Julian Bond

On this date in 1940, Julian Bond was born in Nashville, Tenn., to Julia Washington and Horace Mann Bond. Bond became a lifelong champion of civil rights, chairing the NAACP, opposing the Vietnam War and helping to found both the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Poverty Law Center. His great-grandmother Jane Bond was a slave mistress to a Kentucky farmer. One of her sons, Bond’s grandfather, attended Oberlin College.

His family moved to Philadelphia, where he enrolled at age 12 in a Quaker school, experiencing racism when he began dating a white girl. The family moved to Atlanta when Bond was 17 and his father became dean of education at Atlanta University. Bond attended Morehouse College, where his teachers included the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He dropped out in 1961 to devote more time to protesting segregation and segregated public facilities. He was arrested for leading an early sit-in at the City Hall cafeteria in Atlanta.

As communications director of SNCC for five years, he was credited by The New York Times for “deftly guid[ing] the national news media toward stories of violence and discrimination as the committee challenged legal segregation in the South’s public facilities.” He returned to Morehouse College in the 1970s to finish his English degree.

Bond served for 20 years in the Georgia General Assembly, which had once escorted him and other black students out of the white-only visitors’ section. When he was first elected in 1965, white members of the House refused to seat him. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a unanimous decision in 1966 ordered the State Assembly to seat him. He also served in the state Senate. Bond was a productive and effective state senator advocating for many important social causes and sponsoring many successful bills, one of which established a program for the research and treatment of sickle cell anemia.

 In 1986 he ran for the U.S. House, but lost to John Lewis, also a co-founder of SNCC. Bond was president of the Southern Poverty Law Center from 1971-79. As a journalist he hosted “America’s Black Forum,” a syndicated black-owned TV program, for many years. A cultural icon, he once hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live.” He later taught at Harvard and other universities, and as a professor of history at the University of Virginia co-directed the oral history project “Explorations in Black Leadership.”

His book of essays A Time to Speak, a Time to Act, was published in 1972. He became chair of the NAACP in 1998 and was active in Democratic Party politics. He was married twice and was survived by his second wife, Pamela Sue Horowitz, three sons, two daughters and eight grandchildren. D. 2015.

Freedom From Religion Foundation