Julian Bond

The Election of Julian Bond: 1966-1967

Protest on the Homefront >> Julian Bond >> The Election of Julian Bond: 1966-1967
Search Tips

U.S. Supreme Court. BOND et al. v. FLOYD et al. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1966.
U.S. Supreme Court. BOND et al. v. FLOYD et al. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1966.

SuDoc No.: JU6.8:385
Case No.: 385US116
Date Argued: November 10, 1966
Date Decided: December 5, 1966

View full text

Julian Bond was elected by a margin of 2,320 to 487, to the Georgia House of Representatives in a special election held in June of 1965. On January 6, 1966, only four days before he was to be sworn in, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) issued one of the first anti-war statements by a major civil rights organization. In the statement, SNCC compared the deaths of civil rights workers in the U.S. with deaths of the Vietnamese at the hands of the U.S. government. The SNCC statement then related the situation to the draft,

"We therefore encourage those Americans who prefer to use their energy in building democratic forms within this country. We believe that work in the civil rights movement and with other human relations organizations is a valid alternative to the draft. We urge all Americans to seek this alternative, knowing full well that it may cost their lives -- as painfully as in Viet Nam."
After Bond (member and co-founder of SNCC) endorsed the anti-war statement, the Georgia House responded by voting in the opening hours of its legislative year (January 10, 1966) to bar Bond from taking his seat. They justified the vote (184-12) in several petitions calling Bond's endorsement of the SNCC statment, and other statements he made against the draft, as:

"totally and completely repugnant to and inconsistent with the mandatory oath prescribed by the Constitution of Georgia for a Member of the House of Representatives to take before taking his seat."
Contradicting this view, Bond, in an interview given directly after he was refused the oath, stated:

"I stand here with intentions to take an oath - that oath they just took in there - that will dispel any doubts about my convictions or loyalty."
Bond then took the matter to the judicial system, eventually landing the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Later the Justices would note Bond's willingness to take the oath. The oath, which came from the Georgia State Constitution, stated:

"Each senator and Representative, before taking his seat, shall take the following oath, or affirmation, to-wit: 'I will support the Constitution of this State and of the United States, and on all questions and measures which may come before me, I will so conduct myself, as will, in my judgment, be most conducive to the interests and prosperity of this State.'"
Though the Supreme Court recognized that the House could constitutionally insist members take an oath, it ruled that the Georgia House violated Bond's First Amendment rights when it refused Bond his seat because it felt he could not take the oath "sincerely."

"But this requirement, [to take the oath], does not authorize a majority of state legislators to test the sincerity with which another duly elected legislator can swear to uphold the Constitution. Such a power could be utilized to restrict the right of legislators to dissent from national or state policy or that of a majority of their colleagues under the guise of judging their loyalty to the Constitution. Certainly there can be no question but that the First Amendment protects expressions in opposition to national foreign policy in Vietnam and to the Selective Service system. The State does not contend otherwise. But it argues that Bond went beyond expressions of opposition, and counseled violations of the Selective Service laws, and that advocating violation of federal law demonstrates a lack of support for the Constitution. The State declines to argue that Bond's statements would violate any law if made by a private citizen, but it does argue that even though such a citizen might be protected by his First Amendment rights, the State may nonetheless apply a stricter standard to its legislators. We do not agree."
The majority opinion in Federal District Court, which received the case prior to the Supreme Court, made clear that Bond and his endorsement of the SNCC statement touched upon racial fears, both at home and abroad. It called the anti-war statement:

"...a call to action based on race; a call alien to the concept of the pluralistic society which makes this nation. It aligns with the organizations with '...colored people in such other countries as the Dominican Republic, the Congo, South Africa, Rhodesia....' It refers to its involvement in the black people's struggle for liberation and self-determination....' It states that 'Vietnamese are murdered because the United States is pursuing an aggressive policy in violation of international law.' It alleges that Negroes, referring to American servicemen, are called on to stifle the liberation of Viet Nam. The call to action, and this is what we find to be a rational basis for the decision which denied Mr. Bond his seat, is that language which states that SNCC supports those men in this country who are unwilling to respond to a military draft."
Return to list

Send feedback or questions to kief@aavw.org
Kief Schladweiler
Librarian, NYC

Free Speech Online Blue Ribbon Campaign