Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Responses to Criticism

LEFFLER: Thomas Rose and John Greenya in an article I think they wrote claimed in 1972 that you were viewed in '72 -- this was before the Senate years -- as "an enigma in a family of strivers and doers." So the suggestion would be that somehow you weren't striving in your years as a legislator. How do you respond to that?

BOND: I don't know what that means. Did it mean my own family -- my sister and brother?

LEFFLER: I think the suggestion was that you came from a family of people who were strivers and doers, and somehow the suggestion was you were not living up to that in those years. Do you -- ?

BOND: Well, I was striving and doing. I was getting re-elected to the legislature, which is one measure of success. I was building seniority that would pay off eventually, more years than I cared to put into it. I was passing the occasional bill. I was extremely active in -- Georgia like most places has this local courtesy rule, where you legislate your city without any interference from people from the rest of the state. I did a lot of that helping Atlanta pass bills. They wanted to do this or that or the other, kind of mundane stuff. So I was striving. I don't know quite how to put that.

But you know I've always had the feeling that people had great expectations for me, which, of course, is flattering. But I don't think their expectation and my expectation are always the same thing. When I haven't met their expectation, then somehow or the other, I've failed when by my lights I'm being successful.

LEFFLER: Sure. Sure. Of course, one real measure of that success was both in 1968 when you're nominated for Vice President, and of course you can't accept it because you're too young, and then in 1976 when you float even a bid for the presidency, which I know you withdrew from early on. I mean those are enormous measures of esteem, it seems to me, to be in that league. So, obviously you are now at this point in the '70s, really at the height of your political career, at the height of your political recognition. You talk about the years in the Georgia Senate as really important and positive years for you. So, then it seems to me one of your choices was where to go from there?

BOND: Exactly.