Julian Bond died yesterday.
Wikipedia will tell you that Bond “ was an American social activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement, politician, professor, and writer. While a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, during the early 1960s, he helped to establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).”
Julian Bond was so much more.
He was born in 1940, the grandson of slaves in Nashville, Tennessee to Julia Agnes and Horace Mann Bond, she a librarian and he an educator who would go on to be the first black President of Lincoln University in Chester County Pennsylvania.
Before being offered the position at Lincoln, his father was President of Fort Valley State College, a historically black school in Georgia where the family lived in a house on the campus.
The Bond home was the place to stop for black scholars and activists and young Julian would meet the likes of W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson in his home.
In 1957, Bond graduated from George School, a private Quaker preparatory boarding school near Newtown in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He had the best education black money could buy in those days.
Bond enrolled in Morehouse College and in 1961 was one of the founding members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, He began traveling around Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas to help organize civil rights and voter registration drives. Bond left Morehouse College to work on civil rights in the South. From 1960 to 1963, he led student protests against segregation in public facilities and the Jim Crow laws of Georgia.
He returned to Morehouse in 1971 at age 31 to complete his Bachelor of Arts in English. With Morris Dees, Bond helped found the Southern Poverty Law Center, a public-interest law firm based in Montgomery, Alabama. He served as its president from 1971 to 1979. Bond was a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center Board of Directors all of his life.
After the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Bond was one of 7 blacks elected to the Georgia House of Representatives But the lilly white Gerogia House was not going down with a fight.
On January 10, 1966, Georgia state representatives voted 184–12 not to seat him because he had publicly endorsed SNCC’s policy regarding opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. They disliked Bond’s stated sympathy for persons who were “unwilling to respond to a military draft”.
A three-judge panel on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled in a 2–1 decision that the Georgia House had not violated any of Bond’s constitutional rights.
In 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruled 9–0 in the case of Bond v. Floyd that the Georgia House of Representatives had denied Bond his freedom of speech and was required to seat him. From 1967 to 1975, Bond was elected to four terms in the Georgia House, where he organized the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus..
In January 1967 the Georgia House had to select the new Governor as none of the three candidates had won a majority. All of the candidates were segregationists including Lester Maddox, who had closed his chicken restaurant rather than serve black patrons.
Julian Bond refused to vote for any of the three notwithstanding that he was ordered to do so by the lame duck Lieutenant Governor.
The Georgia House tried it’s best to gerrymander him out of the legislative body, repeatedly redistricting him three times. Made no difference. He was elected four times to the Georgia House and was elected to six terms in the Georgia Senate.
Bond ran for the United States House of Representatives from Georgia’s 5th congressional district in 1986. He lost the Democratic nomination in a runoff to rival civil rights leaderJohn Lewis in a bitter contest, during which Bond was accused of using cocaine and other drugs. Bond’s perceived radicalism and association with SNCC allowed Lewis to roll up hugh margins among white liberals. Lewis still serves in the House of Representatives today.
In 1998 Bond was selected as President of the NAACP, serving for eleven years.
He led a delegation of “Loyalists” to the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and unseated the lilly white Georgia delegation in the Credentials Committee.
Subsequently Bond was placed in nomination for Vice President of the United States, the first African American to be so nominated. He quickly withdrew; he was too young under the Constitution to serve.
Bond was an outspoken supporter of the rights of gays and lesbians. He publicly stated his support for same-sex marriage. Most notably, he boycotted the funeral services for Coretta Scott King on the grounds that the King children had chosen an anti-gay megachurch as the venue. Bond believed this was in conflict with their mother’s longstanding support for the rights of gay and lesbian people. In a 2005 speech in Richmond, Virginia, Bond stated:
“ African Americans … were the only Americans who were enslaved for two centuries, but we were far from the only Americans suffering discrimination then and now…. Sexual disposition parallels race. I was born this way. I have no choice. I wouldn’t change it if I could. Sexuality is unchangeable.”
In a 2007 speech on the Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia, Bond said, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.” His positions pitted elements of the NAACP against religious groups in the Civil Rights movement who opposed gay marriage. Most resistance came from within the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which was partially blamed for the success of the gay marriage ban amendment in California.
The Supreme Court recently validated Bond’s position, which he took in the face of strenuous opposition from many African American organizations.
He was a strong critic of policies that contribute to rclimate change and was amongst a group of protesters arrested at the White House for civil disobedience in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline in February 2013.
He called the Tea Party the “Taliban wing of American politics”
Julian Bond was married to Alice Clopton, a student at Spelman College. They divorced in 1989. They had five children.
I remember young Julian in 1965, opposing the Vietnam War. I was in the Army at the time and he was one of the first to speak out. The news was filled with images of Marines walking knee deep through the water, landing at Da Nang, helmets and rifles at the ready. It was all propaganda. Julian Bond was one of the first lonely voices to tell us so.