The comet Kohoutek. Video-telephones Space-food sticks. New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne. Detente. The '60s.
Q: What do these things have in common?
A: All were much-heralded new arrivals on the political , scientific or cultural scene--stellar entrants that never quite made it. Each was a "news event" Time magazine might have chirped about in a short blurb one week, and then promptly forgotten. They were all firecrackers that roared skyward and then fizzled.
Julian Bond certainly fits into this category. Elected in 1965 to the Georgia House of Representatives, Bond was initially booted from his seat by legislators who disliked his statements in opposition to the Vietnam war. He won two special elections held to fill his seat, but each time the legislature refused to let him enter. Until 1967, that is, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature acted improperly in barring him.
The national prominence Bond gained from the legislature's antics culminated in his nomination as a vice-presidential candidate at the 1968 Democratic convention. Bond withdrew his name from consideration because of age, however. He was 28.
Bond had found the entrance doors to the 1968 convention barricaded, too. As co-chairman of the Georgia Loyal National Democratic Delegation, he came to the convention as a member of a minor insurgent group. But the Loyal Democrats won the credentials away from another Georgia delegation, dominated by party regulars, including Lester Maddox.
Where is Bond now, ten years later? He still appears on talk shows and at other engagements. He's still plugging in the state legislature, operating--now as a state senator--out of an office in the basement of his mother's house. And he hasn't lost his maverick style: Bond bitterly opposed Carter's nomination during the primaries. He's also retained his ties to the civil rights and anti-poverty movements of the '60s. He helped found the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee by chairing two Southern activist groups.
But Bond no longer plays to a national audience. Once watched closely as a black who could succeed in national politics, he has so far been unable to build the momentum needed for a shot beyond Georgia's state legislature.
Bond will speak at the Harvard Law Forum this Wednesday, September 28 at 8 p.m. in Ames Courtroom in Austin Hall, at the Law School. Admission is $2.
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