North Carolina Attorney Julius Chambers founded the first racially integrated law practice in the southern United States in 1964. Chambers served as the first African American editor-in-chief of the law review at University of North Carolina law school. He graduated first in his class.
Chambers was known for his work in civil rights cases, like Swann v. the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. The 1971 case led to school integration in Charlotte.
Chambers was born in Mount Gilead, NC in 1936 and lived with his parents and three siblings. At age 13, Chambers had looked forward to attending a private school for blacks. Unfortunately, his dream was shattered after a white customer refused to pay for the services his father had rendered for two months on his truck. Chambers’ father had planned to use the $2,000 for his son’s education. He went door-to-door to retrieve enough money for his son to attend school with no success. That was the pivotal moment that young Julius Chambers decided to study law.
Chambers was also a student advocate. He served as chancellor at North Carolina Central University. Prior to his appointment, he became president and Chair of the Board of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for nine years.
Chambers was also a key player in a1960’s case that forced the Shrine Bowl all-star football game to allow blacks to play. The tough attorney was no stranger to the perils of racism in the South. Racists set his law office on fire, bombed both his home in Charlotte home and his car. They also torched his father’s shop in his hometown of Mount Gilead.
Chambers fought eight civil rights cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and won them all.
In 1999, Julius Chambers was diagnosed with cancer but underwent treatment and remained in remission. Then in April, he suffered a heart attack. Chambers passed away at age 76 last Friday after declining health.