The National Coalition Against Censorship was deeply saddened by the sudden passing of civil rights icon Julian Bond, who died on August 15. Bond had been a member of NCAC's Council of Advisors since 2000.
Bond was one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the early 1960s. At the age of 25 Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. But Bond was denied his seat by the Georgia legislature, due to comments he made opposing the Vietnam War ("I'm against all war. I'm against that war in particular, and I don't think people ought to participate in it.")
The ensuing legal battle — Bond v. Floyd — made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In a unanimous 1966 ruling, the Court found that the legislature had denied Bond's free speech rights: "We therefore hold that the disqualification of Bond from membership in the Georgia House because of his statements violated Bond's right of free expression under the First Amendment."
Bond would go on to serve as the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and board chairman of the NAACP. He also hosted the television program America's Black Forum in the early 1980s.
Throughout, Bond remained committed to defending free speech rights. “The First Amendment means everything to me,” he told the First Amendment Center in 2001. He added:
I was intimately involved in the civil rights movement which was built on the First Amendment right to speak and protest;. Without those rights of free speech and the right to protest, the movement would not have accomplished what it did.
Bond went on to argue that the First Amendment "must protect unpopular speakers," and recalled that many popular movements start out that way: "You have to remember that my views and the civil rights movement were unpopular views. We must protect the unpopular views or we cannot protect the popular ones."
In 2001, Bond was criticized for comments he made about the George W. Bush administration catering to the "Taliban wing of American politics." As Bond would later explain:
Every time someone says George Bush is an idiot, or Julian Bond is an idiot, that's the First Amendment in action.