Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Turning Point

LEFFLER: In 1987 you are really at a very difficult part of your --

BOND: Yeah, I'm at a low point.

LEFFLER: Real low point both in terms of your personal life, in terms of your career options. Was 1987 a turning point in terms of -- ?

BOND: Oh, tremendously so, because see in running for the House or the Congress I had to give up my Senate seat. So I'm -- when it's over not only do I not win this job,  I'm unemployed. I have no job. I had no prospects for a job. And, my marriage is ending, falling apart. So all of these things at the same time was just a tremendous -- I don't want to say burden because -- well, whatever it was it was tremendous.

LEFFLER: Well, you were forty-seven years old and your world was clearly falling apart at that point.

BOND: Yeah. Coming to an end.

LEFFLER: And so one really -- one thing I'd really like to hear you reflect on is how you saw the way out of that. How did you -- where did the strength come from or what kind of strength did it take to be able to figure out a new path, a new way from there? Was it just circumstance that led you to where you got?

BOND: Well, it was a combination of circumstance, I think, and then my seeing a chance and going for the chance. Because I think when you get in a situation like that what can you do? You can go up. You can go down, either way. You're going to go one way or the other, no matter what happens, unless you take hold. I decided I had to take hold. I had to find something else to do. As I had no prospects. Nobody was saying, "Wouldn't you like to work for me? I have a job. You can do this." And I didn't think I had the kind of skills I could turn into a job. University teaching was not in my mind. I didn't think about it. So circumstance -- I fell into that through circumstance. But I fell into the circumstance through effort. I know I had to do something and I began looking for something. It wasn't so much I was considering, "Maybe I'll do this. Maybe I'll do this. Maybe I'll do that." But I knew I was going to do something. I had to do something. I had responsibilities. I had bills to pay. Alimony not the least of them. Then I had to live myself. So I had to make money.

LEFFLER: Did 1987 effectively end any prospects for further political career for you? Did you ever consider going back?

BOND: No, I don't think so because you know in politics there is always a second act. I mean look at Richard Nixon. It doesn't matter. I think had I stayed in Atlanta I could have done X, Y, Z. Run for another office, and may have been successful at it. I don't think that -- it ended it for me. There was nothing else I wanted to do. But think I could have something else had I wanted to do it. I could have run for county commission, I could have -- but none of those were appealing and Atlanta had become -- it was not a happy place for me. It was a place I didn't want to live anymore. The newspapers were just so hostile to me, just incredibly so. I just couldn't live in the situation like that. I had to get away.

LEFFLER: So, is that the point at which you moved to Washington?

BOND: Yes. I moved to Washington. I --

LEFFLER: And what caused you to move to Washington in '87? Why Washington? Why not -- ?

BOND: Washington. I knew someone here and moved to be with her.


BOND: And we subsequently got married. Pamela Horowitz.

LEFFLER: That was Pamela.

BOND: We subsequently got married. I have to say she has just helped me achieve a new life in ways that were unimaginable to me in so many different ways. So, it's been a godsend. I can't tell you how great a godsend. But it was she. She made me come to Washington.