Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Congressional Race

LEFFLER: You decide to run for the Congressional district, fifth Congressional district? Is that right?

BOND: Yes.

LEFFLER: And lose to your friend, John Lewis. So I'd like to talk a little bit about what it was like.

BOND: The thing about that district, I drew that district. I drew those lines. I created that district.

LEFFLER: So, what was it like to run a campaign against your good friend with whom you had -- ?

BOND: I'd like to think my good friend ran against me because I was the first to announce and all of the other people who ran ran against me. But it caused a serious break in a relationship, which so far as I was concerned, had been as close as it possibly could be. I can honestly say that John was my best friend. We went places together. Our families vacationed together. We did everything together. Christmas, we gave each other Christmas presents and so on. And when he ran against me the nature of the criticism he issued against me was a surprise. I'd run against people and people had run against me before in my House and Senate races. But always the level of dialogue was, I thought, on a pretty high plane. I've done these things and people would say, "Well, I can do them better." We'll see. I'd always prevail. But in this race he began to talk about himself as a different kind of personality than I was. I was a slacker, lazy, non-successful. He was brave, courageous, strong and true. So, you know, it was real hard to face him.

LEFFLER: He said at one point that you were a tail light rather than a headlight.

BOND: Yeah. And he said, "You know, Julian Bond worked for me."

LEFFLER: Yes, I know. I read that.

BOND: And in SNCC nobody worked for anybody. We all worked -- we were all equal. We all worked together. Nobody worked for anybody else. There were no bosses in SNCC. That was just awfully painful for me.

LEFFLER: I'll bet.

BOND: You know it's a break in a relationship that never healed. Never healed. We see each other from time to time, and I like to think we're cordial. But it has never healed.

LEFFLER: So, you said you were the first in and he ran against you. Do you have any understanding -- I know this is not about him, it's about you -- but do you have any understanding of why he would do that?

BOND: No, I don't. Because I'll tell you, he had just gotten re-elected the year before to his city council seat with the implied promise that he'd serve four years. So why after one year would you give that up to run? I don't know. Well, everybody's ambitious. Everybody wants to improve themselves. This was the opportunity to do this. The person who won this seat would be there for time immemorial as long as he wanted to be or she wanted to be. So I guess he saw the chance and took it.