A lecturer in history at the University of Virginia here and an adjunct government professor at American University in Washington, Bond has made a seemingly smooth transition from full-time activist and failed congressional candidate to academician.
He still makes about 50 public appearances a year, he says, for an average fee of $3,000, and hosts a syndicated weekly television show called America's Black Forum. (Locally, it's on Channel 29 Monday at 3:30 a.m.)
He recently won election to the board of the embattled NAACP. His students, he says, give him "rave reviews." And some people, at least, still remember him. "I've been around for a long time. And I've been a lot of places," he says proudly from behind the wheel of his dark green Volvo.
On Sunday at 2:30 p.m., Bond will be at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to discuss the relationship between his father, Horace Mann Bond, president of Lincoln University, and art collector Albert C. Barnes. The lecture is being offered in conjunction with "From Cezanne to Matisse: Great French Paintings
From the Barnes Foundation," whose run has been extended until April 23.
The two men first met at a funeral, Bond says, and the senior Bond's relationship with the eccentric Barnes was reinforced by their shared interest in African American culture. The friendship led, eventually, to Barnes willing control over his foundation to Lincoln, the country's oldest black private
Julian Bond says that he himself has no memory of Barnes. Bond's father died in 1972. So to prepare for his talk, Bond spoke to his mother, a librarian, and is reviewing the correspondence between the two men. From his mother, he says, comes this anecdote:
"Dr. Barnes came to our house once, and he was talking to my mother. And he heard something and said, 'What's that goddamned noise?' And my mother said, 'Those are my children, Dr. Barnes.'
"And he said, 'Well, tell them to shut up.' And she did."
Julian Bond did not stay quiet for long.
A child of privilege in an era of discrimination, he attended the private George School in Bucks County because the local high school was "just not considered up to snuff." He moved to Atlanta with his family to enter Morehouse College, a black school that attracted, he says, "the cream of the cream." There, he was one of six students in a seminar taught by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It was in the early 1960s, as spokesman for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, that the telegenic and eloquent Bond sprang into the public consciousness.
Those were heady times, which Bond remembered as he walked across the University of Virginia campus to join his wife of five years, Pamela Sue Horowitz, for lunch. She is a litigator who once specialized in public- interest law; they met at one of his speeches.
When you talk to people who participated in civil-rights sit-ins, Bond says, "each of them uses language that tells how empowering - I hate that word, empowering - but tells how empowering it was for them. How they felt free for the first time in their lives."
Nattily dressed in a camel-haired sport jacket and a gold tie featuring two African American musicians, Bond ducks into a convenience store to scoop up the New York Times. He will scour its obituary section for items on former civil-rights activists to share with his lecture class on "The History of the Civil Rights Movement."
"Understand, in 1960, if you wanted to do something about racial conditions, what could you do?" Bond continues. "You could give money to the NAACP, or join the NAACP. . . . If you lived somewhere where black people could vote, you could vote. If you were a lawyer, you could file lawsuits. But if you were just a plain citizen . . . there was nothing for you to do.
"But, all of a sudden, here comes this thing that everybody could do - and that's sit down. No expertise required. . . . So it was liberating."
For Bond, "It was the time in my life I have felt most engaged." He adds quickly: "I'm not going to say my life is a downer now, by any means."
Still, Bond, who served two decades in the Georgia General Assembly, once seemed marked for a stellar political career. In 1965, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, but its members refused to seat him because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. He had won three elections before the U.S. Supreme Court pried open the House doors.
Bond explained his anti-Vietnam stand to his constituents in a comic book. It's one of the documents in a source book on civil rights that he co-edited and now uses as a text. "This is fabulous," he says, pointing it out. "Just beautiful."
When he was only 28, too young to serve, Bond's name was briefly placed into nomination at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago as a ploy for anti-administration forces to gain control of the microphone. Eight years later, he began a campaign for president that was derailed by lack of money.
"I had this idea," he says, over a grilled tuna sandwich, "if you get a number of black political figures to run as favorite sons or daughters in their home states, you can assemble a block of votes and dicker with the Democrats at the convention. But it came to nothing."
He met with an even more stinging defeat in 1986 when he ran for Congress against an old friend and fellow activist, Atlanta City Councilman John Lewis. Lewis edged past Bond, the frontrunner, in a runoff election, sounding the death knell of Bond's political career.
Worse was to follow. In the months afterward, Alice Bond, his estranged wife and the mother of his five children, told police that he had used cocaine repeatedly, charges she later retracted. At one point, Bond's lover, Carmen Lopez Butler, assaulted Alice Bond with a high-heeled shoe while Julian Bond looked on. Butler was eventually convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Bond responds to questions about that period with clipped, one-word answers. Yes, he was involved with Lopez. No, he never used cocaine. "It was a rough time," he concedes. "I got through it because I knew these rumors were nothing but rumors. . . . And I knew it would pass away."
Strolling across the campus Thomas Jefferson designed, Bond pauses for a second to light up a cigarette. A student passes him, then does a double-take. Bond says that people still notice him, know he's famous. But often they're not quite sure who he is.
"A lot of people come up to me and say: 'Mayor Young, how are things in Atlanta?' And I used to say, 'I'm not Andrew Young. You've got me confused.' Now, I just say: 'They're great.' "
Why not correct them? "It's too much trouble," he says.
But what if they ask for his autograph? Whose name does he sign?
"I once had a guy who was drunk think I was Johnny Mathis and ask me for my autograph," Bond says, "and I signed it 'Johnny Mathis.' "
In his popular lecture class, Bond is on familiar ground. He talks, compellingly, about 1960s freedom rides and voter registration drives across the segregated South, hardly glancing at his notes.
Afterward, a high school student visiting campus says she has skipped lunch to hear Bond. "I know how important he is to the whole civil rights struggle," says Danielle Bailey, 17, adding: "I wish he had been more personal."
At an appearance at the nearby Federal Executive Institute, which trains senior government executives, Bond is even more clearly in his element. In a polished speech, he compares this country's weariness with Reconstruction a century ago with its current retrenchment on civil rights and affirmative action.
Opponents of recent black gains, he says, have assembled "a constituency of the comfortable, the callous and the smug to form solid ranks against the forgotten."
"Then, as now," he continues, "they try to enforce the national nullification of the needs of the needy, the gratuitous gratification of the gross and the greedy. And then, as now, they practice the politics of impropriety, prevarication, pious platitudes and - dare I say it? - self- righteous swinishness."
Bond handles the questions that follow with panache and an impish humor, especially when he can bring the subject back to himself. One critique of affirmative action, he notes, is that "it makes the beneficiaries feel bad."
"Now, I assume that I got hired at the University of Virginia because I am a good teacher. I am a good teacher," he says jauntily. "And I get rave reviews from my students at the end of every semester. And I know my subject. And I've contributed a little bit to the academic literature, which is important in this world.
"But maybe, maybe, they just wanted a black guy. They only had one in my department. Maybe they needed another. I don't care," he says, to gales of laughter.
"And if other people care, and if there are other people there who think that somehow I'm not qualified, that's their problem, isn't it? Isn't it their problem? That's not mine."
Afterward, the bureaucrats swarm around Bond, praising his speech, his life. Their warmth, he says, came as a surprise. He walks back to his car, almost content, and lights one final cigarette before heading home to Washington.
IF YOU GO
* Julian Bond will speak on "Dr. Horace Mann Bond, Lincoln University, and Dr. Albert Barnes: Some Personal Reflections" in the Van Pelt Auditorium of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and the Parkway, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Lecture is free with museum admission of $7 for adults, $4 for students and senior citizens. Free admission before 1 p.m.