Former NAACP chairman and activist Julian Bond died Saturday at the age of 75.

Bond worked his way up to the top leadership post at the NAACP after starting a student protest group as a young man.

“He started when he was about 17 and he went to 75,” former Ambassador Andrew Young told the AP. “And I don't know a single time when he was not involved in some phase of the civil rights movement.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Bond died in Florida after a brief illness. Bond founded the SPLC in 1971.

In a written statement, President Barack Obama called Bond “a hero” who “helped change this country for the better.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, released on Sunday a video montage of Bond's support for LGBT rights.

In a 2012 CNN interview, host Anderson Cooper asked, “You see the push for equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans as an extension of the civil rights movement?” and Bond answered: “Very much so.”

“Of course. It is exactly the same. It's a right that all Americans have and no reason why gay and lesbian people ought not have these rights, too. These are universal rights,” Bond said.

To African-Americans who say they are offended by the comparison, Bond said: “We ought to be happy that other people, including gays and lesbians, and many other people have imitated the Black movement for human rights. … And when others imitate what we did to gain their rights we ought to be first in line to say, 'Can I help you? You helped me, can I help you?'”

He is survived by his wife and five children.