Percy Julian Jr., son of the famed scientist and civil rights advocate, confessed to not spending as much time with his father as he would have liked as a child. His dad was usually on the road giving lectures or at his laboratory doing what he loved to do.
The younger Julian, though, often recalled one moment with his father, shortly after the family’s Oak Park home was fire-bombed in1950. The family was unharmed, but the elder Julian was so upset by the incident that he sat in a tree near the house for several nights after the attack keeping watch. Percy Julian Jr., would sit in the tree with his dad, a time he remembered later among his favorite memories as a child because the two were able to spend a little time together.
The story was among many Percy Jr. would share about his father. Last Sunday, Julian, 67, died from complications of the stroke he suffered in his Madison, Wis. home on Saturday. He never regained consciousness.
Julian did break free of his father’s shadow, becoming a pioneer as a civil rights attorney. The Capital Times newspaper in Madison reported Wednesday that he was best known for his work in employment discrimination and voting-rights lawsuits across the country.
Like his father did through the field of science, Julian Jr. would use his professional career as a means of addressing social injustice.
Growing up in Oak Park, he was the older of two children. His sister, Faith, still lives in the village. His parents, Percy and Anna Julian, a teacher and social worker, married in 1935. Both would become advocates for civil and human rights.
Percy Lavon Julian Jr. was born in 1940 in Chicago. Graduating from Ohio’s Oberlin College in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he went on to receive a doctorate in law from the University of Colorado in 1966. Julian had practiced law in Madison since 1967.
He was featured in the NOVA documentary about his father Forgotten Genius, which premiered last year. Julian shared the story about the family home’s bombing in the film.
He is survived by his wife, Jan Blackmon, and one daughter, Kathy Julian.