Nathaniel Branden, RIP
By David Henderson
I just learned from a friend on Facebook that Nathaniel Branden died this morning. He was 84. I learned a lot from his weekend “intensives” and the second one I went to gave me the courage to leave the University of Rochester B-School in 1979 to work at the Cato Institute in San Francisco. It was one of my best career moves ever.
I first met Nathaniel at a talk he gave at Northern Illinois University in May 1970 and I enjoyed his almost giddiness which, I’m guessing, he felt in part, because he and Ayn Rand had broken off relations. The next day, my NIU friend Jerry Biggers, another friend, Nathaniel, and I drove into Chicago and we had a little more time to talk.
I found much of his work inspirational. Specifically, when I wrote my first article against the draft, in 1979, I came up with a way of making the draft vivid to a young man suddenly facing it. I integrated this way into my testimony against the draft, that I gave in May 1979 in front of Senator Sam Nunn’s Subcommittee on Military Manpower.
I know that it’s bad form to talk about how someone who died thought about the person writing, but I literally learned this on Facebook on my 64th birthday last month. The aforementioned Jerry Biggers, in a Facebook Happy Birthday greeting, wrote:
When I first met you at an ISI Seminar at Rockford College [DRH note: that was in August 1969], I had my suspicions. After Nathaniel Branden met you after his lecture at NIU, he cautioned me, “Watch him closely. He’s up to something!” And indeed you have been!
I thought Jerry was kidding and so I asked for more details. Jerry wrote:
He made some very complementary observations (as an aside to me) about you, after the series of questions that you had asked him. But after 44 years (!), his exact wording in detail is, well, “misty”. BUT, I can assure you that 1) He did make some observations regarding questions that you asked, and 2) It was clear that he was VERY impressed.
Well, it was mutual. I know that he had his faults. We all do. If you comment on this, and want to be negative, please don’t be negative about him.