August 20, 2015

 

By Freddie Allen 

NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

 

Julian Bond, a founding member and communications director of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and immediate past board chairman of the NAACP, is being praised for his lifelong human rights contributions by people ranging from President Obama and his former civil rights colleagues to ordinary people who have benefited from his courage and advocacy.

 

Bond, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), died Saturday night, August 15, at the age of 75. He served as the president of the SPLC, a legal advocacy organization that promotes equality and tracks hate groups, from 1971 to 1979 and later on the board of directors, according to a statement issued by the group.

 

“With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice,” SPLC said in a statement announcing Bond’s death. “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.”

 

The statement continued: “Not only has the country lost a hero today, we’ve lost a great friend.”

 

President Obama said in a statement, “Julian Bond was a hero and, I’m privileged to say, a friend. Justice and equality was the mission that spanned his life – from his leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to his founding role with the Southern Poverty Law Center, to his pioneering service in the Georgia legislature and his steady hand at the helm of the NAACP. Michelle and I have benefited from his example, his counsel, and his friendship – and we offer our prayers and sympathies to his wife, Pamela, and his children.”

 

Obama added, “Julian Bond helped change this country for the better. And what better way to be remembered than that.”

 

Denise Rolark Barnes, Chairperson of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and publisher of The Washington Informer, said: “On behalf of the members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association – the Black Press of America – we are extremely saddened to learn of the recent death of Julian Bond, a stalwart of the Civil and Human Rights Movement. His lifelong dedication and commitment to political and economic empowerment, journalistic diversity and integrity, and educational equality served as a beacon for others to follow. His presence and voice will be sorely missed, but his words remain true for the NNPA: ‘Good things don’t come to those who wait. They come to those who agitate!’ Julian Bond, thank you. Now may you rest in peace!”

 

NNPA President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis said, “On behalf of the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA), we mourn the passing of civil rights leader Julian Bond. The enduring impact of Bond’s legacy was his long-term dedication to fight for freedom, justice and equality. As an effective chairman of the NAACP, cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Georgia State Senator, college professor and columnist for the NNPA, Julian Bond was a gallant warrior who championed the interests of Black America.”

 

Horace Julian Bond was born Jan. 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tenn. His father, Horace Mann Bond, was a prominent educator, serving as 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 SNCC, Julian Bond 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, that said the legislature had violated the young lawmakers right to freedom of speech and ordered the state officials to seat him. Bond served in the Georgia’s House for a decade and went on to serve six terms in the state senate.

 

He 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. Bond 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.

 

Mary Frances Berry, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania and former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, recalled Bond challenging the credentials of the all-White Georgia delegation at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago and becoming the first African American nominated for vice president by a major party.

 

“It was on TV. It was all over the place and people who had never seen Julian saw this very bright, funny guy and then we had to point out that he was too young for the nomination,” Berry said chuckling. “That sort of thing sticks in everybody’s mind. When people saw him and who this guy was, it was like a meteor went across the sky. In a way, it was like, years later, when people first saw Barack Obama.”

 

Berry added: “Here’s this personable guy with a twinkle in his eye and he’s sort of cute and he’s funny and he has stature immediately. You had to pay attention to this.”

 

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 human and civil rights organizations, said in a statement: “Bond measured civil and human rights by a single yard stick and he applied that guiding principle of equality to all people. He was a champion for immigrants and immigration reform, a leader in the fight against poverty, and a passionate advocate for the equal rights of LGBT people. He is one of our icons and will be deeply missed. But his moral voice will continue to be a guide for all of us seeking to advance civil and human rights for all people.”

 

Derrick Johnson, who served on the national NAACP board with Bond, recalled Bond’s famous ability to remain composed under fire.

 

“He was always a voice of reason and someone who could paint a clear picture of the significance and the role of the struggle for human dignity for African Americans in this country,” said Johnson, president of the state conference of the Mississippi NAACP.

 

Hilary Shelton, Washington D.C. bureau chief of the NAACP, agrees.

 

“Julian embodied someone who was meticulous in their assessment of the problems and challenges of the African American community and people who supported civil rights and human rights everywhere,” he said. “Julian Bond was an American icon.”

 

Shelton said that Bond displayed his wonderful wit and sense of humor after a rally for D.C. voting rights at the John A. Wilson Building in Washington, D.C. about six years ago. Shelton walked with Bond back to the metro station stopping to take pictures and talk to people along the way.

 

“As we were walking back to the metro from that rally on D.C. statehood, I remember Julian turned to me and said, ‘Hilary, when you get to be my age, you plan certain routes for everything that you do and I’ve planned this route as we go from the Wilson Building to the metro station with all of Washington, D.C.’s finest bathrooms every step along the way.”

 

Civil rights leaders also used social media to mourn the loss of Bond.

 

Jesse Jackson, Sr., tweeted:

 

“#JulianBond, a friend & fellow traveler who with courage, set the moral & academic tone of our generation. RIP”

 

Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, said in a statement: “The Urban League family deeply grieves the loss of Julian Bond, a true warrior for civil rights and social justice. He embodied integrity, passion and dignity, and was a role model for all Americans. He was a bridge between the civil rights pioneers of the 1960’s and the dynamic young activists of today, employing both a deep sense of history and a keen instinct for action.”

 

Bond fell ill while on vacation and died from complications related to vascular disease in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., the Washington Post reported. Bond is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, his five children and eight grandchildren.

 

Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP and a longtime NAACP board member, said: “They are not making them like Julian Bond anymore. Here’s a man that stayed in the struggle until he couldn’t stay in it anymore.”

Category: News



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