Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Honoring a Good Bond

Monday was the federal holiday honoring the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. My previous article, posted on January 15 (his actual birthday), was partly about King and the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech he gave in 1964.
This article is about Julian Bond, one of King’s younger co-workers in the civil rights struggle. Bond was born on January 14, 1940, the day before King’s 11th birthday. In addition to being a premier civil rights leader, Bond was also a politician and a college professor. He died on August 15, 2015.
Like King, Bond went to Morehouse College in Atlanta. While a student there in 1960, Bond helped establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Because of his extensive involvement in the civil rights movement and his political activities, he didn’t graduate from Morehouse until 1971.
After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, Bond was one of eleven African Americans elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. Even though he had not yet finished college, he ran for a House seat in November 1965 and won.
But the Georgia House overwhelmingly refused to seat him in January 1966. They took that action because Bond had publicly endorsed SNCC’s strong opposition to the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
Bond and MLK Jr. cast their ballots in Atlanta
to fill Bond’s “vacant” seat for the Georgia House.

Not only did Bond approve of SNCC’s anti-Vietnam War statement, he was a pacifist—as he publicly stated that same month on “Meet the Press.” In that interview he said he developed his pacifist views at the Quaker high school he had attended.
Since the Georgia House declared that Bond was not suitable to be seated, an election was held to fill the vacancy. Bond was elected again. The House refused to seat him again, so another election was held. And guess what: Bond was elected for the same seat a third time!
The standoff was settled when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Bond’s First Amendment rights were being violated and that he could not be barred from serving in the Georgia House. So Bond was finally seated as a state representative.
Bond served in the Georgia House for nine years and then went on to serve in the Georgia Senate from 1975 to 1986. During his tenure in the state legislature, Bond wrote over 60 bills that were ratified as law.
His political career came to an end in 1986 when he narrowly lost his bid for the U.S. House to John Lewis, the seat that Lewis still holds after 30 years.
In 1971, the year he graduated from college, Bond co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center with Morris Dees, a lawyer, and served as the president from its beginning until 1979. Then toward the end of his career, Bond was chairman of the NAACP from 1998 to 2010.
Bond began his teaching career in 1988. He taught as several different universities, but mainly at the University of Virginia from which he retired, and was made professor emeritus, in 2012.
Yes, Julian was a good Bond who deserved the many honors he received, including 28 honorary degrees and a 2008 Library of Congress Living Legend Award. His contributions to racial equality and social justice in this country were significant, indeed, and I am happy to honor his memory here.
But from what I heard at MLK Jr. programs over the past weekend, there still is much that needs to be done for racial equality and justice.


  1. Bond was the excellent narrator of “Eyes on the Prize” (1987, 1990), a 14-part PBS documentary series about the civil rights period. Monday evening June and I enjoyed watching the first two parts (each about 50 minutes long). There was live footage of MLK Jr. in both of those segments.

  2. I heard Julian Bond speak at the University of Missouri in St. Louis in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Of course, I don't remember what he said. :-) But he was very articulate. The nation had a number of great leaders in the 1960s. We still do; unfortunately their work today is hampered by right-wing reaction as bad or worse than we were experiencing in the 1960s and 70s, or so it seems to me. In fact, my suspicion is that one large factor underlying and fueling much of the right-wing reaction of the last 30 years is an incipient racism and anger at the advances we've made in racial integration. (I'm uncomfortable with my articulation here, but probably the point is clear enough.)

    1. Anton, thanks for sharing about having heard Bond speak. I would like to have had that opportunity.

      I think you are correct about the lingering racism in this country. Jim Wallis, as you probably know, talks about this in his new book just released this week: "America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America."

  3. My connection to Bond is more indirect, I have been a long-time supporter of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Reading their reports over the years has been a painful experience. It is hard to believe that so many of our fellow men can be so harshly and intentionally cruel.

    Just as certain people rush to buy guns and ammunition every time the President mentions gun control, or another mass shooting happens, electing a Democratic President, especially a black Democrat, results in people flooding into hate groups, and starting lots of new ones. So I keep sending money to SPLC, and hoping for a better world.

    1. Thanks for sharing your comments, Craig.

      SPLC was one of the first organizations that June and I started (modestly) supporting when we came back to the States in 2004, and we make contributions to their work yearly, if not more often. I hadn't even realized until I started working on this article about Julian Bond that he was the co-founder of SPLC.

