11th Annual MLK Celebration Keynote

11th Annual MLK Celebration Keynote

Julius L. Chambers

Chancellor, North Carolina Central University

Former Director and Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Julius L. Chambers in 1984. Credit: Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

Julius L. Chambers is a relentless litigator of civil rights cases for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund for nearly two decades and chancellor of North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

Dr. Chambers, who has been the chief administrator at NCCU, his alma mater, since January 1993, gained a national reputation in the areas of school desegregation, voting rights and fair employment during his years with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Among his first Supreme Court cases was Swann vs. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. Argued in 1971, it put the Supreme Court's stamp of approval on busing as a means of achieving desegregation.

Dr. Chambers was director-counsel of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund from July 1984 until his appointment at NCCU. He was president of the fund for nearly a decade before he became its senior executive.

He received his bachelor's degree summa cum laude in history from what was then North Carolina College at Durham in 1958. He received his master's degree in history from the University of Michigan in 1959, and then entered the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill where he received the juris doctor degree in 1962. He served as editor-in-chief of the North Carolina Law Review and graduated first in his law school class. The following year he received the LLM degree from Columbia University School of Law.

Dr. Chambers became the first legal intern for the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, helping to litigate civil rights cases in several southern states. In 1964 he established a private practice in Charlotte, NC, where he opened the state's first interracial law firm.

During his career he has taught civil rights and constitutional law courses at the University of Virginia, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and the University of Michigan.

In 1971 he was appointed to the then newly created University of North Carolina Board of Governors and served until 1977. He has been a member of the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education, the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, the Board of Directors of the Children's Defense Fund and of the Legal Aid Society of New York, and the Board of Editors of the American Bar Association Journal.

"Julius Chambers, a Fighter for Civil Rights, Dies at 76" (The New York Times, 07 Aug 2013)

Julius Chambers: A Life in the Legal Struggle for Civil Rights (The University of North Carolina Press, 2016) by Richard A. Rosen and Joseph Mosnier