Julian Bond was as passionate, yes, as other civil rights leaders of his generation, but his urbane manner, his measured and sophisticated way of presenting himself to the pubic, is what made him an effective leader.
For Bond, who died last week at 75, could not be rattled – not in debate, not in his service alongside segregationists in the Georgia legislature, not in internal debates within the civil rights movement itself. He reasoned, he sought others’ opinions, he became a great face for the movement on television.
But make no mistake. From his days as a founder of the historic Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to his chairmanship of the NAACP to his role in forming the influential Southern Poverty Law Center, Bond was unbending in his demands that black citizens enjoy the same rights as those who were white.
Bond expanded his horizons, making even more enemies in the establishment with a strong opposition to the Vietnam war. That alienated even some Democrats who’d backed his stances on civil rights.
But Bond, all his life, stood for principle without regard to the personal sacrifices involved. He became, without question, simply one of the greatest Americans of his generation.