Washington, DC – Many of us woke up this morning (August 16, 2015) to the news that Julian Bond, a hero who was at the forefront of the civil rights movement, had died. Julian was only 75 years old, and as many of us approach that number, we are especially saddened because we know there is so much more to be done for equal rights to become a reality. If it were not for people like Julian, we would not have come as far as we have come or made the progress we have made to date.
I lived in Atlanta, Georgia when neither Julian nor I had white hair. We were great friends. I remember how we’d walk down the streets of Atlanta laughing and talking about all the great issues of the day — as well as our hopes and dreams for the future. We chose to walk because in those days, we were always sure someone was listening inside buildings.
One of Julian’s fondest hopes was to become Chairman of the Board of the NAACP. He ultimately did that and I was happy he shared that with me in our walking and talking sessions.
Later when I moved from Atlanta to Michigan, Julian came to Flint, where I had gone to work for the NEA affiliate (Michigan Education Association). He needed to get to Saginaw, Michigan for a speech he was to do there, and he asked me to drive him. That was before I was familiar with the Michigan snow!
I drove him there, and he told me so many jokes — one that is too raunchy to repeat here. Because he had such a dry sense of humor, no one would ever have believed some of the ones he told me on that occasion.
Well after the jokes and dinner, and a lot of laughter, I had to drive back to Flint on a wing and a prayer because the snow was so heavy that all the road signs were covered. I had to guess that I was going the right way. Some years later, I saw Julian in the Rayburn Congressional Office Building, and we reconnected with my telling him, “You know, I am on the road as much as you are now,” and he asked if that meant I was driving a truck by chance.
I didn’t see my friend much in recent years, but whenever we met, he had a new joke. The only time that was not the case was just a few weeks ago when I saw him in Philadelphia at the NAACP Convention. That was the last time I was to see him. I didn’t get a chance to talk with him, but he was praised, and rightly so, by NAACP President Cornell W. Brooks. He was a bit grayer than the last time we talked, but he was the eternal activist to the end, and I am glad to have called him my friend.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is National President of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc.
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Watch: Julian Bond talks marching in 1963, celebrity activism, and Harry Belafonte and Jay Z in the BET.com video below.
(Photo: Dudley M. Brooks/The Washington Post/Getty Images)