But the reason Ed told Kayo he couldn’t go was that Kayo had gotten into a fistfight on a peace march, which was true and was also a good reason for him not to go. I’m sure that even if he hadn’t been a Communist, Ed would have been reluctant to let him go. Kayo wasn’t really big, but he was big enough and he was a very good boxer.

Terence “Kayo” Hallinan served one term as the San Francisco DA in the ’90s. Previously he’d been a member of the city’s board of supervisors. Today he sits on the advisory board of NORML.