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Southern Poverty Law Center Remembers Civil Rights Leader Julian Bond

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The family of the late civil rights pioneer Julian Bond scattered his ashes over the Gulf of Mexico yesterday. At the same time, colleagues and friends remembered him at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. Kyle Gassiott of Troy Public Radio was there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AUSBORN AND MOORE: (Singing) It's been a long, a long time coming. But I know change is going to come.

KYLE GASSIOTT, BYLINE: To honor his role as a teacher and mentor, two students from the Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery, Jailyn Ausborn and Zipporah Moore, were chosen to sing a musical tribute to the civil rights icon. Julian Bond became the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971. And at the ceremony, one of the center's founders, Joe Levin, spoke of Bond's cool demeanor that often took people by surprise.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOSEPH LEVIN: He was a risk taker. We knew that from his history with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and his battle to be seated in the Georgia Legislature that took him all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

GASSIOTT: Throughout his life, Bond fought against injustice as leader of the NAACP for African-Americans and in later years, for the LGBT community in the cause of marriage equality, a mission, Levin said, that's reflected in one of his favorite Bond quotes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LEVIN: The humanity of all Americans is diminished when any group is denied rights granted to others. That was Julian. And that is the great man we remember here today.

GASSIOTT: The ceremony also had its lighter moments, as Bond's wit was celebrated by his longtime friend, Penny Weaver. She remembers going to a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington and overhearing two women who mistook him for former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENNY WEAVER: He said, people will come up to me, and they'll say, aren't you Andy Young? And he says, I always say, yes, I am.

(LAUGHTER)

GASSIOTT: After the remembrances, those in attendance were encouraged to walk by and spread rose petals on the monument's reflecting pool, where water flows over a timeline of civil rights events etched in granite. Memorial director Lecia Brooks says within that timeline, there's an open space.

LECIA BROOKS: That space is for us - you, me and Julian - to reflect on how we'll be remembered, what we've done to forward the cause of social justice.

GASSIOTT: Brooks says she believes through his work for social justice, Julian Bond has rightfully earned his place in the history of civil rights. And for that, he will always be remembered. For NPR News, I'm Kyle Gassiott in Montgomery, Ala. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.