Recently, when Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, delivered the commencement address at Virginia State University and when he later testified in support of the Uniting American Families Act before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was only doing the civil- and human-rights activities that have marked each milestone of his extraordinarily productive life.
Bond, who is slated to receive the NAACP’s prestigious Spingarn Medal at this year’s historic convention, first gained public recognition during his student days when he, along with countless others, temporarily set aside their studies and became members of the Civil Rights Movement. As a student at Morehouse College in 1960, Bond was a budding poet and dedicated activist when he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, subsequently becoming the organization’s director of communications.
Commitment to the movement did not curtail the considerable literary talent of a young man from a family of outstanding scholars, educators and community leaders; Bond’s poetry has been featured in a number of journals, magazines and newspapers. In 1965, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, but his opposition to the war in Vietnam angered other members, who blocked him from taking his seat. It took two more elections and a judgment from the Supreme Court before he was granted a place in Congress.
“He was co-chair of a challenge delegation from Georgia to the 1968 Democratic Convention. The challengers were successful in unseating Georgia’s regular Democrats, and Bond was nominated for vice president, but had to decline because he was too young,” according the NAACP’s Web site.
Among Bond’s many civic duties, he is chairman of the Premier Auto Group PAG (Volvo, Land Rover, Aston-Martin, and Jaguar) Diversity Council and is on the boards of People for the American Way, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Council for a Livable World. He is also on the advisory board of the Harvard Business School Initiative on Social Enterprise.
For several years the nation saw Bond as a commentator on America’s Black Forum, the oldest Black-owned show in television syndication, sponsored now by Black Enterprise magazine and hosted by Ed Gordon. His melodious voice has resonated on several documentaries, including the award-winning series Eyes on the Prize.
Since 1998, Bond has served as the chairman of the board of the NAACP and was the recipient of the National Freedom Award in 2002, which he can place among the more than 25 honorary degrees. When he isn’t overseeing things at the NAACP, or at board meetings, Bond is Distinguished Professor at American University in Washington, D.C., and a professor in history at the University of Virginia. “We all hope that you will do well,” Bond told the graduates at Virginia State University during his commencement address, “but I also hope that you do good.”
Doing “good” has been the hallmark of Julian Bond’s illustrious career and community service.
Date of Birth: Jan. 14, 1940
Place of Birth: Nashville, Tenn.
Education: B.A., English, Morehouse College, Atlanta
Elected Office: Georgia House of Representatives, 1965 – 1975; Georgia Senate, 1975 – 1986
Activism: Founding member, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; president, Southern Poverty Law Center; chairman, NAACP, 1998 – present