Obituary: David Hyatt

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The Independent Online
David Hyatt, teacher, broadcaster, financier and community leader, born Cleveland Ohio 1 May 1916, died Los Angeles 8 September 1992.

DAVID HYATT was one of the United States' most devoted fighters for better relations between Christians and Jews.

Having witnessed as a child in his native Ohio the Klu-Klux-Klan cross-burnings Hyatt became deeply committed to inter-racial and inter-religious understanding and to the fair administration of justice.

He joined the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1954 as the national director of public relations, and in 1965 he became Executive Vice-President. From 1963 he took a two-year leave of absence to serve as Press Attache at the US Embassy in Pakistan.

A man who won much love and admiration for single-minded devotion to Jewish-Christian understanding and stout defence of the State of Israel, Dave Hyatt was a popular choice as President of the National Council of Christians of Jews in 1973, a post which he held until 1982. As president he actively endorsed the council's involvement in the nation's social problems and spoke out boldly on a wide range of public issues including the condemnation of what he saw as the enemies of Israel.

His high repute was not confined to the United States. He was the first American to serve as President of the International Council of Christians and Jews. He also served two terms as a member of the US Commission for Unesco and was a founding sponsor of the Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry.

Before joining the National Conference Hyatt was associated with the investment brokerage house of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith and worked as public relations manager for Hartford Insurance Group. However these were not activities that could satisfy such a man, driven as he was by a desire to eliminate prejudice between Jew and Christian.

He was talented in unexpected ways. From 1948 to 1950 he was on the faculty of Cornell University. Additionally he served as an overseas correspondent for North American Newspaper Alliance in Egypt, Lybia, Syria and Lebanon. He also performed on the ABC and CBS Radio and Television networks and was in the Broadway play The French Touch.

During the Second World War he managed, through the American Field Service, to enlist in the British Eighth Army and served for nearly two years in the North African desert as an ambulance driver and was decorated with the Africa Star. His doctorate in education he obtained from Columbia University.

Hyatt had an enthusiastic vision of a truly international body engaged in what he called 'the destruction of the oldest evil the world has known', anti-Jewish hatred and prejudice. It was this vision which helped to make the American National Conference such a formidable organisation, As Ruth Weyl of the ICCJ points out, Hyatt was a deeply religious man whose quiet lighting of a candle in a chapel or church before any meeting left an indelible mark on his friends and colleagues. In all his work he was supported by his wife Lillian, whom he married in 1971 and who survives him.

(Photograph omitted)

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