Julian Bond, a civil rights activist and longtime board chairman of the NAACP, died Saturday night, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
He was 75.
Bond died in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, after a brief illness, the SPLC said in a statement released Sunday morning.
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, he was considered a symbol and an icon of the 1960s civil rights movement. As a Morehouse College student, he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and, as its communications director, he was on the front lines of protests that led to the nation's landmark civil rights laws.
Bond later served as the board chairman of the 500,000-member NAACP from 1998 through 2009.
The SPLC said Bond was a "visionary" and "tireless champion" for civil and human rights.
"With Julian's passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice," SPLC co-founder Morris Dees said in a statement. "He advocated not just for African-Americans but for every group, indeed, every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all."
President Barack Obama reflected on Bond's life in a statement released Sunday. "Julian Bond was a hero and, I’m privileged to say, a friend. Justice and equality was the mission that spanned his life," the president said.
Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney general, echoed Obama's message. "The legion of committed and passionate advocates he leaves behind is just one of many ways that his legacy will live on," she said in a statement.
Bond served in the Georgia state legislature and was a professor at American University and the University of Virginia.
In 1965 he was one of several African-Americans elected to the Georgia House of Representatives after the new Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act opened voter registration to black people. He served four terms in Georgia's House and six terms in its Senate.
After losing a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives, he taught at several colleges and universities and became a published author. In later years he was a regular commentator for "The Today Show" and even hosted NBC's late night comedy show, "Saturday Night Live."
"Very few throughout human history have embodied the ideals of honor, dignity, courage and friendship like Dr. Julian Bond," said Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign. "Quite simply, this nation and this world are far better because of his life and commitment to justice and equality for all people. Future generations will look back on the life and legacy of Julian Bond and see a warrior of good who helped conquer hate in the name of love. I will greatly miss my friend and my hero Dr. Julian Bond."
Bond is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney; his five children, Phyllis Jane Bond-McMillan, Horace Mann Bond II, Michael Julian Bond, Jeffrey Alvin Bond and Julia Louise Bond; his brother, James Bond; and his sister, Jane Bond Moore.