Former NAACP chairman and Southern Poverty Law Center president Julian Bond died on Saturday night, according to the SPLC.
The 75-year-old civil rights activist died in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., after a short, unspecified illness, the SPLC said in a statement early Sunday.
Bond was born in Nashville, Tenn. and attended Morehouse College, where he helped start the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in 1960. The future state lawmaker and university professor led student protests against segregation as SNCC’s communications director from 1960 to 1963.
Voters elected Bond to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. But white members of the House refused to seat him because he opposed the Vietnam War, according to Bond’s NAACP biography. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the legislature to allow him to assume office the following year. Bond served 10 years in the state House before an 11-year tenure as a state senator.
He also helped found the SPLC as its first president from 1971 to 1979, according to the organization. Bond ran for the U.S. House of Representatives but lost to fellow civil rights leader John Lewis.
From the 1980s until his death, the son of a college president lectured at multiple schools, including Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia and The American University, his UVA history faculty profile says. Bond received 25 honorary degrees and narrated the PBS documentary about the civil rights movement called “Eyes on the Prize.”
NAACP members made him board chairman of the 500,000-strong organization in 1998, and he led the organization for the next 11 years. After declining to run for another term, he acted as chairman emeritus and sat on the SPLC’s board of directors as its president emeritus.
“With Julian's passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice,” SPLC co-founder Morris Dees said in a statement. “He advocated not just for African-Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.”
Bond’s wife, former SPLC staff attorney Pamela Horowitz, survives him, along with his five children, his brother James Bond and his sister Jane Bond Moore.