WASHINGTON — Julian Bond, immediate past board chairman of the NAACP, a founding member and communications director of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), died Saturday night at the age of 75.
Bond 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,” the statement said. “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.”
In a White House press release on the passing of Bond, President Barack Obama called the civil rights icon a hero and 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,” Obama said in the press release. “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 the first 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 served as the communications director and 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, saying his freedom of speech had been violated and ordering the legislature to seat him.
Bond served in the Georgia’s House of Representatives for a decade and went on to serve six terms in the Georgia 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. He 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.
Civil rights leaders also mourned the loss of Bond on social media early Sunday morning.
Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. tweeted: “#JulianBond, a friend & fellow traveler who with courage, set the moral & academic tone of our generation. RIP”
Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a network of more than 200 national organizations, echoed Jackson’s sentiment, tweeting: “@JulianBond6 was a visionary leader and a powerful voice for justice. It is an honor to have known him.”
The SPLC said that Bond died in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, and his five children.