Hearst, Catherine Campbell (1917–1998)

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Hearst, Catherine Campbell (1917–1998)

American philanthropist, socialite, and mother of prominent kidnap victim Patty Hearst. Born Catherine Wood Campbell on July 5, 1917, in Kentucky; died on December 30, 1998, in Los Angeles, California; graduated from Washington Seminary, 1930s; married Randolph Hearst, son of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, in 1938 (divorced); children—five daughters: Catherine Hearst; Virginia Hearst; Anne Hearst; Victoria Hearst; Patricia Campbell Hearst (b. 1954).

A child of privilege, Catherine Campbell Hearst was born on July 5, 1917, in Kentucky, but raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She attended Sacred Heart School in Atlanta and graduated from Washington Seminary in the 1930s. In 1938, after moving to San Francisco, she married Randolph Hearst, son of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, president of the San Francisco Examiner and chair of the Hearst Corporation.

Catherine Hearst lived the life of a socialite and philanthropist, organizing events on behalf of several charities. She was a member of the Junior League, served as director of the San Mateo Society for Crippled Children and Adults, and was a trustee for Crystal Springs School for Girls. She was also an amateur artist and exhibited her works in several private exhibitions.

A conservative Republican, Hearst was appointed to a two-year replacement term on the University of California board of regents in 1956, where she remained for 20 years. During the 1960s, she and the other regents faced a multitude of battles on campus including those over the limits of free speech and the university's role in military research. She supported restrictions forbidding Communists to speak on campus and was an advocate for the removal of radical activist Angela Davis from a teaching position at the school.

Hearst's world shattered on February 4, 1974, when an obscure left-wing terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, kidnapped her daughter, Patricia Campbell Hearst . The group, intending to embarrass capitalists like Hearst, threatened to kill Patty unless her parents donated $2 million worth of food to the poor in California. Though the family contributed the food, the group did not release Patty. Throughout the months of the ordeal, Catherine Hearst had to wait helplessly as her daughter became increasingly brainwashed by the group, began to identify herself with her captors, and denounced her parents as "pigs" of wealth. When police arrested Patty Hearst after her participation in a bank robbery, Catherine used her network of influential friends to petition for her release. President Jimmy Carter commuted her daughter's sentence after Patty had served 22 months of her seven-year term. Catherine Hearst died at the age of 81 at the UCLA Medical Center following a stroke.


The Day [New London]. January 1, 1999.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland

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