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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton Speaks to the Life of Her Friend, Civil Rights Leader, Julian Bond, D.C. Resident and Statehood Champion

Aug 16, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today issued the following statement on the life of her friend and Civil Rights leader Julian Bond.

“I was stunned and profoundly saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend, Julian Bond, a life-long civil rights leader, my old SNCC buddy and a founder of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a client for whom I wrote a United States Supreme Court brief, a constituent for years here in Washington, and a prominent D.C. statehood champion.

“Julian’s mark on the Civil Rights Movement began in the South when he was among the small band of students who founded the student Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  However, Julian Bond’s life’s work is spread across his entire life, and the life of the Civil Rights Movement itself.

“Julian continued to make history even after the movement was no longer at its zenith when he was elected in 1965 to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives.  I remember Julian’s election well because I was a constitutional lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) at a time when ACLU took few cases as friend of the court.  The irony was that I wrote the friend of the court brief when Julian was denied his seat in the Georgia legislature because he said publicly that he opposed the Vietnam War and all other wars.  It tells us much about then and now that Julian’s case had to be taken all the way to Supreme Court and became a landmark case.

“Julian eventually left the South and moved to Washington, the base from which he had continued his work for full equality for more than 25 years.  While living in the District, he taught at both American University and the University of Virginia.  It was from here that he did most of his work as long-time chairman of the NAACP and as an Emeritus member of the Southern Poverty Law Center Board of Directors.  He remained throughout his life one of the most sought-after speakers in the United States.

“District residents will be forever grateful to Julian Bond for lending his civil rights celebrity to our cause for full citizenship, D.C. voting rights, and statehood.  Recently, Julian’s voice and image greeted visitors in taxicabs informing them that our residents were trying to get the vote in Congress and full citizenship.

“Not all who came out of SNCC emerged whole, but Julian carried on magnificently, deciding to devote his life to civil rights.  He found more ways to carry on the work he began as a student than any of us.  Throughout his life, he was a major spokesman for the civil rights issue of the day, speaking across the country.  Yet, Julian never spoke only sentimentally about his own heroic work in the Civil Rights Movement.  His facility as a writer, poet, and speaker that he first used in SNCC was brought to the civil rights issues of the day everywhere he spoke.

“Just this year, I asked Julian to come during Black History Month to Howard University where he and I engaged in an intergenerational conversation with Howard student leaders on racial profiling following the police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.  I remember in our public conversation saying to Julian that it took nothing away from our movement to note that for all of its advancements we hardly touched racial profiling.  Three years ago for Black History Month, I asked Julian and John Lewis to come together for a memorable forum I moderated on their extraordinary lives in the Civil Rights Movement.

“Julian Bond was not a public official when he died, but he gave his extraordinary life to serving his country in remedying the most profound defect in our American democracy.  Julian lived a life of service both to the movement and to the country he loved.”

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