A prominent civil rights activist who became the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Horace Julian Bond served as chairman of NAACP from 1998 to 2010, bringing the institution into the 21st century. Bond was also active in politics in Georgia, serving in both chambers of the state’s government for two decades.
POLITICAL CAREER IN GEORGIA
Born in 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, Bond moved to Pennsylvania as a young boy when his father, Horace Mann Bond, became president of Lincoln University. He returned to the South to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta but soon left school to lead student protests against segregation in Georgia as a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He would return to Morehouse College a decade later to finish his bachelor’s degree in English.
Bond was first elected to Georgia’s House of Representatives in 1965 along with 10 other Black Americans after voting rights legislation ended disenfranchisement of Blacks. All but a few members of the House refused to seat him, citing his opposition to the Vietnam War. After a district court determined that the Georgia House had not violated Bond’s constitutional rights, the case went to the Supreme Court, which overturned the decision and ruled 9-0 in Bond’s favor.
In 1998, Bond became chairman of the NAACP, a job he referred to as “the most powerful job a Black man can have in America.”
In 1968, Bond led an alternate delegation from Georgia to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where he was nominated as a candidate for Vice President of the United States. Too young to serve, the 28-year-old Bond withdrew his name from the ballot.
ACTIVIST AND ACADEMIC
Alongside his political career, Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971 as a public interest law firm focused on civil rights issues. He served as its first president for eight years then remained on the board of directors until his death.
Bond served four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives, where he organized the legislature’s Black Caucus before he was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1975. He served six U.S. House of Representatives.
After losing to civil rights leader John Lewis, Bond left politics and taught at several distinguished universities, including American University, Drexel University, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Virginia.
In 1998, Bond became chair of the NAACP board of directors, a job he referred to as “the most powerful job a Black man can have in America.” He served for 11 years.
Bond spoke out on important issues of the day through a newspaper column and his frequent appearances on radio and television. He narrated the landmark 14-episode documentary on the civil rights movement, Eyes on the Prize.
Bond published a collection of his essays A Time to Speak, A Time to Act in 1972. Over the course of his lifetime, the civil rights leader received 25 honorary degrees. Bond died in Florida in 2015 at the age of 75.