Julian Bond: Family, friends and colleagues weigh in on his passing

US President Barack Obama shakes hands with NAACP chairman Julian Bond (L) during the NAACP 100th Anniversary convention in New York, July 16, 2009. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

 The passing of iconic civil rights advocate and former NAACP chairman, Julian Bond, has struck a chord on so many levels, with so many people across the political, humanitarian and civil rights landscape.

The champion of equal rights for all of society’s oppressed died on Saturday in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. and while condolences have been pouring in, we are now learning even more intimate details surrounding his death.

Bond, 75, leaves behind his wife of 24 years, Pamela Horowitz, who, says his sudden passing is from complications related to vascular disease. In a voice filled with emotion, Horowitz recalls a poignant incident that happened just as she was leaving the intensive care unit. She says a nurse who was the first to stop her and offer condolences told her.

 “…‘I want you to know it was a privilege to take care of him,’ ” Horowitz recalls. “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.’”
Bond also co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center. He has been front and center in the fight for civil rights and social justice since the 60’s.

His friends and family say he recently advocated for gay couples who wished to marry, and would chat and snap pictures with anyone on the street. He also is said to have talked regularly with President Barack Obama.

“Justice and equality was the mission that spanned his life – from his leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to his founding role with the Southern Poverty Law Center, to his pioneering service in the Georgia legislature and his steady hand at the helm of the NAACP,” President Obama said in a statement Sunday. “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.”

 According to Horowitz, her husband remained optimistic until the end, looking for reasons to laugh.
“He had a wonderful sense of humor. You know, that got him through the serious things he dealt with all his life. He used to joke that on his tombstone, one side would say ‘Race man,’ and the other side would say, ‘Easily amused.’”
He was a  “warrior for good” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign in a statement on Sunday, adding, “Very few throughout human history have embodied the ideals of honor, dignity, courage, and friendship like Julian Bond. Quite simply, this nation and this world are far better because of his life and commitment to equality for all people,” Griffin concluded.
Bond has such a broad range of friendships; developed from his decades long, front runner status in the fight for everyone to live with human dignity and a sense of purpose. The words offered by these relationships are so sincere and heartfelt.

Paul Gaston, a history professor who worked with Bond at the University of Virginia, was heartbroken upon hearing the news of Bond’s death on television and praised the way Bond communicated the subject of civil rights; to any and everyone, in a way that they could understand it; whether on the national stage or in the classroom.

“He was one of the most popular teachers because he kept telling truths,” Gaston said. “He opened students’ eyes to a world that was foreign to many of them. They told me they were very grateful for that course because it changed their lives.”

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