Longtime Civil-Rights Activist Julian Bond Dead at 75

ATLANTA (AP) -

Julian Bond, a leading figure from the 1960s civil-rights movement who served as chairman of the NAACP after a long career in politics, died Saturday, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was 75.

Bond died in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, after a brief illness, the center said in a statement released Sunday.

Horace Julian Bond was born Jan. 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee, and grew to be a major force in the campaign for racial equality. Often seen at the forefront of protests against segregation, Bond later pursued a lengthy career in politics and academia but never ceded his position as a civil-rights icon.

President Barack Obama issued a statement Sunday calling Bond “a hero.”

“Justice and equality was the mission that spanned his life,” Obama said. “Julian Bond helped change this country for the better. And what better way to be remembered than that.”

Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965 and stepped into the national spotlight after being refused his seat because of his anti-war stance on Vietnam. The case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor. Bond took his seat in 1967.

He led a delegation to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where his name was placed in nomination for the vice presidency but he declined because he was too young.

He served in the Georgia House until 1975 and then served six terms in the Georgia Senate from 1975 to 1986. He also served as president of the SPLC from its founding in 1971 to 1979 and was later on its board of directors.

In 1998, Bond was elected as board chairman of the NAACP, serving for 10 years.