Julius L. Chambers ’64 LL.M. was a dedicated champion of civil rights and the former director-counsel and president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). He passed away on August 2, 2013, at the age of 76.
Chambers was born in Mount Gilead, N.C., in 1936. He earned his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) in 1958, and went on to earn a master’s degree in history from the University of Michigan one year later. In 1962, Chambers was one of the first African-American students to earn a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He graduated first in his class and served as editor-in-chief of the North Carolina Law Review during his time there.
Chambers served as a teaching associate at Columbia Law School in the early 1960s, earning an LL.M. from the Law School in 1964. While in Morningside Heights, he was selected by Thurgood Marshall to serve as an intern at the LDF, laying the foundation for Chambers’ career as a civil rights lawyer. After graduating from the Law School, Chambers returned to North Carolina, where he founded a practice that would later become the state’s first integrated law firm. Chambers worked alongside the LDF on many desegregation cases, including Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, which upheld busing programs as a suitable way to promote racial integration in public schools. Chambers also won Supreme Court cases for clients challenging employment and voting-rights discrimination.
In 1984, Chambers was named the third director-counsel and president of the LDF, following the tenures of Marshall and Columbia Law School Professor Jack Greenberg ’48. Chambers established the LDF’s Poverty Justice program, focusing on the economic issues impacting minorities as a result of racial discrimination. After leaving the LDF in 1993, Chambers was named chancellor of North Carolina Central University. He returned to his law practice in 2001.
Chambers was predeceased by his wife, Vivian. He is survived by his son, Derrick; his daughter, Judy; and three grandchildren.