It took awhile to clear hurdles in the D.C. government bureaucracy, but a bench in honor of the late civil rights leader Julian Bond was finally dedicated this week. It was back in 2015 that Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3/4G (Chevy Chase), with support from our association, called on D.C. to place a bench on upper Connecticut Avenue to recognize Bond, who was a familiar figure in our area before his death that year at the age of 75.
The ANC noted that Bond “was a valued member of our Chevy Chase community, appearing at our ANC meetings, often strolling along the Connecticut Avenue business district, and always greeting both neighbors and strangers with kindness and consideration.”
After a year-and-a-half of emails to settle on details for the bench, Leif Dormsjo, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, rejected the idea in May. It took inquiries from The Washington Post and supporters of the bench, including Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, to get officials to approve the bench, with a plaque giving Bond’s nickname of “Race Man” and referring to “A Life Dedicated to Civil Rights.”
As co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Bond organized voter registration drives in the South. He was the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and he served in the Georgia House of Representatives and as chairman of the NAACP.
This Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Cheh, ANC chair Randy Speck and our association president Deean Rubin were among those who gathered to dedicate the bench for Bond, near the Chevy Chase Community Center at Connecticut Avenue and McKinley Street NW.
Bond’s widow, Pamela Horowitz, said, “For me personally, and in the larger sense, it is important to keep Julian’s memory alive. This bench helps do that.”
Council member Cheh wrote in an email, “With this dedication, we celebrate the life of Julian Bond, not only as an icon of the civil rights movement, but also as our wonderful neighbor and friend. Many will rightly think of his decades of fighting for equality, including having to get a Supreme Court opinion to be seated in the Georgia legislature. For almost 25 years, he was also a genial figure walking and engaging his neighbors in Chevy Chase. We will miss him.”
— Ted Gest