Civil Rights icon Julian Bond has died

Julian Bond, a Civil Rights titan and longtime leader of the NAACP, died Saturday night in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. He was 75.

A public face of activism for civil rights throughout his life, Bond led the Southern Poverty Law Center and was the first African American nominated for vice president of the United States. He also served in the Georgia Assembly for 20 years.

Bond, the longtime board chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, died after a brief illness, according to a statement released early Sunday by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Reaction to Bond’s death came from all corners of the region and the world.

In a tweet, the Rev. Jessie Jackson called Bond “a friend and fellow traveler who with courage, set the moral and academic tone of our generation.”

Cornell Brooks, president and Chief Executive of the NAACP, wrote on twitter: “The life and legacy, the eloquence of Julian Bond’s example, yet speak to the present and future of the NAACP and the nation.”

Atlanta Councilwoman Felicia Moore, who serves with Bond’s son Michael Julian Bond, said Julian Bond was “one of those figures you just expect to always be around and continue to fight for equality and justice for all people.”

“His legacy will always will be around,” Moore said.

A native of Nashville, Julian Bond was considered an icon of the civil rights movement and led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC.

As a student at Morehouse College, Bond helped found SNCC and served as its communications director.

Bond later served as board chairman of the 500,000-member NAACP for 10 years but declined to run again for another term in 2010.

“With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice,” SPLC co-founder Morris Dees said in a statement. “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.”

Horace Julian Bond was born Jan. 14, 1940 to Julia and Horace Mann Bond, who was the president of Fort Valley State College. The elder bond was also the first black president of Lincoln University, a historically black university in Pennsylvania.

Bond attended the George School, a Quaker high school, which exposed him to ideas of nonviolence. The family moved to Atlanta in 1957 when Bond entered Morehouse College, with his father taking a dean position at Atlanta University, now Clark Atlanta University.

Bond was involved in civil rights protests around Atlanta with other Atlanta University Center students, including sit-ins at dime stores, Woolworth’s and Rich’s department store.

The AUC students at the time received a letter from then-Southern Christian Leadership Conference Director Ella Baker, inviting them to come to Raleigh to meet other young black students engaged in sit-ins. It was there that Bond and other students helped found SNCC.

“There were hundreds of black students like ourselves,” Bond said. “We felt, we can do this too, as we had done it. We can keep this thing going.”

Bond and SNCC, led by James Forman, Bob Moses, and Marion Barry, played pivotal roles in the Freedom Rides, which aimed to desegregate bus systems, and organized mass black voter registration drives in the South.

After Selma and the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, African-Americans around the South were finally able to run for office.

Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, one of 11 who were the first black members elected to the Georgia Assembly in 58 years, the result of reapportionment and a special election after the Voting Rights Act.

“It was exciting to be a pathbreaker,” he said.

However, just before he was to be seated in 1966, Bond voiced support for a SNCC statement that denounced U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and sympathized with draft evasion. As a result, members of the Georgia Legislature accused Bond of treason and disorderly conduct, voting 184-12 to bar him from being seated.

Four days later, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march of 1,000 people to the Georgia Capitol protesting Bond’s ouster.

For the next year Bond pushed his case through the judiciary system all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he fought for his right to speak his mind in Bond v. Floyd. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously for him.

Bond finally took his place in the Georgia House in 1967. He spent 20 years in the Georgia Legislature, serving in the Georgia House until 1975 and then switching to the Senate until 1986.

In 1986, Bond lost a bitterly fought campaign for Congress to his civil rights colleague John Lewis. The campaign included allegations that Bond was using drugs.

“It was a rough time then,” Bond said. “But that’s passed.” The two rekindled their friendship years later.

Bond’s later years were filled with advocacy for civil rights, combining his stage presence and activism as the host of “America’s Black Forum,” a weekly news broadcast targeting an African-American audience, from 1980 to 1997.

From 1998 to 2010, he was chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and he served as the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), from 1971 to 1979.

Bond was also a distinguished professor at American University in Washington and a professor of history at the University of Virginia.

In addition to councilman Bond, Julian Bond is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney; his children, Phyllis Jane Bond-McMillan, Horace Mann Bond II, Jeffrey Alvin Bond and Julia Louise Bond; his brother, James Bond; and his sister, Jane Bond Moore.