    2. Leroy, I am also a supporter (in modest amounts) of SPLC. And like you I did not know Julian Bond was one of the founders. I have an eight year old great grandson with whom Patricia and I are privileged to have a great deal of interaction. I wanted a little learning session with him, so I asked why there was no school on January 18. "It's Martin Luther King day," he told me. I wanted to continue the interaction, so I asked, "Who was Martin Luther King?" "He was a great man," was the response. "And what was so great about him?" I asked. "He brought blacks and whites together." I told him MLK made a good start, but that we still have lots of work to do.

      It was unconscionable that the GA legislature refused to seat Julian Bond until forced by SCOTUS to do so.

  4. Bond was frequently in the news, so like everyone, I saw him there. In the 60s, I hoped and imagined that my two daughters would grow up in a society where racism had disappeared and we could move on. Great strides have been made since the civil rights movement of the 60s, but sadly, racism still abounds. Less I think of blatant racism behaviors, but that is still evident in news items and on the fringe. "Institutionalized racism", however, is inherent in so many of our social structures. Our city's housing patterns and our still segregated central city schools and in most of our churches reflect our lack of progress. As much as I would wish it were not so, I am still part of it.

    1. Thanks, Larry, for your comments also.

      I was in Japan for most of the time in the late 1960s and 70s, so I don't recall seeing Bond even on television.

      On Monday before the MLK Jr. service at William Jewell College there was a study session on racism and white privilege, led by the very capable Rev. Susan McCann, rector of the Grace Episcopal Church here in Liberty.

      In the small group session I was in, seated next to me was an African-American woman who marched with MLK when she was 13 years old. But she contended that in many ways racism, though different, is as bad as it was then. Sad!

  5. Sometimes people start out with good intentions for their organizations, but as you know, personal encounters have made me very cynical, seeing both the NAACP and the SPLC, become vicious and racist organizations. The early leadership was not the issue.

    1. Anonymous, I'm sorry about your encounters that have left you feeling that they are vicious and racist organizations. I have had limited dealings with both organizations, and that has not been my experience at all. Both organizations have been supportive of Friends of Justice (a 501c3 organization which I helped start) in our efforts to bring justice to underprivileged victims of a racist criminal justice system. But every human institution is in danger of turning inward and at time engaging in less than ideal practices.

    2. It is difficult to answer the charge that both the NAACP and SPLC have "become vicious and racist organizations" without any description of what inspired this concern. Both are active and powerful lobbying and legal organizations which have made a number of enemies along the way. The SPLC has successfully sued a number of hate groups, such as KKK organizations, winning large judgments that have greatly depleted the strength of some of them. No doubt these suits sent some shock waves through the families and communities involved in the organizations. The SPLC also tracks hate organizations and provides updates to law enforcement. They also sponsor a "Teach Tolerance" program.

      Also, sometimes there are personal conflicts that arise in organizations large and small, and these can leave some very angry feelings in their wake. One rather public example happened a few years ago when the founder of Habitat for Humanity had a falling out with the group, and left to start a new housing organization. People are human, and sometimes even good people can hurt each other.

      I believe that the NAACP and SPLC are generally good organizations, and both are doing much good. I am sorry if you found yourself in a situation where there was more pain than progress.

    3. Thank you, Craig. I generally appreciate you thoughts of dispassionate wisdom. I only write under the "pseudonym" Anonymous because the topic is not foundational to my life journey - indeed, typically tangetial.

      However, life has rough spots for most, and sadly, some groups add to it, even in a deliberate and mean way (typically the followers rather than the original leaders). I have found the same in politics (regardless of party), the Church (regardless of brand), and in business (regardless of the industry). My focus has become developing a diverse group of friends. Interpersonal is much more profitable than groups, where one can hope to make a positive difference in the world. The world needs reconciliation, rather than those who sling there own militant, self-righteous abuse, and call it "peace" or "tolerance" - they have probably been wounded as well and need a forum for revenge which has been kind and welcoming to them. I'm from Missouri.

      I would enjoy meeting you someday.

  6. Thank you, Charles. I went in to read of your Friends of Justice organization. May it hold to the mission and track. I have found that many English words have developed definitions in a post-modern way which are opposite to other common definitions. Justice, Truth, Peace, Tolerance as a few examples. The point should probably be that we seek to do good. Sadly, I have done harm to others in my life as well - which I deeply regret. My experience with organizations is mixed. In a troubled world we need friends, not enemies - especially among those who claim to espouse Justice, Truth, Peace and Tolerance. But as I noted with Craig, I'm from Missouri. No compromise with those who do evil in the name of good. Thankfully, I have found that most people want another friend, not another enemy.