Julian Bond, 1940-2015

In the early 1990s I did a concert in Atlanta, Georgia. I was meet-and-greeting the audience after, shaking hands like a comedy minister after a stand-up service. Mercifully it was a pre-selfie time, so I was actually talking with people, signing a ticket or two.

Over the shoulder of the next person, I noticed at the end of the line an elegant, casually but impeccably dressed man chatting amiably with the people around him. It was Julian Bond.

I tried to focus but as Julian got closer my heart started hammering and my mouth went dry. I had flashbacks of the young Julian speaking to the Georgia General Assembly; Julian as head of the NAACP; Julian the kind but cutting, urbane guest on early TV talk shows.

At last we were face to face. As if I were telling him something he didn’t know, I blurted out, “You’re Julian Bond.”

He smiled warmly, “Indeed.”   And reached into the inner pocket of his sport coat and pulled out a folded sheet of paper covered in writing.   He showed it to me. “These are lines from your show. The first time I use them, I will credit you by name. The second time I use them, I will say, ‘As my friend said…’. The third time I use them, they’re mine.”

It still is one of the slyest, highest compliments I have ever gotten.

Adieu Julian Bond.