THE “QUIET GIANT,” ATTY JULIUS CHAMBERS, 76, PASSES
By Cash Michaels
Today, friends, colleagues and admirers gathered at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte to funeralize, and say goodbye to a man all agree helped to change the course of history in the South, and certainly North Carolina.
Atty Julius L. Chambers, who died last Friday of an undisclosed illness, was eulogized as a quiet, yet courageous fighter for civil and human rights.
Atty. Chambers argued eight cases before the US Supreme Court over his long and illustrious career, and won all eight.
He was 76.
“Our community and our nation have benefited tremendously from Mr. Chambers’ tireless efforts to ensure that all people are treated equally,” said attorney James Ferguson of the Ferguson Chambers & Sumter, P.A. the Charlotte law firm that Chambers founded in 1964. “He believed that regardless of one’s position, status, race, creed, color, religion or gender, everyone has an obligation to ensure equality for all.”
Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP and leader of the Moral Monday movement, said of his late friend upon news of his passing, “We pick up Brother Chambers' strong spirit to speak soft but direct truths to the same regressive policies and their authors who are determined to take us back to the ugly past of segregation, deprivation and division of the 1950's. Our leader, friend, brother and mentor, Julius Chambers, fought his whole life against these ugly policies.”
According to a release from North Carolina Central University, Chambers’ alma mater where he also served as chancellor from 1993 to 2001:
Julius LeVonne Chambers was born in Mount Gilead, N.C., a small town about 100 miles southwest of Durham, on Oct. 6, 1936. His father, William Chambers, owned a garage and general store. His mother, Matilda Bruton Chambers, helped out in the store and raised their four children, including Julius and older brother, Kenneth, a retired Charlotte obstetrician.
Chambers often told the story about the day in 1949 his father told him that the $2,000 he’d saved to send him to school at Laurinburg Institute, was gone, thanks to a white customer whose 18-wheeler the elder Chambers had maintained and repaired for months. The man had refused to pay the bill and jeered as he drove off with the rig. William Chambers sought help from the few white lawyers in town, but they turned him down.”
That was the day, Chambers said, that he decided study law.
Instead of Laurinburg Institute, he attended the all-black public high school in Troy, excelling in sports and academics. He then enrolled at North Carolina College at Durham, now N.C. Central, where he was a standout student and leader. He was president of the student body and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and he graduated summa cum laude in 1958 with a degree in history. He attended University of Michigan on a fellowship and earned a master’s degree in history, then entered the UNC Law School in Chapel Hill, where, in 1962, he graduated first in his class of 100 and was the first African-American chosen editor of the North Carolina Law Review.
After graduation, Chambers, by then married to Vivian Giles of Kannapolis, was appointed as a teaching associate at Columbia University School of Law, where he also received a Master of Laws degree in 1963.
In 1964, he opened a law practice in Charlotte. In his first year, he took on 35 school desegregation cases and 20 suits charging discrimination in public accommodations. By 1972, the firm had 11 members, including five whites. It was North Carolina’s first integrated law firm.
By 1965, integration was proceeding slowly in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Although it had been 11 years since the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling, only a few schools were integrated. Chambers sued the school board to force total desegregation.
Days after he filed the suit, his car was bombed during a speaking engagement in New Bern. As Chambers checked on the car, people in the audience poured into the street, asking, “What are we going to do?” his partner Geraldine Sumter recalled. “He said, ‘We’re going to go back inside and finish the meeting. There’s nothing we can do about that car.’ ”
The Charlotte case, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, wound its way through the courts, culminating in the 1971 ruling that ordered cross-town busing to end segregation of local schools. It also highlighted the power of federal courts to intervene when public school systems dawdled on their way to integration.
It was one of many legal triumphs for Chambers. Others included two key employment discrimination decisions, also decided in his clients’ favor by the Supreme Court, Griggs v. Duke Power Co. and Moody v. Albemarle Paper Co.
In 1984, Chambers left the law firm to become the director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a position previously held by Thurgood Marshall. Under his leadership, the fund became the first line of defense against the political assault on civil rights legislation and affirmative action programs that arose during the 1970s and 1980s.
Chambers served as adjunct professor at the University of Virginia Law School, 1975 to 1978; University of Pennsylvania, 1978 to 1986; Columbia University, 1984 to 1992; and the University of Michigan, 1985 to 1992.
In 1992, UNC President Spangler, a Charlotte businessman who had been a member of the school board in Charlotte when Chambers sued in 1965, recruited Chambers to be chancellor at NCCU.
During his eight years at the university, he oversaw a doubling of NCCU’s research funding and increased the number of endowed chairs from one to 14, including the $1 million Charles Hamilton Houston chair in the School of Law. He also persuaded the state legislature to fund a new building for the School of Education.
