National Icon "Granny D" dies at 100

“You have the power of one,” she said. “And if you use it for something that’s bigger than you are, people will come.” Doris "Granny D" Haddock

Granny D also understood and supported our efforts to spread the Truth of 9/11.

Doris “Granny D” Haddock died peacefully today in her Dublin, New Hampshire family home at 7:18 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, 2010. She was 100 years old. Born in 1910 in Laconia, New Hampshire, she attended Emerson College and lived through two world wars and the Great Depression.

She was an activist for her community and for her country, remaining active until the return of chronic respiratory problems four days ago.

She walked across the United States at the age of 90 in the year 2000, in a successful effort to promote the passage of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act.

In 2004, Granny D decided to challenge incumbent Senator Judd Gregg for his US Senate seat. She hoped to demonstrate that ordinary people can run for office and win with the support of small donations from individuals.

Despite a shortened, grassroots campaign without the benefit of any advertising dollars, Granny D garnered an impressive 34% of the vote. During the past year five years, Granny D has traveled the country speaking about campaign finance reform and working on behalf of legislation for publicly-funded elections in New Hampshire.

In the 1960s, she and her husband, James Haddock, Sr., were instrumental in halting planned nuclear tests that would have destroyed a native fishing village and region in Alaska.

The following was written in The Keene Sentinel. Wednesday, March 10, 2010:

DUBLIN, NH — Doris Haddock of Dublin, who walked across the country at age 90 to promote campaign finance reform and later waged a quixotic campaign for U.S. Senate, has died. She was 100.

Haddock died Tuesday of chronic respiratory illness at her home in Dublin, said spokeswoman and family friend Maude Salinger. She was surrounded by her son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In 2000, Haddock walked 3,200 miles to draw attention to campaign finance reform. In 2004, at age 94 and bolstered by her new notoriety, she ran for the U.S. Senate against Republican Judd Gregg.

The subtitle of her autobiography, written with Dennis Burke, was “You’re Never Too Old to Raise a Little Hell.”

“Her age wasn’t a factor in what she did,” Salinger said. “She never gave up. Until the end, she advocated for public funding. She would have wanted people to know that democracy and government belongs to us.”

Haddock was true to her cause right up until her death.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January to ease limits on corporate campaign contributions, she fired back:

“The Supreme Court, representing a radical fringe that does not share the despair of the grand majority of Americans, has today made things considerably worse by undoing the modest reforms I walked for and went to jail for, and that tens of thousands of other Americans fought very hard to see enacted. ...

“The Supreme Court now opens the floodgates to usher in a new tsunami of corporate money into politics.”

In an interview with The Sentinel near the time of her 100th birthday, in January, Haddock said every month she continued to get hundreds of e-mails and letters from supporters around the world.

The HBO documentary “Run Granny Run,” which chronicled her cross-country walk, helped to fuel her cause and her legend.

Many told her she inspired them to stand up for something they believe in.

She printed the e-mails and kept them in a thick folder in her bedroom, she said.

She spent several hours a day on her computer, tracking campaign finance reform measures across the country, writing speeches and newspaper columns editorials on the subject and responding to e-mails from her fans.

She walked regularly — a mile or two several days a week — a practice she credited for helping to keep her young.

Haddock said her passion for taking big money out of politics at the state and federal levels helped her to keep going.

Doing so, she said, would bring true democracy to the country. That’s a legacy she longed to leave behind for her 16 great-grandchildren.

“I’ve been working on it for 10 years,” she said in January. “It will mean that anyone can run for office if they have the will and the guts.”

“But today, it costs so much to run for office, and it’s costing more and more all the time, and there are very few people who have the money to do it. They have to get it and they get it from special interests or from corporations.”

Haddock was born Jan. 24, 1910, in Laconia and attended Emerson College before marrying James Haddock. She later worked at a local shoe company for 20 years.

She spent a decade caring for her husband after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He died in 1993.

After retiring in 1972, Haddock became more active in community affairs.

In 1997, Haddock began to get involved with the cause that would become her life’s mission. She became interested in campaign finance reform after the defeat of the first attempt of Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold to remove unregulated “soft” money from campaigns in 1995.

