Our Firm’s social committee, led by our amazing associates, is celebrating Black History Month by shining the spotlight on a different Black lawyer, judge, or other trailblazer in North Carolina who impacted the legal profession.
“Throughout history, Black people have faced great adversity in the pursuit of joining the legal profession and achieving equality in the United States. “A Spotlight on Black History” serves as a reminder that Black history is interwoven into the fabric of our profession and essential to where we are today – not only as a profession but as a state and nation.” Associate Attorney Britney Weaver
Attorney Julius L. Chambers, 1936 – 2013
Julius Chambers’ legacy is unrivaled. From arguing landmark cases before the United States Supreme Court to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Chambers’ impact as a lawyer, leader, and educator is widespread.
Chambers was born in Mount Gilead, North Carolina in 1936. In 1954, he enrolled at North Carolina Central University. He then attended the University of Michigan, where he received his M.A. in history.
In 1959, Chambers entered the University of North Carolina School of Law. Chambers went on to become to the first Black editor-in-chief of the North Carolina Law Review and graduated first in his class in 1962. Chambers went on to receive his L.L.M. from Columbia University Law School. Chambers served his country in the United States Army and Navy, respectively.
Chambers was a trailblazer from the beginning of his legal career. In 1963, he became the first intern with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. In 1964, Chambers opened his own solo practice in Charlotte, later joining forces with his founding partners, James E. Ferguson and Adam Stein. Their law firm was the first integrated law firm in North Carolina history.
Chambers’ legal career included several profound victories before the United States Supreme Court, including Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971), which led to federally mandated busing, helping integrate public schools across the country, as well as Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971) and Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody (1974), two of the Supreme Court’s most monumental Title VII employment discrimination decisions.
Chambers’ victories were not without personal cost. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Swann, Chambers’ offices were firebombed. His car and his home were also firebombed. In response, Chambers said that he would “keep fighting.” And that’s what he did.
In 1984, Chambers became Director Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He remained in that position for nine years, expanding on the LDF’s success and working to defend its hard-earned gains. Chambers said, “We have to defend what we have gained. We can try to isolate ourselves from those less fortunate, but there will always be something holding us back until all our people are given their full rights.”
In 1993, Chambers returned to North Carolina and became Chancellor of his alma mater, North Carolina Central University. Chambers served as Chancellor for nine years. In 2001, Chambers returned to private practice in Charlotte and remained in private practice until his death in 2013.
Chambers served in many other notable positions, including as an adjunct professor at several prestigious law schools, as well as the Inaugural Director of the UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights.
Chambers’ honors and awards are innumerable. Among his many honors and awards, Chambers was awarded fifteen Honorary LL.D degrees and twenty-four Honorary Doctorates from Colleges and Universities. In 2006, he received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities.
For more information regarding Chambers and his legacy, please visit the following links: