Staff writer Dan Klepal contributed to this report.
Julian Bond’s death prompted an outpouring of grief and remembrances from across the nation Sunday, with elected officials and civil rights leaders calling the famed Atlantan’s work a “blueprint” for social justice.
Prominent politicians, including President Barack Obama, shared their remembrances of Bond through statements and on social media Sunday. By mid-morning, his name was trending on Twitter as the news of his passing spread.
Bond, the longtime chairman of the NAACP who largely began his civil rights work as a Morehouse College student in the 1960s, died Saturday night in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. He was 75 years old.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who bested Bond in a heated and bitter congressional race in the mid-1980s, said on Twitter Sunday that Bond “was one of a kind.” Lewis and Bond were longtime friends who both rose to prominence during the Civil Rights Movement.
“We went through a difficult period during our campaign for Congress in 1986, but many years ago we emerged even closer,” wrote Lewis, D-Atlanta. “Julian was so smart, so gifted, and so talented. He was deeply committed to making our country a better country.”
Gov. Nathan Deal said he and his wife are “saddened at the passing of this civil rights icon,” and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement released Sunday that “Atlanta is in mourning” over his death.
Bond was the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and served 20 years in state office before he became chairman of the NAACP.
“Julian Bond lived a life of great impact, great courage and great distinction,” Reed said. “We may take comfort in knowing his legacy lives on in his children and grandchildren, in the organizations he founded and in the barriers he broke. Julian Bond changed our state and our country, and we are forever in his debt.”
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., gave a nod to Bond’s work in promoting equal rights and marriage equality for same-sex couples.
“Julian Bond had no patience for discrimination, and he was a towering champion for the full equality of LGBT Americans. His impassioned advocacy for amending the Civil Rights Act to include protections for LGBT Americans set a clear path forward for Congress and our country. In this, as in so many ways, Julian Bond has left us a living legacy of leadership,” Pelosi said.
Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin called Bond an “inspired teacher” and “committed human rights activist” who helped deepen the country’s “understanding of challenges facing Southern African Americans.”
“His life’s work and writings serve as a blueprint for all who seek social justice and equality for all Americans and peace in the world. His sharp intellect and unflinching courage in the face of obstacles and ridicule inspire each of us to stand up, speak up and act up for the principles of democracy and justice,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, now the president of the Buckhead Coalition, said Bond “was very comfortable across racial, religious, geographical, and political party lines.”
“His intellectual prowess could compete at any level,” Massell said in a statement Sunday. “With these credentials, he made contributions in every segment of his life, particularly in political, civic and academic circles.”
U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, noted in a tweet Sunday that he shared an office with Bond while serving in the state senate years ago. “Lots of great moments. Our hearts are heavy today.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., a longtime civil rights activist, said on Twitter that Bond was a friend and “fellow traveler who with courage, set the moral and academic tone of our generation.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted that Bond was a “great man who made the gains of the next generation possible and the nation better. We owe him much.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton was also among those to send condolences.
Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said via Twitter on Sunday: “My thoughts and prayers are with the family of #JulianBond. Respect. Gratitude.”
Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, said on social media that “The passing of Julian Bond reminds us of the integrity inherent in the fight for justice. His devotion to service of others blessed us all.”
And State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, tweeted Sunday: “I know I would not be able 2 serve w/o the sacrifice of Julian Bond.”
Fulton Commission Chairman John Eaves said in a statement Sunday that Bond, who inspired him to pursue public service, “leaves an immeasurable legacy as a public servant and champion for justice.”
Many members of the Atlanta City Council — who serve alongside Bond’s son, Councilman Michael Julian Bond — shared their gratitude for the elder Bond on Sunday.
Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell said: “The world has lost a titan for justice, a civil rights icon and an eloquent, strong voice for the voiceless.”
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