At that point in time he represented so much. In the heated discord of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, a Georgia politician of whisper tones and willowy frame emerged as custom-made for nearly every faction. Julian Bond-the name had a sparkle, his boyish face a purposeful charm, his words a prophetic magic.
For most of the symbol-conscious 1960s, bits and pieces of Bond, the poet, student activist and embattled politician, had fitted the ebbs and tides of political change. At the convention it fitted like the pieces of a puzzle. He was perfect for the New Politician. An intellectual, neat black man who so rattled the southern segregationists with his antiwar views that they denied him his Georgia state assembly seat in 1965. He was perfect for the hopes of the New South and the declarations of the New Left.
Bond fully participated in that watershed event, fitting the strategy so snugly that he later was nominated of vice president of the United States. His was the only black name ever placed in that nomination by a major party. The television light focused on the youthful, rawboned features as he haltingly received the nomination, then wistfully refused because he was only 28. But the moment was his, his status was crystallized and the cameras stayed around to affix his image as a national messenger.
"It was just a diversionary effort," recalls Bonds. "I knew why it was being done. They wanted me to make some statements. . . . and I would give them the chance."
Yet by the time the ball was back in the court of the Democrats, another son of the South wooed the symbols and the networks. Bond was on the outside, working against the southern steamroller of Jimmy Carter. Still the nationally known politician and social critic, Bond was heading into a tormented period of self-assessment. He could have been a congressman; he could have been an NAACP director.
But he wasn't. Instead, in the last dozen years, he had carved out the lonely role of the outsider, retaining respectability with most of the young, liberal and minority coalitions but having to pay the price. After the refused candidate Jimmy Carter's feelers for the joyride to Washington and bucked the tide of black politicians who staked their reputations on support of the Georgia Democrat, he was firmly outside the New Powers. Even when the black leadership convened, he wasn't present.
"Usually the outside is the right place to be for me," says the Julian Bond of today. "Particularly for me, I find the role comfortable. You have a lot more freedom, the liberty to hold people accountable and not to be held in their hip pockets." The analysis is fast, skating from his smooth voice, but his recent period of self-evaluation has left a residue of uncertainty.
Along with independence, the outsider role carries a mercurial clout. His ambivalence is underscored by his boredom with elected politics and his yearning to be a media star. Right now he's making the best of a compromise between those two worlds.
Julian Bond popped into town this week. When his name announced at the National Urban Coalition dinner the other night, there were girlish squeals from the rear of the ballroom-squeals of a type usually reserved for a rock star heartbreaker such as Michael Jackson, not a 39-year-old man plagued by the question, "What has Julian done lately?"
On the dais Bond didn't react to the mild and brief commotion, but kept his gaze steady and appeared, as usual, half-mocking. He was the evening's toastmaster, an easy and modest task for which he put his talents on automatic and skimmed through, but an appearance he felt was important enough for his son, Jeffrey, 11, to skip school and witness.
"Once or twice a year I do a toast-master job. Generally I don't like it because you feel like a traffic cop," said Bond afterward. "I don't want people automatically thinking of Julian Bond for the task, but while I don't want to be called on, I don't not want to be called on."
Thirty years ago black leadership sprang up from the unions. Twenty years ago it was the church and 10 years ago, civil-rights organizations and politics. The '70s didn't have a special launching pad, so Bond decided to try the media.
He began a search that started after Carter's election. Some of his maneuvers were considered unorthodox for the scion of one of black America's best-known families. But he was bored and felt that time was slipping away.
"I fritted away a lot of power," Bond said. "There are two potentially powerful positions, one was directorship of the NAACP, because it is the largest group of black folks in this country. It has the capacity to move the race."
But Bond was considered too radical by the board to get the job.
"And the other is the media, I like the expression and the audience. The 'Today' show reached 5 million people.
From the time he was a youngster, Julian Bond saw people grappling with the responsibilities of being the first-the resultant fame, responsibilities and, often, controversy.
"Guests in our home were men like William E. B. DuBois. I have a picture of me with DuBois and E. Franklin Frazier, and one of me sitting on Paul Robeson's knee," says Bond. Part of his adult calmness comes from proximity to people of stature.
Bond, the second of three children of Horace Mann Bond, was born in Nashville, Tenn., and grew up in Lincoln, Pa., where his father was president of Lincoln University. Though race problems dominated the family's concerns, a Quaker prep school outside Philadelphia became Bond's proving ground for direct encounters with racism.
