Civil rights icon Julian Bond died on Saturday in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. from complications due to vascular disease. He was 75.

Bond was an outspoken activist in the 1960s and an early leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), serving as the group’s communications director for five years. Later, Bond co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, led the NAACP, and served in the Georgia General Assembly for 20 years.

President Obama called Bond a “hero” in a statement released Sunday.

Julian Bond was a hero and, I’m privileged to say, a friend. Justice and equality was the mission that spanned his life – from his leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to his founding role with the Southern Poverty Law Center, to his pioneering service in the Georgia legislature and his steady hand at the helm of the NAACP. Michelle and I have benefited from his example, his counsel, and his friendship – and we offer our prayers and sympathies to his wife, Pamela, and his children.

Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a founding member of SNCC, took to Twitter to remember his friend.

President Obama perhaps summed up Bond’s legacy the best.

“Julian Bond helped change this country for the better,” he wrote. “And what better way to be remembered than that.”

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