Julian Bond: Good Things Don't Come to Those Who Wait. They Come to Those Who Agitate!

February 23, 2022 6 min read

Julian Bond

There is an old African proverb that says “The spirit of a freedom warrior will never die in the enduring life of the village, yet that valued spirit will be passed on to future generations.” Julian Bond was a freedom fighter. He was a gallant leader-warrior for freedom, justice, and equality. And his spirit will never die. 

“I do think that some of us began to realize that this was going to be a long struggle that was going to go on for decades, and you'd have to knuckle down. A lot of people in our generation did that. They didn't drop out and run away” 

Julian Bond

Julian Bond

Julian Bond during The 36th Annual NAACP Image AwardsRay MickshawWireImage

It's easy to treasure Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Huey Newton with their rebellious struggles and influence, but people tend to overlook the outstanding achievements of Julian Bond, who could have been at the top of America. Let’s dive into it! 

Julian Bond Biography 

Julian Bond, full name is Horace Julian Bond, (born January 14, 1940, Nashville, Tennessee, United States — died August 15, 2015, Fort Walton Beach, Florida), the United States legislator and leader civil rights activist, best known for his struggle for his duly elected seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. 

In 1945, his father, Horace Mann Bond, became Lincoln University's first African American president. From an early age, Julian Bond’s parents nurtured their children to be conscious of the world around them, discussing social justice issues and subscribing to different Black newspapers.

The Black intellectual elite, including W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson, were frequent guests in Bond’s home, and his childhood took place on the college campus, near athletic facilities, classrooms, and other students.  

Julian Bond

Paul Robeson with young Julian Bond, The John W. Mosley Photographic Collection, Temple University Libraries

Bond, the son of a prominent educator, attended the George School, a Quaker high school, which exposed him to ideas of nonviolent protest. 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’s political awakening began in early 1960 when he heard about the student sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina. Deciding to take similar action in Atlanta, Bond and fellow Morehouse student Lonnie King created the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights.

Shortly thereafter, Bond attended a student conference sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Young activists decided to form found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Bond was later hired as SNCC’s communications director.  

Julian Bond

Julian Bond and other SNCC Atlanta office staffSNCC

Three years later, Bond has accumulated enough influence to lead students to protest discrimination in public facilities and other Georgia Jim Crow laws. He was married and divorced from Alice Clopton and had five children named Phyllis Jane Bond-McMillan, Horace Mann Bond II, Michael Julian Bond, Jeffrey Alvin Bond, and Julia Louise Bond; he later married Pamela S. Horowitz. 

In 1965, he won a seat in the Georgia state legislature, which refused to seat him because it endorsed the SNCC's statement opposing US involvement in the Vietnam War. Voters in his county re-elected him in both a special election and a general election in 1966, but the legislature banned him each time. Finally, in December 1966, the US Supreme Court ruled the exclusion unconstitutional, and Bond was sworn in on January 9, 1967. 

Julian Bond

Associated Press

Bond asserted that African Americans were being excluded from power within the Democratic Party of Georgia, and so he helped lead a rebel delegation at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The official Georgia delegation was forced to give up half of the seats to members of Bond's team. He endorsed Eugene McCarthy's nomination and became the first black person to have his name included in a major party's vice-presidential nomination. However, younger than the minimum age required for the position under the Constitution, Bond withdrew his name. 

Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, serving from 1965 to 1975. He also served six terms in the Georgia Senate, from 1975-to 1986. At the same time, he also helped found the Southern Poverty Law Center and served as its president from 1971 to 1979. In 1986, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. In addition to his legislative activities, in 1998, he was elected board chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and he then served as its chairman emeritus until 2010. 

Julian Bond

The Library of Congress from Washington, DC, United States, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

Bond died from complications of vascular disease on August 15, 2015, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, at the age of 75. President Obama once described Bond as "Justice and equality was the mission that spanned his life” .

“Julian Bond helped change this country for the better. And what better way to be remembered than that." Obama said in a statement. 

Julian Bond and Martin Luther King 

Julian Bond, a Morehouse College student at the time, first met Martin Luther King in 1960. When Bond joined the small staff of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), sharing an office with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the two became more acquainted (SCLC). When Bond was denied his elected seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1966, King preached against the legislature's decision and organized a march in his support. 

Julian Bond

Associated Press

A previous federal court decision in 1965 compelled the creation of new state congressional districts in Georgia. The Southern Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had been working on voter registration in the rural South and saw reapportionment as an opportunity to put forward candidates who would support a civil rights agenda.

Bond, like King, lived in Atlanta's newly formed 136th House District, which was 95 percent African American. With an unconventional door-to-door campaign, the 25-year-old won 82 percent of the vote for his district's seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. 

A few days before Bond's inauguration, the SNCC issued a press release condemning the Vietnam War and advocating civil rights work as an alternative to the draft. Bond publicly supported the press release, and the Georgia legislature voted to deny him his seat, calling his stance treasonous. King returned from a trip to California early, issued a press release labeling the legislature's action "unconscionable," and led a protest rally to the statehouse.

In his sermon that Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, King praised Bond as "a young man who dared to speak his mind," using the incident as a springboard to preach on the biblical command to be a nonconformist: 

“If you’re going to be a Christian, take the gospel of Jesus Christ seriously, you must be a dissenter, you must be a non-conformist.” 

Julian Bond

Julian Bond and Martin Luther KingVirginia.edu

With King as a co-plaintiff, Bond appeals to the Georgia legislature's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. He took his seat the following month after receiving a favorable ruling from the court, starting his political career. With the full support of Martin Luther King, Bond achieved great achievements as a politician and a civil rights leader. 

Legacies of Julian Bond 

The fight for voting rights was always a key cause for Julian Bond over his distinguished life. As a result, protecting voting rights today would be a fitting way to honor Julian Bond’s remarkable civil rights legacy. 

Julian Bond

Lauren Gerson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

He became one of the most well-known politicians in America, but that didn’t stop Bond from continuing the painstaking, unglamorous work of democratizing the South. In the 1970s, he traveled extensively with Lewis on behalf of the Voter Education Project, registering black voters and encouraging them to run for office in forgotten places like Waterproof, Louisiana, and Belzoni, Mississippi. 

Bond also 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 also have appeared in several magazines and newspapers.

Throughout his whole life, Bond received 25 honorary degrees, including the National Freedom Award, from the National Civil Rights Museum (2002), the National Leadership Award, from the National LGBTQ Task Force (2006), the Spingarn Medal, from the NAACP (2009) to name some. 

With Julian's passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice. He advocated not just for African Americans, but every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.

Julian Bond

American UniversityCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Julian Bond’s commitment to equality and justice throughout his life serves as an inspiration to individuals, organizations, and movements alike. He will be remembered and honored for making the United States a better place for all. 

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Julian Bond's life seemed to trace the arc of the civil rights movement, from his efforts as a militant young man to start a student protest group, through a long career in politics and his leadership of the NAACP almost four decades later. 

Year after year, the cool, telegenic Bond was one of the nation's most poetic voices for equality, inspiring fellow activists with his words in the 1960s and carrying the movement's vision to succeeding generations as a speaker and academic. His death is a huge blow to the civil rights movement around the world. But, without a doubt, his ideas are still being passed down to future generations who keep fighting for a better world. 


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