Julian Bond and Social Justice

Julian Bond Photo Credit - AP
Julian Bond Photo Credit – AP

On Nov. 12, 1970 I heard Julian Bond speak at the University of Iowa Field House. My memory of the event is wondering why I should care about a Georgia legislator who found his way to Iowa, other than the classroom assignment to report on five university events that semester.

Hearing Bond’s speech changed me in ways that persist at his passing this week, leaving an indelible mark for which I am grateful.

When Bond joined Morris Dees and Joe Levin in 1971 to help found the Southern Poverty Law Center as its first president, I joined and followed the cases they took over the years.

At first, their work showed me how far out of touch I was with the legacy of the south. Why should I care about their 1972 plan to apportion voting districts in Alabama? If I knew then what I know now about redistricting I would have paid more attention.

As a result of their litigation in Nixon vs. Brewer, attorneys for the Center argued, “blacks made up one-fourth of the Alabama population but were unable to elect representatives of their choice under the current at-large voting system.” After a successful outcome in federal court, the state adopted the Center’s plan for apportionment. In 1974, 15 blacks were elected to the state legislature. This is the type of social justice for which I remember Bond.

Like most of my friends, I knew few people of color in my youth. When I was coming up our family visited the plantation where my father lived while attending high school in Tallahassee, Fla. My father’s ease with black acquaintances from his youth taught me acceptance of people as people with whom we have much in common. Bond’s example teaches that we need not just acceptance, but social justice.

Julian Bond was called home too early. His legacy follows the arc of social justice that has been part of public life for most of mine. I feel a sadness at his passing. Not for what he was, or for the loss, as much as for how far we have to go.


On New York City Media

40 Days by Bob SimonThe twitterverse is in angst about yesterday’s passing of David Carr. I don’t recall reading his work until this morning. I may have missed something.

The most important news to come out of the peculiar stew of New York City journalism this week was not Carr’s death nor NBC News Anchor Brian Williams’ suspension for lying about the war in Iraq, nor Jon Stewart’s announcement he will be leaving The Daily Show.

It was the death of Bob Simon in an auto accident. An ignoble end to an engaged journalist who has been part of my life since the 1970s.

The 73-year-old CBS veteran, who won 27 Emmy Awards in a career spanning five decades, had to be cut from a mangled livery cab that rear-ended a Mercedes-Benz and slammed into a concrete median near W. 30th St. ~New York Daily News

The CBS obituary was less graphic, but for those of us who were fans, like Simon, we can take what the world dishes out.

My memory of Simon will be his assignments at 60 Minutes after being held hostage during the First Gulf War.

During the early days of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Simon was imprisoned and tortured by the Iraqi army along with three CBS News colleagues. He later chronicled the experience in a book, “Forty Days.”

“…This was the most searing experience of my life,” Simon told the Los Angeles Times. “…I wrote about it because I needed to write about it.” ~ CBS News

My reaction to his first 60 Minutes segments after being released was that considering where he had been, they were puff pieces. That is not a criticism—he deserved a break.

On Simon’s death, Sir Howard Stringer, who led CBS while Simon was in prison, said, “Simon was every inch the network correspondent from the golden age.”

Responding to a question on CBSN about whether Simon was ever afraid in the field, Stringer recalled working with him in Northern Ireland in the ’70s during a confrontation between the British army and the Irish Republican Army.

“There was no sense of this being anything but another day in the life, and I don’t think he ever thought about it very much,” Stringer said. “I never was aware of him being afraid of anything. I mean, he volunteered for everything.”

Unique circumstances make figures in the national media possible. There are successes and failures—trials and twittering. There are a few that have been in difficult situations and fewer still that report from them on a national platform.

Bob Simon was one of them, and his presence will be missed.


On Pete Seeger

LAKE MACBRIDE— Pete Seeger died on Jan. 27, 2014. He influenced my life, and so many others. Others have written obituaries, including the New York Times and Singout!

I’ll remember him for his song Abiyoyo, and so many others.


On Toshi Seeger

SeegerLAKE MACBRIDE— One of the few letters I received from a celebrity was from Toshi Seeger. During the early 1970s, while seeking where to purchase a copy of Pete Seeger’s book, “How to Play the 5-string Banjo,” I sent him a note. She wrote by return mail, “Peter returns your greetings and thanks— he’s off giving benefits and I’m left with six months of mail.” She sent me five copies of the book to use in music lessons. It was an unforgettable act of generosity. Toshi Seeger died this week.

Singout published an obituary which can be read here: Whether you are a fan or not, you should read it. There were not many people like her in our history.

When we talk about the progressive movement in the United States, there is no better example than Toshi Seeger. She will be missed.


Change at the Solon Farmers Market

SOLON— While taking photographs on Friday, a couple of legion members were walking back to the hall in their uniforms. Someone had died. It turned out to be Booky Buchmayer, the man who sold produce at the Solon Farmers Market. On most days, he was the only farmer at the market, although I am not sure how much of the produce he grew himself. He brokered melons from Muscatine, and sweet corn from Rebal’s roadside stand on Highway One. He was a fixture of Solon, and his passing creates a vacuum in local society. Below is an edited version of his obituary from the Brosh Chapel web site. May he rest in peace.

Raymond “Booky” Buchmayer, 85, of Solon, died Saturday March 23, 2013 at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City. Funeral Services were held Friday, March 29, at Brosh Chapel in Solon. Burial followed in Oakland Cemetery with full military rites provided by the Solon American Legion, Stinocher Post #460.

Raymond was the first born of Otto and Agnes (Kriel) Buchmayer on Sept. 4, 1927 in Solon. He graduated from Solon High School and attended Cornell College for three years. He then attended and graduated from Bricklayer Trade School. He married Elaine Schindler on Jan. 17, 1953. She died Dec. 31, 1996. Raymond served in the U. S. Army during WWII and was an active member of the Solon American Legion where he served as past commander. He was the adjunct for the American Legion 1st District and a member of the Bricklayers Union Local #3. Raymond worked as a bricklayer for over 50 years with Larson-Unzeitg before retiring in 1990. He was a member of the Solon Volunteer Fire Department and worked for Mark’s Auto Body. Raymond was a member of the Solon United Methodist Church.

Raymond loved hunting, fishing and mushroom hunting. He loved to travel to new places, his large family and his morning coffee trips uptown Solon with the guys. He was active in the farmers market in Solon and famous for his melons. He married Betty Jo Brumwell Lamansky on Feb. 14, 2004 at the Solon United Methodist Church and his family really grew. Holidays, weddings and new babies kept him busy in his retirement years.

Raymond is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, step-children, step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren.

Raymond was preceded in death by his parents, wife Elaine, infant son John and infant sister Irene.

“A gentle giant with a big heart”

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Solon Fire Department, Solon United Methodist Church, and the Solon Veterans Memorial.