In Memory of Julian Bond (1940-2015)
In a companion feature to its obituary, The Washington Post on Monday August 17, shared a story from Pamela Horowtiz, Julian Bond’s widow. As she was leaving the intensive care unit where her husband had died, a nurse stopped to offer condolences, the first person to extend sympathy:
“She told me, ‘I want you to know it was a privilege to take care of him,’ ” recalls Horowitz, voice wavering. “She said, ‘As a gay American, I thought he was a hero.’ And for her to say that, for her to be the last person who was with him, I thought it was a nice way to end."
For many of us in the struggles for social justice, Julian Bond was a hero and a role model.
Known first for his civil rights activism, Bond won national attention in 1966 when the Georgia state legislature voted to deny him the seat to which he was elected. The rationale was that he was a disloyal American for opposing the war in Vietnam. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the legislature had denied Bond his free speech rights and ordered that he be seated.
Throughout his life, Julian Bond remained a champion for racial justice, and he personified the effort to broaden the social justice struggle to include everyone. Besides the lesbian nurse who saw him as a hero, there were workers who welcomed him to their picket lines and rallies and peace activists who could always count him among their ranks.
In the 1970s, Julian Bond chose to join the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee while I was National Secretary (the job is now called National Director). Julian probably joined in 1975, and he was more than a paper member. He’d volunteer to speak to DSOC locals occasionally when he was on tour. He supported big national projects like Democratic Agenda, and he remained in touch regularly with the national office. I came to know him personally a bit through these interactions.
When I saw in this morning’s paper that he had died, it hit me hard. I am nine years younger than Julian was, so I know part of this is the inevitable feeling of seeing people close to my own age die and feeling pangs of my own mortality. With Julian Bond, it’s also more than that. Julian Bond brought a particular talent to American politics of reaching across lines and building broad coalitions for justice. At age 75, he had so much left to offer.
He inspired us with his life. May his death inspire us to carry on his great work.
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