Editorial: Calm demeanor distinguished his impact

Aug. 07, 2013 @ 02:57 PM

We’ve lost another of the defining people in our great state’s history. Julius Chambers died last week. He was 76.

The North Carolina in which Chambers grew up in Montgomery County wasn’t pretty. Ku Klux Klan activities are well documented. The University of North Carolina’s racist admission policies didn’t change until 1955. And blacks were greatly limited when it came to being part of a community.

When white lawyers wouldn’t help his father in a business dispute, one involving money destined to send Chambers to the all-black private Laurinburg Institute, a calling to practice law was in place.

History repeats many stories of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In the Old North State, we should remember stories of Chambers, his resiliency and his way to enact that change. His fight for civil rights knew no bounds, only expanding them.

His record as a lawyer, with eight wins and no defeats at the U.S. Supreme Court, is legend enough. But his story is greater and deeper.

In 1964 he opened the first integrated law practice in the state. The next year his home was firebombed. While in New Bern in 1965, his car was firebombed.

When the state’s governor, Bob Scott, said no money would be used for busing, it was Chambers less than 10 years out of law school going through the federal courts to assure full integration.

That was 1971, the same year his office was burned.

Chambers believed civil rights were not just for blacks, but included all individuals.

He wasn’t ahead of his time. Rather, he was the man at the right time.

Consider that in addition to the actions taken on his car, home and business, his father’s shop in Mt. Gilead was also torched. And yet, former UNC president C.D. Spangler paid an ultimate compliment in describing real and emotional animosity toward Chambers.

“He didn’t hate the people who hated him,” Spangler said.

His way was calm. His way was calculated, both in the courtroom and in his quest for equality.

Whatever we make of our North Carolina today, rest assured, it would be far different without the impact of Chambers. We lost one of our best.