Civil Rights Activist Julian Bond Dies at 75, Leaders Call Him 'Hero'

Prominent leaders and friends are mourning the death of a civil rights icon.

Julian Bond during the dedication the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

By Sheryl Estrada

Julian Bond during the dedication the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. (Photo credit: Kadesh DuBose/KMBD Studios)

The Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement on Sunday morning its co-founder, civil rights activist Julian Bond, died Saturday night in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., after a brief illness. He was 75.

"Not only has the country lost a hero today, we've lost a great friend," SPLC co-founder Morris Dees wrote.

Bond was known for his charismatic and effective leadership in championing for civil rights in the U.S. and was admired among his friends.

President Obama said in a statement on Sunday, "Julian Bond was a hero and, I'm privileged to say, 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."

Bond was born on Jan. 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tenn. His family moved to Pennsylvania when his father, Horace Mann Bond, became the first Black president of his alma mater, Lincoln University.

As a student attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. in the 1960s, Bond was a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He put his studies on hold in 1961 to serve as the committee's communication director on the front lines of protests leading to landmark civil rights laws.

Bond later returned to Morehouse and graduated in 1971 with a degree in English. The same year, he co-founded the SPLC and became its president. Bond served as president until 1979 and would remain on the board for the rest of his life.

"[Julian] 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," said Dees.

Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, although white members of the House refused to seat him because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the House had to seat him as it was denying Bond his freedom of speech.

In 1968, Bond led a delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and was the first African American nominated for the vice presidency; however, he withdrew because he was too young.

He served in the Georgia House until 1975 and for six terms in the Georgia Senate from 1975 to 1986.

Bond ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986 to represent Georgia's 5th Congressional District but narrowly lost to Rep. John Lewis, a long-time friend and SNCC co-founder.

In the '80s and '90s, Bond taught at American, Drexel, Williams, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard universities and the University of Virginia.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch was inspired as an undergraduate student when she heard Bond speak.

"I will never forget hearing [Julian] Bond speak when I was a student in college, and he has remained a personal hero to me ever since," Lynch said in a statement. "For me and for so many others, Bond's words and deeds reached into our hearts and inspired us to take up his noble causes of equality, justice, and freedom."

From 1980 to 1997, Bond hosted the TV show America's Black Forum. He also narrated the award-winning TV series and documentary Eyes on the Prize. In 1998, Bond was elected board chairman of the NAACP and served for 11 years. He then continued as Chairman Emeritus.

"The arc of service of Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond's life extends high and wide over America's social justice landscape: as a young lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr., gifted writer, eloquent speaker, esteemed professor, Georgia state senator, nominee for U.S. Vice President, revered civil rights leader, champion for marriage equality and well beloved NAACP Chairman Emeritus," Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO Cornell, said in a statement.

His wife Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney, and his five children survive Bond.

Bond's friends also shared comments on Twitter (#JulianBond):

Beyoncé Brings Black Pride to Coachella

The superstar made African American culture the star of the show.


Beyoncé Knowles-Carter has carved a place in Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival history as the first Black woman to headline the event. The traditionally hipster/bohemian festival took a journey into Black America with Queen Bey at the helm.

Read More Show Less

Nurse Who Said ‘Stupid’ Stephon Clark ‘Deserved’ to Die Raises Over $24k

"I am not a hateful or discriminatory person," Faith Linthicum said.


The woman who said unarmed Stephon Clark "deserved" to die because he was "being stupid" has raised close to $25,000 in a GoFundMe account.

Faith Linthicum was fired from Kaiser Permanente after writing on Facebook that Clark, a young father of two, had it coming when he was shot in the back repeatedly by two Sacramento police officers.

Read More Show Less

John Lewis, Barack Obama Share MLK's Legacy with Young Leaders

"It was a very sad and dark time for me. He was my leader, he was my inspiration," Lewis said of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination 50 years ago.


"Fifty years ago today, I was with Robert Kennedy in Indianapolis when we heard that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed," Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) wrote in a message released Wednesday morning.

Read More Show Less

We White People Need to Own This

Martin Luther King has been dead for 50 years and Donald Trump is our president. Who is responsible?


Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. Although the title of his column is meant to be humorous, the issues he addresses and the answers he gives to questions are serious — and based on his 18 years of experience publishing DiversityInc. Click here to send your own question to Luke.

We will be deluged by Martin Luther King articles and columns today. Some will be excellent, like the one Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote. But most will be saccharine sweet and not say what needs to be said.

Read More Show Less

Fifty Years After King's Death, Civil Rights Leaders Lament Trump's Rise

"They were afraid to show their ugly heads in a prominent way. Now, Trump has given them a voice and created a climate where they are not afraid to show their ugly heads," said a former King associate.


(Reuters) — A half century after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leaders say they are fearful President Donald Trump could reverse progress made on civil rights in the United States since King's death.

The racism that King's leadership helped subdue has returned, said E. Lynn Brown, a former associate of King's who is bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church near Memphis, Tenn., pointing to a resurgence of white supremacists since Trump launched his campaign for president.

Read More Show Less

Americans Reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy 50 Years Later

A half century after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, visitors still flock to the site where the civil rights leader was assassinated and say that while there has been progress in racial equality, more strides need to be made.


(Reuters) — A half century after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, visitors still flock to the Memphis, Tenn., site where the civil rights leader was assassinated and say that while there has been progress in racial equality, more strides need to be made.

Read More Show Less

'Historic' Numbers of Black Women Running for Office in Alabama

Will the Democratic Party give Black women the support they deserve?

Terri Sewell, D-Ala., a four-term congresswoman, is running for re-election this fall.

Following Republican candidate Roy Moore's defeat in the Alabama Senate special election in December, a record number of Black women are running for office across the state. Black women, who are staunch Democratic voters, now want to be on the ballot.

Read More Show Less