Julian Bond, a civil rights activist and longtime board chairman of the NAACP, died yesterday in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, after an undisclosed brief illness.

Bond was one of the well recognized symbols and icons of the 1960s civil rights movement. As a Morehouse College student, Bond helped found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee on April 17, 1960; and traveled throughout Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas from 1961 – 1966 helping to organize civil rights and voter registration drives.

In 1965, Bond was one of eleven African Americans elected to the Georgia House of Representatives after passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act of 1965 opened voter registration to blacks. On January 10, 1966, Georgia state representatives voted 184-12 not to seat him, however, because he had publicly opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. A three judge panel on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled that the Georgia House had not violated any of Bond’s constitutional rights by doing this. In 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in the case of Bond v. Floyd that the Georgia House of Representatives had denied Bond his freedom of speech and was required to seat him.

From 1971 to 1979, Bond served as the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization he co-founded with Morris Dees. He was elected to four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and six terms in the Georgia Senate. From 1998 to 2010, he served as chairman of the 500,000-member National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice,” SPLC co-founder Morris Dees said in a statement. “He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.”

“Julian overcame attacks by police dogs, racist cops with clubs and rednecks at the lowest to highest levels to advance the war against racism and all other forms of discrimination. Let’s hope this generation makes all that count for something,” said Mike Papantonio, co-founder of The Ring of Fire.

Recently, Bond was asked about the relationship between Dr. Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson, which was portrayed as slightly adversarial in the film Selma. Bond responded: “[LBJ] did support King’s fight for voting rights. He probably is the best civil rights president America has ever had. The best. Absolute best. I think the movie people wanted Dr. King to have an antagonist. Why not have it be LBJ?”

Bond is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney; and his five children, Phyllis Jane Bond-McMillan, Horace Mann Bond II, Michael Julian Bond, Jeffrey Alvin Bond, and Julia Louise Bond.