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PASSINGS: Julius Chambers

Julius Chambers, civil rights attorney who won his eight cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, dies at 76.

August 03, 2013
  • Julius Chambers, a prominent civil rights lawyer whose house was bombed and office torched as a result of his work, died Friday at age 76.
Julius Chambers, a prominent civil rights lawyer whose house was bombed… (Associated Press )

Julius Chambers, a tenacious North Carolina civil rights lawyer whose house was bombed and office torched as a result of his advocacy, died Friday.

The 76-year-old attorney, whose cases paved the way for public school integration in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area, had been in failing health for several months, his law firm said.

Over the years, his opponents also set his car ablaze, along with his father's general store and garage business, but Chambers, known for his unflappable nature, persisted.

"We must accept this type of practice from those less in control of their faculties," he said.

Chambers won the eight cases he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Born in Mt. Gilead, N.C. on Oct. 6,1936, Julius LeVonne Chambers decided to study law after the white attorneys in his town refused to help his African American father collect a $2,000 debt that would have been used for Julius' education.

Chambers graduated first in his University of North Carolina law school class in 1962. In his first year of practice in Charlotte, he took on 35 school desegregation cases and 20 suits charging discrimination in public accommodations.

In 1965, he filed a restraining order in a case that led to integration of the Shrine Bowl, an annual charity football game between the best high school players from North Carolina and South Carolina.

In the Supreme Court, he helped to overturn dual seniority systems for white and black employees. Another Supreme Court victory eliminated employment qualifications that went beyond the demands of the job, a case that proved as beneficial to women as to blacks.

Chambers' low-key approach was helpful in court, his colleagues said. He sometimes would fiddle with a string while framing his questions, lulling witnesses into a false sense of security. In an interview about civil rights, he once said: "I just think more can be accomplished by less emotion in dealing with the problem."

In 1984, Chambers became director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York. He returned to his home state in 1993 as chancellor of his alma mater, North Carolina Central University, where he served for the next eight years before resuming private practice.

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