Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Georgia Legislature

LEFFLER: Let's talk a little bit about your years as a Georgia politician, first in the Georgia House of Representatives and then in the Georgia Senate. That takes up I think 21 years…

BOND: 21 years.

LEFFLER: …of your career. What points do you most remember? What points do you feel -- what were most distinguishing for you and most difficult?

BOND: The House years were not happy years. It was in the House that I was expelled from. My nemesis, Sloppy [James H.] Floyd, was still there. Whenever we'd get sworn in every two years he'd always walk out of the chamber. He wouldn't be sworn in with me. He had a small, a very small cadre of friends who were always hostile people. That was not a happy time.

I moved across the building into the Senate, and that was a much better time. I became chairman of a committee. I passed a lot of bills. I enjoyed -- here there were fifty-six of us, so if I get twenty-eight people to agree with me and I'm the twenty-ninth, then I've won. I can carry the day. And I loved that idea that you always knew: these people would vote no matter what it was. Whatever, they'd vote with me. They didn't care. These people might if you explained it to them. These people were a little tougher because you had to really explain it to them. These people you could trade with. I'll vote for you on this, if you vote for me on this. So I liked putting all that together and very much enjoyed that. I liked the kind of formality of the place where you would be the "Distinguished Gentlewoman from Albemarle County has risen to say this…" It's this enforced formality, which keeps civility in the place because I'd never call you by your name and never make any reference to you except in the nicest kind of way even though I'm attacking you, and what you're saying. So I enjoyed that. I enjoyed asking the questions and making the speeches. So, I enjoyed that a great deal.

LEFFLER: Do you feel that in the Georgia House that you were never given a chance?

BOND: No, I wouldn't say never given a chance. It's just that the people who were opposed to me were among the most powerful -- committee chairs, a couple of others. The Speaker was always very friendly toward me. When I came it was a man named George L. Smith. He was a fair guy and treated me as fairly as you could imagine. But I always felt as if there were hostile forces afoot and that probably was inhibited from trying as hard as I might because of this fear that no matter how hard I tried nothing would happen. So it wasn't so much people said "no" as there was a sort of implied no. When I got in the Senate there were people I knew didn't like me. I didn't like them. But generally speaking that didn't make any difference. We could work together on something of mutual interest. We'd be apart tomorrow and then the next day we'd be back together because all these people are politicians and politicians know that you're nothing but a vote. You can be a vote for. You can be a vote against. And they want you to be a vote for. So it's in their interest to be friendly and nice to you.