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Remembering Julian Bond

Categories: Drew Whitcup, ZiR

downloadJohn Nichols— Washington Bureau Chief for The Nation Magazine— published a brief piece last week remembering the impact a young Julian Bond made at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Mr. Bond passed away earlier this month at the age of seventy-five after an inspiring career as a civil rights leader, and Nichols’ recounting of his role at the convention is a fitting tribute:

As Chicago authorities attacked student demonstrations outside the convention hall, the delegates inside the hall rejected an anti-war ‘peace plank’ and then nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey for the presidency—rejecting [Eugene] McCarthy and [George] McGovern (and the Rev. Channing Phillips, the first African-American to have his name placed in nomination for president at the convention of a major party). Instead of seeking to balance the party ticket by selecting a running mate who was identified with the anti-war movement, Humphrey selected Maine Senator Edmund Muskie. Many of the most committed anti-war delegates wanted to mount a challenge to Muskie’s nomination, but they needed a candidate. Bond agreed to have him name placed in nomination by the Wisconsin delegation, which included some of the most ardent supporters of McCarthy’s candidacy.

Bond was only twenty-eight years old at the time, and had served less than three years in the Georgia state legislature. His nomination, however, represented the frustration and the drive of the progressive leaders in the Democratic party. Civil rights lawyer Ted Warshafsky announced Bond’s nomination from the floor:

Mr. Chairman,’ he said, ‘we of Wisconsin as Democrats who are interested not only in what the party is but in what the party is to become…if it will truly make the American dream a reality not only for affluent delegates but for the young people who march in the parks looking for quality in life.…I think that our positions are eminently clear to this convention and the American people. So I will say as simply and as sincerely [as I can] on behalf of my delegation that we wish to offer in nomination the wave of the future. It may be a symbolic nomination tonight but it may not be symbolic four years hence. We offer in nomination with the greatest pleasure the name of Julian Bond.’

Julian Bond spent nearly fifty years after that moment fighting for progressive ideals in various ways. That night at the convention, in a brief interview with Dan Rather, he previewed the extraordinary work that was to come:

[Rather]: ‘Mr. Bond, how old are you?’

‘I’m 28,’ replied Bond.

‘And how old does the vice president, legally, does he have to be by the constitution?’ asked Rather. Bond replied: ’35, I believe’

Rather: ‘So it isn’t likely that you’re going to be a serious vice-president nominee.’

Bond: ‘No, no, this convention might mandate to Congress, or request that Congress change the age by election time and maybe I can make it.’

Rather: ‘You’re saying that tongue-in-cheek. Now, what’s at work here? Wisconsin has placed your name in nomination for what purpose?’

Bond: ‘Well, I would hope it’s because they think I would make a good vice president. I think it’s also to get an opportunity to address this body and — through the medium of television — other people in the nation about some of the issues that are not being discussed here.’

Rather: ‘Which are?’

Bond: ‘Which are poverty, racism, war. There really has not been a great deal of free discussion about them I don’t think.’

— Drew Whitcup, Zeteo Contributing Writer


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