He played a vital role in establishing NCCU as a center for biomedical research. In a 2011 interview, Chambers recalled, “When we started, NCCU had no major grants or opportunities to get involved in science research — even though we were right here in the Research Triangle.”
Chambers set out to change that. He cultivated alliances and relationships with the major scientific research organizations in the region — not just UNC–Chapel Hill and Duke but also the pharmaceutical companies and other major corporations. At the same time, he pushed hard within the UNC System to bring to NCCU improved physical facilities and the resources to hire top researchers.
NC Congressman Mel Watt [D-12-NC] of Charlotte was heartbroken at news that his one-time senior law partner had passed.
"The history of our state will record that Julius Chambers did more to advance us toward the constitutional aspiration of 'justice and equality for all' than anyone else in North Carolina,” Congressman Watt said in a statement. “I and countless others who fight daily to make that aspiration a reality were inspired by his example, leadership and dedication. I can say without any doubt that I would not be who & where I am today without his mentoring, generosity and friendship and that our city and state would be a far different place had we not been beneficiaries of his life and ideals.
“I extend my condolences to Julius' family and express deep sadness on behalf of my constituents and all of those who knew what he aspired to have our community and state be,” Congressman Watt continued. “We truly have lost a giant. We must continue to fight to move our community and state toward what he aspired to have them be."
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, for which attorney Chambers at one time served as president, commemorated its former leader with praise.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and this country have lost one of our great civil rights lawyers and leaders,” they said in a statement.
Mr. Chambers was known for his sharp mind, his relentless focus on law as a means of advancing civil rights, his understated sense of humor, and his unflappable demeanor. He was a man of tremendous courage. His home and his car were firebombed on separate occasions in 1965, and his office was burned to the ground in 1971, during the height of some of his most contentious civil rights litigation in North Carolina. When he spoke of these events, Chambers was typically matter-of-fact, insisting always that you “just keep fighting.” Mr. Chambers sat among the greats – Thurgood Marshall, Jack Greenberg, Constance Baker Motley, Robert Carter – and he formed the connective tissue with the next generation of civil rights lawyers – many of whom he personally hired at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Julius was an avid golfer, and while at LDF he founded the Julius Chambers Golf Invitational, a LDF fundraiser that for many years attracted golfers from all over the country.
Attorney Irving Joyner, law professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, called his friend Julius Chambers “a legal warrior.”
“Julius Chambers was a scholar, a visionary, an eloquent and passionate advocate, an organizer, a legal warrior and a caring and thoughtful human-being,” Prof. Joyner said. “During the more than 40 years that I worked with Attorney Chambers, he was always prepared for the audience which he had to face. He knew people and how to motivate and inspire them. He used the many strategies which he learned fighting against racism and segregation to create a changed civil rights landscape. He strongly believed in the merits of an integrated society and fought to bring about that result.”
“In his time, he accomplished that goal and now leaves us at a time that much of his work is being challenged and undone. He fought the good fight, he remains as a champion for our people and as an inspiration for those activists and attorneys who are left to re-fight many of the battles which he had already won. Chambers leaves behind a lasting legacy which places him as one of the most prolific lawyers and personalities of our time. That legacy should be used to re-energize this civil and human rights movement. This is a huge challenge, but is one which we must now fight and win again.”
US Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) lauded attorney Chambers for his tireless efforts in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
"Julius Chambers was a civil rights pioneer whose loss will be felt deeply in Charlotte and throughout North Carolina and the country,” Sen. Hagan said. “His remarkable career will have a lasting impact on our state - from his successful effort to integrate Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools to the young lawyers he mentored in his private practice to the students who learned they could change the world under his leadership and NC Central University.”
“Julius Chambers faced adversity throughout his life,” Sen. Hagan continued, “but he never let that deter him from his work to promote justice and equality. My thoughts and prayers are with the Chambers family and our extended North Carolina family at this difficult time."
Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, leader of the Wilmington Ten – an historic criminal justice case that the Chambers law firm fought for over 40 years - fondly remembers attorney Chambers for his spirit of justice.
Julius Chambers was a freedom-fighting lawyer who struggled and sacrificed victoriously for the civil rights of Black Americans and for the rights of all people who cried out for freedom, justice and equality,” Dr. Chavis said. “The legal genius of Julius Chambers changed North Carolina, America and the world. God bless the living legacy of Julius Chambers.”
Atty. Chambers was a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, as well as Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, North Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Guardsmen Inc. and the Prince Hall Masons. He was also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.
NCNAACP Pres. Rev. Barber said, “We can learn much from his low-key, but militant approach to the duty of our generation--to complete the work of dismantling the structural and psychological racism that grips our society.”
