Chambers recalled as civil rights pioneer
Posted August 8, 2013
Updated August 9, 2013
Charlotte, N.C. — Colleagues and proteges of Julius Chambers eulogized the former civil rights attorney Thursday as a pioneer who created educational and career opportunities for millions.
Chambers, 76, who also served as chancellor at North Carolina Central University from 1993 to 2001, died last Friday in Charlotte after months of declining health.
Hundreds of people, including 12th District Congressman Mel Watt, former University of North Carolina President C.D. Spangler, state NAACP President Rev. William Barber and former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, packed Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte for Chambers' funeral.
"I consider myself a child of Julius Chambers," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Foxx, a former Charlotte mayor, noted that he was born in 1971, the same year that Chambers won a U.S. Supreme Court case mandating busing to desegregate public schools in Mecklenburg County. Because of that, Foxx said, he never had to attend class in run-down schools or use outdated textbooks.
"People on Tryon Street, people on Wall Street and all across America owe their careers to this man," Foxx said.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said Chambers, who led the organization for a decade before taking the reins at N.C. Central, was a mentor to her whose interest in her actions sometimes intimidated her.
"He had a deep respect for the common man," Ifill said, noting he always reminded her and other NAACP attorneys to focus on the needs of their clients.
James Ferguson, who co-founded the nation's first integrated law firm in Charlotte with Chambers in the 1960s, said his longtime partner's tireless sacrifices helped change millions of people's lives.
"His heart didn't give out," Ferguson said. "I believe he gave his heart away in pieces ... until there was nothing left to give."