Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership Challenges

LEFFLER: So once you get elected to office, I mean, you become a absolute named commodity all across America because of the inability to be seated, and the refusal of the legislature to seat you for three times, in fact, until you take it to the Supreme Court. As I look at that stage of your career it seems to me that that must have been really extraordinary to be twenty-five, twenty-six years old, fighting this, being in all the national newspapers, not really knowing how it would come out, probably being -- I mean, I don't mean to put words in your mouth, but probably being just furious by the actions of these legislators.

BOND: Oh, I was just so angry. But I knew how it would come out. I knew I was right. I'm not a lawyer you know but I had the advice of excellent lawyers who assured me that we were right, that we'd prevail in the end. So I had no doubt about that. I was fearful of what would happen when I eventually got in abut I knew I was getting in because I was -- everything was on my side.

LEFFLER: But how could you have no doubt that you would win, when you had watched the courts be -- you know, completely disregard the law in so many other ways?

BOND: Because knew the Supreme Court then, as opposed to now, then would do the right thing. I just knew they'd do the right thing and we knew they'd do the right thing. I had excellent lawyers. I had not only the man who became my brother-in-law, Howard Moore who is an excellent lawyer, but I had Leonard Boudin and Victor Rabinowitz, and they had won a series of Supreme Court cases, experienced attorneys expert in the First Amendment. They had a lot of Smith Act cases, too, representing communists. They were just such great lawyers we couldn't lose. I don't mean we were foolishly optimistic about it.

LEFFLER: But they also had the reputation of being very radical people and very strongly affiliated with the Communist Party.

BOND: Yes. But I didn't think the court would mind.

LEFFLER: Really?

BOND: No, no, no. In fact because they'd won before. They'd been to the court before and won. That was good enough for me. I knew they could prevail. And I knew they were superior to the attorney general of Georgia. I was surprised when we lost on the lower court level when the two Kennedy appointees voted against me and the Eisenhower appointee voted for me.

LEFFLER: How were you so able to keep your cool during -- ?

BOND: My dear Phyllis, when they threw me out of the legislature eventually there was a period of about three hours one day between when we appeared before the body and something happens. About a three-hour delay. I went into a room in the basement of the Capitol and I broke out in hives, just all over my face, just awful, terrible. Just nerves, nervousness. I was nervous. That was -- everybody was looking at me. Everybody was staring at me. People were taking pictures of me, sticking microphones in my face. That was tremendously nerve-wracking. But I always knew we would win.

LEFFLER: You clearly always had the ability to hold on to your temper enough to not get yourself in trouble.

BOND: You know when I was growing up at Lincoln, I remember, I was playing with some younger kids and I picked this child up and threw him down. We were in something like a sandbox. I think it was the pit that high jumpers use, so it was, you know, soft. I threw him down. All the air went out of his body. I thought I'd killed him. I thought, "Gee, this is what happens when you lose your temper." He was perfectly fine, thank heaven. But I thought, "Gee whiz." So I just resolved, "I'm not letting this happen to me ever again. I'm not going to lose control again."

LEFFLER: Quite an object lesson.

BOND: Yes. It was really an object lesson.