Former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Chairman, Julian Bond is being remembered across the nation this week as the charismatic 1960s civil rights leader and equal rights activist. Bond died in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., after a brief illness. He was 75.
From his days as the co-founder and communications director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s to his chairmanship of the NAACP in the 21st century, Julian was a visionary and tireless champion for civil and human rights. He served as the SPLC’s president from our founding in 1971 to 1979, and later as a member of its board of directors.
A founding member of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Bond was remembered as a passionate advocate for the poor: With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice. He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.
Horace Julian Bond was born Jan. 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tenn. His father, Horace Mann Bond, was a prominent educator, serving as the first president of Fort Valley State University in Georgia and the first Black president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, his alma mater.
During his time with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Bond served as the communications director and protested against segregation of public facilities in Georgia and was arrested during a sit-in at Atlanta’s City Hall.
Later, as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, he was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War. When the White members of the House refused to seat him because of his opposition to the war, Bond took his case to the United States Supreme Court where he won a unanimous ruling in 1966, saying his freedom of speech had been violated and ordering the legislature to seat him. Bond served in the Georgia’s House of Representatives for a decade and went on to serve six terms in the Georgia state senate.
Bond ran for the United States House of Representatives, but lost a bitter race to John Lewis, a former colleague who had been chairman of SNCC.
Bond was elected as chairman of the board of the NAACP in 1998 and served for 11 years. He was not only a consistent agent for civil rights, he was also a writer, poet, author and professor at number of colleges and universities, including American University in Washington, D.C., the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University and the University of Virginia.
Bond also narrated “Eyes on the Prize,” a documentary on the Civil Rights Movement, that was nominated for an Academy Award in 1988.
Julian is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney, sons, Horace Mann Bond II, Jeffrey and Michael; daughters, Phyllis Jane Bond McMillan and Julia Louise Bond; sister, Jane; brother, James; and his eight grandchildren.
George Curry and NNPA contributed to this report.
Feature photo: Eduardo Montes-Bradley