Julian Bond: A Remembrance from Anthony Michael Kreis

Julian Bond passed away at age 75.  The following is a remembrance from Anthony Michael Kreis. Kreis is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia. While in law school, he served as a research assistant to Julian Bond intermittently between 2009 and 2010:

Civil rights advocate Julian Bond lived an accomplished life committed to the expansion of justice and equality for all. His death on Saturday is a loss for the nation.

A native of Nashville, Bond attended Morehouse College in Atlanta. At Morehouse, Bond helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, launching himself into the Civil Rights Movement. Later in life, Bond served as chairman of the NAACP and led the Southern Poverty Law Center.

After the Voting Rights Act’s enactment in 1965, Bond was one of eight black candidates elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. White members of the Georgia House, however, were unwilling to welcome Bond into the chamber. The Georgia House refused to seat him, citing his opposition to the Vietnam War. A unanimous decision by the United States Supreme Court ordered the legislature to seat him in 1966.

He spent 20 years in the Georgia General Assembly. Among his many legislative achievements was the creation of a majority-black congressional district in Atlanta. In 1968, he was the co-chairman of a racially integrated delegation to the Democratic National Convention. It was at that Convention, he became the first African-American nominated for vice president of the United States.

Later in life, he taught civil rights history at the University of Virginia. That is where I met Professor Bond. For two summers while law student, I volunteered to help Professor Bond on research looking into the NAACP’s litigation work prior to the Second World War.

Julian Bond’s impact on civil rights and voting rights is hard to overstate. I could write a novel about Julian Bond’s many accomplishments, but offer a small story to illustrate the civil rights giant’s kindness and wisdom.

Recently, I’ve become deeply involved in advancing LGBT rights in Georgia. A few years ago, I wrote to Bond detailing the status of LGBT issues in Georgia. I asked him how he managed to stay committed to the cause in the face of tremendous challenges and how he kept hope alive in communities that were more accustom to defeat than victory. His response was simple, “You must persevere.” He went on and explained that win or lose standing up for social justice is a triumph in its own right.

There are many challenges that we face in America today that Julian Bond was deeply passionate about, including protecting voting rights, advancing LGBT rights, and reforming the criminal justice system. Julian Bond’s legacy will live on in these civil rights causes and many more. As we carry the torch that Julian Bond and many others have passed on to us, we must embrace his wisdom and remember that there is always victory in the act of speaking out.


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