Julius Chambers, director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, spent two days at the Law School last spring as the 1988 Helen L. DeRoy Fellow. Chosen for his achievements as a lawyer and person, Chambers, litigator in numerous civil rights cases of national significance, joins a list of distinguished fellows, including former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and Judge Amalya L. Kearse, U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit (J.D. '62).
During his visit, Chambers delivered three lectures (to classes on constitutional law, welfare law, and 14th Amendment) and met informally with various faculty and student groups. In talking to the constitutional law class, he began emphatically, "The Supreme Court's decision in McClesky v. Kemp was worse or as bad as its decision in Dred Scott." He then explored the current difficulties of proving a violation under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Chambers, who graduated first in his class and edited the Law Review at North Carolina Law School, began his education in a small racially segregated school in rural North Carolina that lacked both indoor plumbing and a library. He then attended an all-Black high school, to which he was bused 12 miles past a better equipped all-white high school less than a mile from his home. Twenty-five years later he would be plaintiff's counsel in the landmark Supreme Court decision in Swan v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education, where the Court upheld busing as a means of remedying segregation.
In addition to Swan, Chambers has also litigated other civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the Court held that an employer cannot administer a test that operates to disqualify Blacks at a significantly higher rate than whites, when the test cannot be shown to be significantly related to job performance. In Ablemarie Paper Co. v. Moody, the Court held that back pay may be awarded even though it could not be proven that the employer had acted in bad faith in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Chambers's law firm in Charlotte, North Carolina, established with the aid of the Legal Defense Fund, handles widely varying types of civil rights litigation, which comprises 60 percent of its total cases.
Beginning with the 1989-1990 academic year, Chambers will teach at the Law School on a regular basis.
Graeme Sharpe, '90 and Tony Ettore, '90
-- From the University of Michigan Law School's Law Quadrangle Notes, V. 33, Iss. 01 (Fall 1988).
Chambers served as a Professor of Law at Michigan from Jan 1, 1989 until Dec 31, 1992. He then accepted the position of Chancellor of North Carolina Central University.
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