Sunday, August 16, 2015

Julian Bond: 1940-2015

At the National Equality March in 2009 I had the please of hearing Julian Bond speak.   After the event, I got to speak with him one on one (we had a new camera and the husband accidentally deleted the photo of us together - yes, there was a fight!).   Being of a certain age, I remember Julian Bond well.  I also have the privilege of being friends with one of his cousins who lives locally.  I was very saddened to learn of his passing. The New York Times looks at Julian Bond's life and achievements. Here are highlights:
Julian Bond, a charismatic figure of the 1960s civil rights movement, a lightning rod of the anti-Vietnam War campaign and a lifelong champion of equal rights, notably as chairman of the N.A.A.C.P., died on Saturday night in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. He was 75.

He died after a brief illness, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement Sunday morning. His wife, Pamela Sue Horowitz, said Mr. Bond suffered from vascular disease, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Bond was one of the original leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee while he was a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He was the committee’s communications director for five years and deftly guided the national news media toward stories of violence and discrimination as the committee challenged legal segregation in the South’s public facilities.
He gradually moved from the militancy of the student group to the leadership of the establishmentarian N.A.A.C.P. Along the way, Mr. Bond was a writer, poet, television commentator, lecturer and college teacher, and persistent opponent of the stubborn remnants of white supremacy.

He also served for 20 years in the Georgia General Assembly, mostly in conspicuous isolation from white colleagues who saw him as an interloper and a rabble-rouser.

Mr. Bond’s wit, cool personality and youthful face — he was often called dashing, handsome and urbane — became familiar to millions of television viewers in the 1960s and 1970s. On the strength of his personality and quick intellect, he moved to the center of the civil rights action in Atlanta, the unofficial capital of the movement, at the height of the struggle for racial equality in the early 1960s.

Moving beyond demonstrations, Mr. Bond became a founder, with Morris Dees, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy organization in Montgomery, Ala. Mr. Bond was its president from 1971 to 1979 and remained on its board for the rest of his life.

When he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, along with seven other black members, furious white members of the House refused to let him take his seat, accusing him of disloyalty. He was already well known because of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s stand against the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.

That touched off a national drama that ended in 1966 when the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ordered the State Assembly to seat him, saying it had denied him freedom of speech.
As a lawmaker, he sponsored bills to establish a sickle cell anemia testing program and to provide low-interest home loans to low-income Georgians. He also helped create a majority-black congressional district in Atlanta.

Horace Julian Bond was born on Jan. 14, 1940, in Nashville, to Horace Mann Bond and the former Julia Washington. The family moved to Pennsylvania five years later, when Mr. Bond’s father became the first African-American president of his alma mater, Lincoln University.

Julian Bond’s great-grandmother Jane Bond was the slave mistress of a Kentucky farmer. Julian’s grandfather James Bond, one of Jane Bond’s sons, was educated at Berea and Oberlin Colleges and became a clergyman. His son Horace Mann Bond expected his own son Julian to follow in his footsteps as an educator, but the young man was attracted instead to journalism and political activism.

Mr. Bond devoted most of the 1960s to the protest movement and activist politics, including campaigns to register black voters. Both he and Mr. Lewis left the student committee after its leadership was taken over by black power advocates who forced whites out of the organization.

He prospered on the lecture circuit the rest of his life. He became a regular commentator in print and on television, including as host of “America’s Black Forum,” then the oldest black-owned television program in syndication. His most unusual television appearance was in April 1977, when he hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live.”

In later years, he taught at Harvard, Williams, Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania. He was a distinguished scholar in residence at American University in Washington and a professor of history at the University of Virginia, where he was co-director of the oral history project Explorations in Black Leadership.

Read the full piece.  Bond spoke out forcefully for LBGT equality  and, unlike black pastors who act as water carries for former segregationist, Bond never let the smoke screen of religion distract his focus from civil rights for all.  I am saddened by his passing.

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