Vivian Hallinan, radical matriarch of a fabled San Francisco family, died in her sleep Tuesday. She was 88 and died at the Berkeley home of one of her sons.
In San Francisco, the name Hallinan is synonymous with bucking the establishment. Vivian Hallinan was its rollicking embodiment, a woman who marched against the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia, went to jail for supporting civil rights, was targeted by the FBI and was gassed during an anti-Pinochet rally in Chile.
She married a crusading San Francisco attorney, the late Vincent Hallinan, and raised six “wild Irish rogues,” two of whom--Patrick, a veteran defense lawyer, and Terence, San Francisco’s district attorney--are as famously liberal as she was.
She made a fortune in real estate and used her wealth to support an array of left-wing causes, from antiwar efforts during the Vietnam era to pro-Sandinista groups in Nicaragua.
“It’s not authority we resist,” she once told the San Francisco Examiner. “It’s injustice.”
State Sen. John Burton (D-San Francisco) recalled Hallinan on Thursday as “a tireless fighter for progress and peace. She had an impact on anybody who met her.”
An elegant, auburn-haired beauty, Hallinan was born Oct. 21, 1910, in San Francisco, the daughter of Ed Moore and Katherine Lagomarsino Moore. Her parents divorced after a short time, and Hallinan was raised by her mother’s working-class Italian family in Colma in San Mateo County.
She paid her way through UC Berkeley in the 1920s playing bridge tournaments, but left before graduating to find work. She met her future husband on a blind date and married him in 1932.
Their marriage was described as “a case of one warped personality marrying another” in files kept by the FBI, which targeted them for their left-leaning views.
Vincent Hallinan, a criminal defense lawyer, relished brushes with authority. Descended from Irish revolutionaries and a self-described “roaring atheist,” he once sued the Catholic Church to set aside the will of a jury commissioner he disliked. He ran for president in 1952 on the Progressive Party ticket.
He also defended Harry Bridges, the longshore labor leader accused of being a Communist during the McCarthy era, and went to jail for six months on a contempt charge related to his defense. Branded as sympathizers, the two Hallinans were later indicted on tax evasion charges. Vivian was acquitted in 1953, but Vincent served a 14-month prison term.
Vivian was incarcerated about a decade later, along with four of her sons, drawing a 30-day sentence for her participation in a civil rights demonstration in San Francisco in 1964. Unfazed, she gave an interview to the San Francisco Chronicle while serving her term, proclaiming that jail was “very dull. . . . That’s the outstanding thing about it. It’s so boring.”
Sons Terence and Patrick had a knack for landing in the middle of controversy too.
Patrick, nicknamed “Kayo,” was nearly denied a law license because he got into so many scrapes with the police in his youth. He became a defense lawyer, whose clients included mass murderer Juan Corona and newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. He was elected in 1988 to the city’s Board of Supervisors, where he pushed for transsexuals’ rights and decriminalizing prostitution. In 1997, he won the office of district attorney, making headlines soon after for scuffling with a lobbyist in a popular steakhouse.
Terence, whose clients over the years have included writer Ken Kesey and several Black Panthers, stood trial on drug conspiracy charges three years ago. He was acquitted after arguing that the prosecution was seeking revenge for his vigorous defense of drug smugglers and other criminals.
Vivian Hallinan was his steadfast supporter throughout the trial, discussing the case with him every night on the telephone. The eldest of her six sons, he described his mother as the “political guts” of the family and a fighter all her life.
She lived up to the latter title literally once, accosting a drunk cowboy in Arizona who had picked a fight with Vincent.
“She laid him out cold,” Terence recalled in an interview Thursday.
In her last years, Terence said, politics kept her going. She was nearing 80 when she flew to Chile for a rally protesting the thousands of Chileans who disappeared during the Pinochet regime. Widowed in 1992, she is survived by Patrick of Kentfield, Terence of San Francisco, and Matthew, Daniel and Conn of Berkeley. A sixth son, Michael, died of cancer in 1984.
A memorial service is pending.