Civil rights leader and former NAACP chairman Julian Bond died Saturday night, but those who remember him know that his legacy will live on for generations. Public reactions to Bond's death have been sad and nostalgic, as many people remember him as a witty, spirited, and dedicated civil rights icon. Al Gore, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Stephen Colbert, President Barack Obama, and others shared messages about Bond's importance, saying that his fire will live on in continued movements for racial equality and social change.
Bond was a poet, a lecturer at a number of universities, a former state legislator of 20 years in Georgia, the first black person to be nominated for vice president of the United States, and one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Georgia legislature voted to remove him from the state's house of representatives when he first took office because he publicly spoke out against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and then said he supported draft evasion. He took the case to court — arguing that his removal violated his First Amendment right to free expression — and pushed it all the way to the Supreme Court, which voted unanimously in his favor and restored his seat in office.
His family and friends remembered him as someone who worked to "vanquish discrimination" against any oppressed group, someone who would snap pictures with anyone on the street who asked, and as a friend to President Obama and a number of congressional representatives and civil rights leaders, according to The Washington Post.
Even some of the 2016 presidential candidates spoke about his death.
In his statement, Obama said Bond was a hero and his friend, according to BuzzFeed News:
Michelle and I have benefited from his example, his counsel, and his friendship — and we offer our prayers and sympathies to his wife, Pamela, and his children. Julian Bond helped change this country for the better. And what better way to be remembered than that.
Stephen Colbert shared the episode of his show, The Colbert Report, where Bond guest starred and hilariously helped him "pick his new black friend":
Civil rights leaders, activists, and politicians from around the country shared their thoughts and gratitude.
Bond's cousin, author Cynthia Bond, said Bond reminded her of her father:
In an interview with the The Washington Post, Bond's wife of 24 years, Pamela Horowitz, said he died from sudden illness brought on by complications related to vascular disease. She said she was leaving the intensive care unit just after Bond died when Bond's nurse stopped her to offer condolences:
She told me, "I want you to know it was a privilege to take care of him." 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.
Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton released a statement that called Bond a "trailblazer for equality and inclusion," according to CBS News:
As one who came out of the immediate generation after him, I grew up admiring and studying the work of Julian Bond and the country has lost a champion for human rights. The work of Mr. Bond will be missed but not forgotten as we march forward for civil rights.
Filmmaker Aviva Kempner, a family friend, told the Post that Bond felt "intense responsibility" to set an example as one of the faces of the Civil Rights Movement:
Every time we walked around in D.C., some would stop him and say "Hi, Mr. Bond," or "Thank you, Mr. Bond," or "Can we take a picture?" He was never rude to anyone. He always gave them a piece of his time. He knew he represented the great advancements of civil rights. He also knew we have a lot of work to do.