Attorney Julius Chambers is survived by a daughter, Judy, and a son, Derrick, and three grandchildren. Vivian Chambers died in 2012, as did his mother, Matilda, at the age of 101.
In lieu of flowers, the Chambers family has requested that contributions be made to NCCU (Julius L. Chambers Endowed Scholarship), as well as two other organizations that were dear to Chancellor Emeritus Chambers. Gifts may be made online at: www.nccu.edu/donation/. Please indicate “Julius L. Chambers Endowed Scholarship” in the Designation Instructions. Contributions may also be mailed to the NCCU Foundation, P.O. Box 19363, Durham, NC 27707.
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS 8-8-13
WAKE SUPT. JIM MERRILL OFFICALLY SWORN-IN
Dr. James Merrill officially started his tenure as Wake County Public Schools superintendent on August 1, but was finally sworn-in last Tuesday during the school board meeting. Merrill has his work cut out for him, with less funding to work with from the NC General Assembly, and a major school bond referendum on the October ballot that is already drawing opposition from conservatives who believe there is plenty of classroom space for the system to operate with now. Merrill has to help sell the growing need for more school construction to voters.
WAKE SCHOOL BOARD PASSES APEX FRIENDSHIP HIGH SCHOOL NAME
The school is located in the West Apex section better known as “Friendship,” an historically African-American community. Residents there attended Tuesday’s Wake School Board meeting asking the board to change the name of the new high school there from West Apex, which was designated by the board last year, to “Friendship,” reflecting its actually location. But some parents, mostly white, opposed the change, saying that the new name would make the school different and open to ridicule. In the end, all five Democrats voted to change the name to Friendship, and all three Republicans opposed.
WAKEMED FINED FOR EXCESSIVE MEDICARE READMISSIONS
Among the several Triangle hospitals that have been fined by Medicare for allowing an excessive number of Medicare patients to be readmitted within 30 days of being discharged is Wake Med in Raleigh, which now has to pay a fine of $650,000 as a result. WakeMed joined Johnston Memorial Hospital in Johnston County from having its readmission numbers actually increase from the year prior. Roughly 2,225 hospitals across the nation have to pay a penalty totaling over $227 million to Medicare, according to published reports. The goal of Medicare is to give patients quality care so that they do not return for more so soon, thus cutting down costs.
STATE NEWS BRIEFS 8-8-13
WATT HOUSING CHIEF NOMINATION IN TROUBLE, REPORTS POLITICO
[WASH., D.C] Supporters of NC Congressman Mel Watt’s presidential nomination to become the next chief of the Federal Housing Finance Agency are concerned that Senate Democrats don’t seem willing to fight for him in the face of growing Republican senator opposition, reports Politico. One indication is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] deciding to not hold confirmation hearings on Watt until after the monthlong August recess. That may mean that Reid doesn’t have the 60 votes necessary to confirm now, and overcome a GOP filibuster. The White House maintains that Rep. Watt [D-NC-12]has Pres. Obama’s full support.
PRINCEVILLE MAYOR INDICTED FOR EMBEZZLEMENT
[PRINCEVILLE] Priscilla Everette-Oates, the mayor of the historic African-American town of Princeville in Edgecombe County, has been indicted on 17 counts of embezzlement by a public official, published reports say. The charges are the result of a state audit that found $8,115.00 that the mayor allegedly charged to the town’s credit card between August 2010 and this July without receipts. The audit was the result of the State Local Government Commission taking control of Princeville financial records a year ago when the small town was about to default on a loan. The mayor refused to talk with auditors. Her attorney accuse the state Auditor’s Office of a conspiracy in trying to bring down Mayor Everette-Oates.
NCNAACP REQUESTS MEETING WITH GOV. MCCRORY
[RALEIGH] With 38 bills left to sign from the Republican-led General Assembly session which ended two weeks ago, Gov. Pat McCrory has been asked for a sitdown meeting with the NC NAACP and other progressive leaders before he puts pen to paper. Of particular interest is the omnibus elections bill which not only requires voters to show photo ID, but also cuts the early voting period, eliminates Sunday and straight ticket voting, and allows vigilante poll watchers to freely challenge voters eligibility. McCrory met once with the NCNAACP right before he took office, but has refused to since then. Meanwhile, the NCNAACP has continued its 14 week Moral Monday protests, drawing over 5,000 people in Asheville this week
On Monday the President met with former Negro League baseball players in the Blue Room to honor their contributions to our nation’s history, civil rights, and professional baseball [White House photo]
CASH IN THE APPLE FOR 8-8-13
By Cash Michaels
DEATH OF A GIANT – Today all roads led to Charlotte, NC, where the very best in education, law and government came together to pat tribute, and say goodbye, to a powerfully decent and courage man, Julius Chambers.