There a dean told Bond, the only black student, not to wear his school jacket on dates with a white sudent."He clearly didn't want the school associated with this, an interracial relationship," says Bond. In 1957 the family moved to Atlanta and Bond studied at Morehouse College, where the sit-ins provided a forum for his leadership.
"Up until the movement, my main influences were my father and the people he brought home. My father was in some ways a very formal man. Only sometimes would you see him without a shirt and tie, and he looked odd without it," says Bond, with soft respect. Later, as the Civil rights movement brought to prominence a younger generation of strategists and thinkers, Bond was guided by James Foreman and Robert Moses.
"Foreman because he never quit," says Bond, snuffing out a cigarette and searching the rug for his past. "(Bob) Moses because he was willing to take any risk. We were all terrified of Mississippi, but that guy from New York and Harvard was ready. He practiced sleeping on the floor. I stayed in my bed until I had to sleep on the floor." From his supportive role in the civil rights movement, Bond moved to politics. His celebrated fight to take the seat in the Georgia legislature that he won in 1965 solidified his prominence.
For the first five years of his political life, he wouldn't speak on the assembly floor because of his lingering resentment of the political elders and his own shyness. But at the same time, he became one of the most sought-after campus speakers, joining Ralph Nader and Dick Gregory as one of the top three-money-makers on the lecture circuit by 1971. Last year his earnings were estimated by one magazine at $200,000 from speeches and writing, in addition to $7,600 from his 40-days-a-year job in the legislature.
But that life hasn't been satisfying. At one point last year a friend observed, "Julian's mind is not on politics; he doesn't talk about politics. He said 'if Ronald Reagan can go from movie star to politician, then I can go from politician to movie star.'" Yet right now, politics remains a necessary attraction. Like a dozen other Georgia politicians he has considered running for the U.S. Senate seat of Herman Talmadge. That is a dream dashed, simply because Bond thinks a black's chances are slim.
But he remains out front, the clear, steady voice warning against the force of neo-conservatism: "1978 was the year the racial tide was turned. It's been 25 years since the Brown decision, since the lifting of some blacks from permanent peonage," he told a group a student leaders recently. He speaks of the "national nullification of the needs of the needy," and "social arson at the grass roots."
His need to be a free spirit, as well as the period of defining his own self-image in the decade of self, landed him in a few unorthodox situations. On "Saturday Night Live," Bond donned dark glasses and a wig to impersonate a recording company mogul. He appeared in a Richard Pryor movie and contributed to Larry Flynt's Atlanta newspaper. Still the streak of individually has only enhanced his reputation, even in the old enemy camp of southern politicians. Only last year Lester Maddox ran out of his souvenir shop in the Atlanta Underground and brought Bond in to chat with his customers.
Today's Bond, like everyone else, is an amalgam of all his pasts and searchings. Not at all austere like his father, Bond is witty, unpretentious and flirtatious. At his modest home in an inner-city neighborhood of Atlanta, he's a jovial playmate to his children and pitches in to help with the laundry.
Bond and his wife, Alice, socialize privately with friends but she shuns the political world. Says his brother, James Bond, an Atlanta politician, "We go out and do the normal things couples do-go to the movies, attend a concert. Julian is very entertaining. He's the funniest person I know besides Steve Martin."
It is not a life without sacrifices. He has to plan to read old favorites-Ross MacDonald and Tarzan-besides the political reports. "And on the road you do miss your kids growing up, the school plays and basketful games." But he's very aware that he must pass on to his children the Bond tradition of mission. "We discuss what life was like when I grew up, how rigidly segregated Atlanta was 10, 11 years ago," says Bond, his manner determined, without weariness. "And we discuss how bad the times used to be and how imperfect they are now."
Yesterday Julian Bond jad lunch at the White House with a friend who works for congressional liaison Frank Moore. As Bond walked through the halls, he ran into Vice President Walter Mondale, Chip Carter, adviser Hamilton Jordan, Moore, singer Willie Nelson and Detroit Mayor Coleman Young. All the conversations were cordial, all the Carter men seemed friendly.
But Bond has various ways of dealing with his uncertain relationship with the Carter White House. When Carter visited the Georgia legislature two months ago, Bond went through the receiving line twice. Yet, when asked yesterday to rate the administration, Bond answered quickly. "On a scale of one to 10, minus four."
The outsider's quick handshake is rarely a match for his quicker tongue. CAPTION: Picture, Julian Bond, by Fred Sweets-The Washington Post