As protester, politician, scholar, and lecturer, Julian Bond was committed to civil rights, economic justice, and peace from the 1950s until the end of his life. Bond played a significant role in the civil rights movement and continued his battle to ensure equality for all Americans during his twenty-year tenure in the Georgia legislature. When Bond retired from the Georgia senate, he had been elected to office more times than any other Black Georgian.
Horace Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee. His father, Horace Mann Bond, became the first president of Fort Valley State College (later Fort Valley State University) in Fort Valley, Georgia, in 1939 and the first African American president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1945, as well as dean of education at Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University) in 1957. After finishing high school, Julian Bond moved to Atlanta in 1957 to attend Morehouse College. At the all-Black college, Bond joined the varsity swimming team, was one of the founding members of the literary magazine The Pegasus, and served as an intern for Time magazine. Bond’s lifelong dedication to civil rights began at Morehouse when the young student helped organize the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights. The civil rights organization staged various nonviolent protests that led to the integration of Atlanta’s theaters, lunch counters, and parks.
On Easter weekend 1960, Bond joined several other college students in Raleigh, North Carolina, to form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and he became its communications director. An organization made up entirely of college students, SNCC worked with local communities to establish grassroots support for the civil rights movement. As SNCC’s communications director, Bond served as editor of its newspaper, the Student Voice, based in Atlanta. He also participated in numerous voter registration drives throughout the South. In 1961 Bond left Morehouse to dedicate more time to the movement, becoming the editor of a new protest magazine, the Atlanta Inquirer. In 1971 he returned to Morehouse and graduated with a degree in English. He was later awarded twenty-one honorary degrees from various colleges and universities.
In 1965 Bond officially entered the political arena. The veteran civil rights activist won a seat in the Georgia legislature, but his outspoken objection to the Vietnam War (1964-73) prompted the legislature to deny Bond his seat. Three times voters in Bond’s district elected him as their representative only to have the legislature ignore their wishes. Finally, in December 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the actions of the Georgia house were unconstitutional. Bond was sworn in on January 9, 1967, and served until 1974, when he was elected to the Georgia senate. During this time Bond also served as president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights law firm established in Montgomery, Alabama, by Morris Dees, the former business partner of Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller.
While in the senate, Bond became the first African American chair of the Fulton County senate delegation and was chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. In 1971 he returned to his SNCC roots when he conducted a widely publicized voter registration drive in heavily Black areas of Georgia. He retired from the senate to run for the U.S. Congress in 1986. He lost the election in a fiercely contested battle to his longtime friend and fellow civil rights activist John Lewis.
Following the end of his political career, Bond was a professor of history at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and a visiting professor at American University in Washington, D.C. In 1998 he became chair of the board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. His writings have appeared in the Nation, Life, the New York Times, and other national publications.
Bond was married twice, first to Alice Clopton Bond, with whom he had five children: Phyllis Jane, Horace Mann II, Michael Julian, Jeffery, and Julia Louise. In 1990 he married Pamela Sue Horowitz, a lawyer at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Bond died at the age of seventy-five on August 15, 2015, while vacationing in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.