Atty. Chambers’s bio is on the front page of this newspaper, so there’s no need to go back over it here. But if you ever met Chambers, or had a chance to know him, and I did, then you came away with the same impression others did – that this was an extraordinarily gifted legal scholar and civil rights pioneer who had a unique intensity for fighting for civil and human rights.
Julius Chambers believed in the United States Constitution and what it should stand for. He believed in holding this nation’s collective feet to fire to ensure that every word in America’s promissory note of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was true for every citizen, regardless of color.
And that’s why attorney Chambers, at great personal risk to himself in the 1960s and 70’s, stood strong before the highest court of the land, and argued for the freedom that we eventually got in our public schools and work places.
And then there was Julius Chambers the educator, particularly when he became chancellor of his beloved alma mater, North Carolina Central University in Durham. For eight years, Chancellor Chambers reinvigorated the curriculum, instituted new programs, but most importantly, personally reached out to students, showing an intense interest in their well-being.
Many an Eagle alum today recalls being invited to the chancellor’s house on a weekend afternoon to share reading and discuss issues in a group with the man himself. What the students received was wisdom from one of the great scholars of our time.
And what Chancellor Chambers got in return was a chance to touch the lives of students and take them under his wing, displaying a care and concern that would stay with them a lifetime.
So it was with great sadness that we learned of his death this past weekend, and realized what a great loss it was for everyone.
Ironically, Chambers passes on into history as North Carolina has radically changed from the progressive path that he helped to set it on decades ago. The laws and policies being passed today are completely contrary to the vision and spirit that Julius Chambers fought for for all of us.
But he left us a model to follow, and a distinguished career in law and education from which we can all learn from.
In the final analysis, the greatness of Julius Chambers lied in the simplicity of his intense belief in justice and equality, and his extraordinary skill in fighting for every American’s entitlement to those principles. He was a quiet, unassuming man who had the heart of a lion, and cast the shadow of a giant.
I’ve never met anyone like Julius Chambers. But I’m so proud to have been able to know, and come to respect the one and only.
Thank you, attorney Julius Chambers, for all that you have done.
GOODBYE, GEORGE DUKE – This week we learned of the death of a master musician, keyboardist George Duke, who died in Los Angeles this week at age 67.
Duke’s career in jazz and R&B spanned 40 years, and he worked with some of the greatest singers and songwriters in history, including Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight. One of his greatest songs was the classic, ‘No Rhyme, No Reason.” Other hits included “Reach For It” and “Dukey Stick,” and “Sweet Baby” with keyboardist Stanley Clarke.
Duke lost his dear wife, Corine, to cancer a year ago. His latest album, “DreamWeaver,” released last month, was dedicated to her.
So let’s be clear – if at least one George Duke song isn’t in your music collection, then you have no real music collection.
That’s how great George Duke was. He will be missed.
TOUGH WORDS – Two interesting things happened this week in the world of over-the-hill movie stars, both involving Sylvester Stallone.
First we hear that Sly, who seems to be still muscle-bound from his “Rocky” days, has replaced his good friend, Bruce Willis, with “Indiana Jones” star Harrison Ford for “The Expendables 3,” Stallone’s hit all-star mercenary franchise which will also star kung fu star Jackie Chan, and Wesley Snipes, recently released from federal prison on that tax charge from a few years back.
Quite frankly, I’m surprised that Ford would appear on the same screen with Stallone, so he must need the work.
But then we hear that Ford is taking El Smirko Bruce Willis’ place. Apparently there were hard words between Sly and Willis because Sly took to Twitter calling him “Greedy and lazy…” Wow! I can’t wait to hear what Willis says in response. The two used to be best of friends.
Well let’s see how Ford does. Filming starts in a few weeks, and Expendables 3 comes out next year.
SHOCKED – Not only am I shocked that The Washington Post newspaper has been sold, but I’m doubly shocked that it only went for $250 million. That’s a billion dollar paper easy you would think. But apparently the newspaper business is harder than any of us think (except in the Black Press, where we’re always struggling). Keep in minds that the Boston Herald was also sold this week, as was Newsweek Magazine.
So something is happening in journalism. The landscape is changing. Rich people are buying major publications in a drive to consolidate power and control the news and information we all get.
That’s why you should NOT take your local Black newspaper for granted. We are the true source of news that’s important to you, because we are still owned locally. But whether we stay in business of not is completely dependent on you and our advertisers.
So don’t wait until this black newspaper is gone to become concerned. SUPPORT THIS BLACK NEWSPAPER TODAY!
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.myWAUG.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.