An Unplanned Conversation with Julian Bond

BondandKingAmong the decaying newsprint clippings I discovered in the attic this weekend was a February 20, 1970 issue of The Spotlight, the student newspaper of Eastern Baptist College.

Headlining the issue was an exclusive interview with Georgia legislator Julian Bond who, despite having just turned 30 that year, was a political superstar on campuses around the country. Bond was one of eleven African Americans elected to the Georgia House of Representatives after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 opened registration to Black voters, and – as noted in The Spotlight’s introduction – he became a national media figure at the Democratic Convention in 1968. He was a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and chair of the NAACP from 1998 to 2010 when he compared the GOP’s Tea Party movement as “the Taliban wing of the Republican Party.” Bond was 75 when he died in August 2015.

It was a cold night in January 1970 that the Spotlight staff gathered in its elegant office in Walton Hall to do some brain storming about the next edition. Top issues that year were the demonstrations of the Resistance Movement against the Vietnam War, and the (ultimately unsuccessful) campaign of Democratic upstart Norval Reece to unseat Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott. Editor Judson Childs had already interviewed Reece and staff members began suggesting names for other interviewees. I think it was Jane Thompson who said, “How about Julian Bond?”

We all admired Bond and thought that was an excellent idea.

“He’ll never do it,” someone said, but by then I was already on the old rotary phone in the office calling information for the number of the Georgia House. I was quickly connected with Bond’s office where an adolescent-sounding male said, “He’s not here, he’s on the floor,” meaning the floor of the house. Trying to make “Eastern Baptist College” sound as august as Bond’s alma mater Morehouse College, I left my name and number and asked if Mr. Bond would please call me for a brief telephone interview.

I put the phone down and the staff conversation turned to other matters. Within the hour, however, the phone rang and one of the women picked it up and her eyes widened.

“It’s Julian Bond!” she shouted, muffling the phone with her palm.“Who is going to talk to him?”

I reached for the phone just as I was handed the microphone of a barely functioning cassette recorder. I pressed the microphone against the mouthpiece and began talking.

We must have been on deadline because I remember staying up late to transcribe the interview, carefully omitting my nervous banter and futile efforts to make the serious Bond laugh. Once typed, I quickly measured the copy for layout, clipped a picture of Bond out of TIME magazine and dropped it in without a credit line. The interview – for whatever minor contribution it makes now to the history of small school journalism – is posted below before the actual newsprint deteriorates into meaningless yellow flakes.

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About Philip E Jenks

Philip is a retired communicator for American Baptist Churches USA, the U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches, the U.S. National Council of Churches, and two Philadelphia area daily newspapers. He and his spouse, the Rev. Dr. Martha M. Cruz, are the parents of six adults and are members of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rye Brook, N.Y. They live in Port Chester, N.Y.
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4 Responses to An Unplanned Conversation with Julian Bond

  1. caroliviah says:

    Impressive, Phil. What memories you bring back. I remember when Julian Bond was nominated for president.

  2. John Pipe says:

    Thanks for the interview with Jukian Bond. I remember him visiting Mesa College in Grand Junction, Colorado, back in the 1970 ‘s. Impressive man with a sharp mind.
    Too bad that article had two editorial misses at the end. Here, I thought, Eastern Baptist College was perfect! But, alas, no. And, neither was it perfect when I was a student in mother 50s, and, I think, Ron Schlosser, editor of The Spotlight!

    • I didn’t know Ron Schlosser was a Spotlight editor but he would have been perfect for the job. Walt Ketcham, my pastor in Morrisville, N.Y., in the mid-sixties, was a Spotlight editor, as was Norman De Puy.

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