SOLEBURY TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Abbie Hoffman, the Yippie leader of the 1960s who stood trial in the politically charged Chicago Seven case and spent seven years as a fugitive in a cocaine trafficking case, was found dead Wednesday. He was 52.
Hoffman was found dead of apparently natural causes in his apartment about 8:15 p.m. EST by his landlord, Solebury Township Police Chief Richard Mangan said. The body was taken to nearby Doylestown Hospital for an autopsy Monday morning, Mangan said.
Hoffman was a combination of political clown and charactor actor in a real life drama that cast him for many years as a fugitive from justice. He first made the news headlines in 1967 when he threw money on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in what he conceived as a symbolic clearing of money lenders from the temple.
But Hoffman was not taken seriously until he, Jerry Rubin and Paul Krassner founded the Youth International Party, a protest group better known as the Yippies.
He was also a member of the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-Vietnam War activists convicted to organizing the violent demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. The convictions were overturned on appeal.
On Aug. 28, 1973, he was arrested in New York on charges of selling three pounds of cocaine worth $36,000 to undercover police officers.
Hoffman had plastic surgery performed on his nose to change his appearance and then went underground to star as an impostor in a fantastic charade. After hiding out briefly in Mexico City and Montreal, Hoffman settled down in Fineview, N.Y., a town of 1,000 people on an island in the St. Lawrence.
He remained in Fineview until Sept. 4, 1980, when he surrendered to authorities and on Jan. 23 he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of possession of cocaine.
Hoffman was born in Worcester, Mass., on Nov. 30, 1936. He attended Brandeis University in Boston and the University of California at Berkeley, studying under political scientist Herbert Marcuse.
While a fugitive, Hoffman worked as a cook in Amarillo, Texas, and posed as a gourmet critic for Playboy magazine and got free meals at 50 leading restaurants in France.
Hoffman enjoyed a life of middle-class respectability with his girlfriend, Johanna Lawrenson, in Fineview in hiding under the name of Barry Freed. He supported himself as a free-lance television writer and helped organize the Save the River Committee, a group that prevented the Army Corps of Engineers from dredging the St. Lawrence to open it to winter navigation.
'He was a brilliant organizer,' said Irving Like of Babylon, N.Y., Save the River's lawyer, who knew Hoffman only as Barry. 'He really could keep people's interest.'
Hoffman even testified before a congressional committee headed by Sen. Daniel Moynihan, D-N.Y. He posed for pictures with Moynihan and was named to a presidential panel. Hoffman, as Freed, received letters of commendation from New York Gov. Hugh Carey.
Explaining his activism under a pseudonym, Hoffman once explained, 'That's where my heart is. That's where the struggle was. That's where I took the most risks. That was the meaning of my underground existence.'
After surrendering, Hoffman found himself in demand as a lecturer, receiving $3,000 for appearances at universities in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and Miami. He also wrote magazine articles, a book of essays and a screenplay about his life.
In the mid-1980s Hoffman found another cause, opposition to a controversial water diversion project in Bucks County, Pa.
In 1983, Hoffman was a consultant to the environmental and anti-nuclear group Del-AWARE during its successful campaign to persuade county voters to support a referendum calling for an end to the project. He later had a falling out with the group.
During a demonstration July 14, 1987, at a reservoir under construction at Point Pleasant, 40 miles outside Philadelphia, Hoffman was arrested for handcuffing himself to a gate.
After security guards cut him loose, Hoffman declared, 'We'll beat them on the streets. We'll beat them in the political arena and in the courts. The judicial arena is not closed to us yet. This is only the beginning.'