Julian Bond, civil rights icon and SNCC co-founder, dies at 75

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of legendary civil rights activist Julian Bond, SPLC’s first president. He was 75 years old and died last evening, August 15, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.” — Morris Dees, Southern Poverty Law Center.

Julian Bond, a civil rights leader, and former board chairman of the NAACP, has died at  75.

Bond died Saturday night after a brief illness in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which he served as founding president in the 1970s.

Horace Julian Bond was a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement. While a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) He was elected Board Chairman of the NAACP in 1998.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Bond’s family moved to Pennsylvania when he was five years old when his father, Horace Mann Bond, became the first African American President of Lincoln University (Pennsylvania), his alma mater. Bond attended Morehouse College in Atlanta and won a varsity letter for swimming. He also founded a literary magazine called The Pegasus and served as an intern at Time magazine.

Julian Bond, during the filming of “Julian Bond: Reflections from the Frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement.”

In 1960, Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and served as communications director from 1961 to 1966. From 1960 to 1963, he led student protests against segregation in public facilities in Georgia.

Bond graduated from Morehouse and helped found the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). He was the organization’s president from 1971 to 1979.

Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. White members of the House refused to seat him because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the House had denied Bond his freedom of speech and had to seat him.

From 1965 to 1975, he served in the Georgia House and served six terms in the Georgia Senate from 1975-86.

In 1968, Bond led a challenge delegation from Georgia to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and was the first African-American nominated as Vice President of the United States. He withdrew his name from the ballot because he was too young to serve.

Bond ran for the United States House of Representatives, but lost to civil rights leader John Lewis. In the 1980s and ‘90s, Bond taught at several universities, including American, Drexel, Williams, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard universities and the University of Virginia.

Bond continues with his activism as Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP, after serving 11 years as Chair, and working to educate the public about the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the struggles that African Americans. He is President Emeritus of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He hosted “America’s Black Forum” from 1980 until 1997.

He also served as a commentator for radio’s Byline and for NBC’s Today Show. He authored the nationally-syndicated newspaper column Viewpoint. He narrated the critically acclaimed PBS series Eyes on the Prize in 1987 and 1990, a documentary on the life of New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell.

He published A Time To Speak, A Time To Act, a collection of his essays, as well as Black Candidates Southern Campaign Experiences. His poems and articles have appeared in several magazines and newspapers.

Bond was a Distinguished Visiting Professor at American University in Washington, D.C., and a Professor in the history department at the University of Virginia. He received 25 honorary degrees.

Bond is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney, and his five children.

Julian Bond in his own words: The Next Chapter in Georgia Voter Suppression 

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