She gathered more than 100,000 signatures for a petition in support of the McCain-Feingold bill.

But a year later, disappointed with the response from her local representatives, the 89-year-old decided to begin training for a walk across the country as a champion for the cause.

Inspiration for her cross-country trek came from the Tuesday Morning Academy, a group of women in Dublin who met every Tuesday at 8 a.m. to do ballet exercises and discuss world affairs.

Her walk began Jan. 1, 1999, in Los Angeles and, 3,200 miles later, she arrived in Washington D.C., trailed by a crowd of about 2,200 supporters.

Covering about 10 miles a day, Haddock walked through more than 1,000 miles of desert, climbed the Appalachian Range in blizzard conditions and even skied 100 miles after snowfall made roadside walking impossible. She started in near-obscurity, but soon was discovered by local and national media.

The response from people along the way was one of the things she’ll always remember from the walk, Haddock said. “I had no money,” she said. “I walked as a pilgrim across the states.

“I walked until given shelter. I fasted until given food.”

And she shared her message with anyone who would listen, Haddock said.

“I stopped at every dog fight, any place, just so that my name is known and my name means public funding of elections,” she said. “It’s got to come. It’s going to.”

Burke, who co-wrote Haddock’s memoir, met Haddock as she walked through Arizona on her way to Washington.

“Doris was one of the youngest people I have ever known. She was a little kid about her country — so in love she was with it and so excited for it always,” he said early today.

In 2004, Haddock jumped into the Senate race on the last day to file after the presumptive Democratic nominee dropped out when his campaign manager was accused of financial fraud. A few months before the election, she officially changed her name to “Granny D,” but stressed that the “D” stood for “Doris,” not her party affiliation.

On Election Day, Judd Gregg won. But Haddock still saw the 34 percent of the vote she captured as a victory.

“I wasn’t going to just let him have it without giving a fight,” she said.

Mark Fernald, a former state senator and a Sharon resident who practices law in Peterborough, said Granny D was a woman of remarkable poise and commitment, which made it easy for people to naturally be drawn to her.

“She was genuine,” Fernald said this morning. “She had a way about her, and people liked her. She was out to tell her story; she didn’t put people down, she didn’t lecture, she talked about what she believed in and why we needed this change (campaign finance reform) to change our country.”

In recent years, she founded a group that pushed the state Legislature to create the Citizen Funded Election Task Force and attended the task force’s weekly meetings. She was honored at a Statehouse ceremony in January to mark her 100th birthday.

She was working on a new book, “My Bohemian Century,” which focuses on her college days and her Senate campaign and is expected to be published this spring. Haddock had stayed with Burke’s family in Phoenix last month to complete work on it, he said.

“Two things that people might not know, but should,” Fernald said, “she was a marvelous writer and speaker, and she wrote all her own stuff. And it was good. She really thought very deeply about what it meant to be an American, to live in a democracy. She’d get up there, and make these speeches, at age 88, 90, 92, and she never wore reading glasses.

“In some ways, she seemed like she was ageless — the mind of a 25 year old, the eyes of a 35 year old ... and the legs of a 40 year old.”

In the book’s dedication, Haddock offers readers advice: “You have to keep the young adventurer inside your heart alive long enough for it to someday re-emerge. It may take some coaxing and some courage, but that person is in you always — never growing old.”

In February, “Sources of Strength: Granny D at 100” was published. The book focuses on how she’s managed to live such a long and active life and includes the text of several of her speeches.

Both Democrats and Republicans offered condolences Tuesday night.

“Her commitment to fair and open democracy should inspire us all to work even harder for reform,” state Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley.

“We are always saddened when someone with a genuine commitment to their values and principles passes away,” said Republican Party Chairman John H. Sununu. “Granny D was an unwavering advocate for her beliefs, and her tireless efforts inspired many Granite Staters to participate in our political process,” he said.

Haddock told The Sentinel in January that she hopes her legacy will transcend politics.

“You have the power of one,” she said. “And if you use it for something that’s bigger than you are, people will come.”

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