When talk of social progress turns to such sentiments as standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, we are speaking of the likes of such giants as Julian Bond, who passed away on August 15 at age 75.
In the front-line trenches of the Civil Rights Movement’s fight for racial equality, he helped co-found the historic Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). From 1960 to 1963, he led student protests against segregation and the Jim Crow laws of Georgia. He was SNCC communications director from 1961 to September 1966 and he helped organize voter registration drives in southern strongholds of segregation in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas.
Bond, with Morris Dees, helped found the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which in 1987 sued and financially crippled the Ku Klux Klan. He served as SPLC’s first president from 1971 to 1979. From 1998 to 2010, he was chair of the NAACP. Bond is the subject of Julian Bond: Reflections from the Frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement, a documentary by Eduardo Montes-Bradley.
He furthered his commitment to equality as a vehement advocate for the rights of the GLBTQ community. Outspokenly supportive of gay and lesbian rights, Bond boycotted funeral services for Coretta Scott King, protesting that her children had chosen an anti-gay church — in conflict with their mother’s longstanding support of gays and lesbians.
In a 2005 speech he 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.” In 2012, he joined Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton at a rally opposing a ballot initiative aimed at prohibiting same-sex marriage.
He was arrested at the White House with other activists for opposing the Keystone XL pipeline in February 2013.
Elected to four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and six in the Georgia Senate, he served a combined 20 in both legislative chambers.
From 1980 to 1997 he hosted the nationally syndicated television program America’s Black Forum. He remained a commentator for the Forum, as well as radio’s Byline and for The Today Show (NBC). He authored the nationally syndicated column Viewpoint and narrated the acclaimed series Eyes on the Prize (PBS) in 1987 and 1990.
Bond was a Distinguished Professor in Residence at American University in Washington, D.C. and a faculty member in the history department at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, where he taught the history of the Civil Rights Movement. He also taught at Harvard University and Drexel University.
Julian Bond died, after a brief undisclosed illness, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, five children, a brother and a sister.
Dwight Hobbes wrote this tribute. He welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.