Julius LeVonne Chambers was born on October 6, 1936 in Mount Gilead, NC. He was an American lawyer, Civil Rights leader and educator. His desire to pursue a career in law was fueled by a discrimination incident when his father’s auto repair business became a target of racial injustice in 1948. He entered the law profession after earning a law degree from Columbia University in order to help end segregation and racial discrimination.
In 1963 Mr. Chambers served as the first intern with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF). In 1964, he opened a law practice in Charlotte, which eventually became the first integrated law firm in North Carolina. The firm, founded with partners James E. Ferguson II and Adam Stein, is credited with influencing more landmark state and federal legislation in school desegregation, employment and voting rights than any other firm in the United States. Together with lawyers of the LDF, they helped shape Civil Rights law by winning benchmark United States Supreme Court rulings such as the famous decision of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971), which led to federally mandated busing, helping integrate public schools across the country. Chambers and his team also won in two of the Supreme Court’s most monumental Title VII employment discrimination decisions, Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971) and Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody (1974).
The firm’s efforts were met several times with violence from white supremacists. While Mr. Chambers was at a speaking engagement in January, 1965 in New Bern, North Carolina, his car was destroyed by a bomb. On November 22, 1965, in the midst of the first hearings of the Swann school busing case, his home was bombed. Then in 1971, the firm’s Charlotte North Carolina law office was firebombed.
In 1984, Mr. Chambers left his firm to become director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Under his leadership, the organization became the first line of defense against the political assault on civil rights legislation and affirmative action programs. Devoted to education, he returned to his alma mater, North Carolina Central University (NCCU), to serve as chancellor for eight years (1993-2001).
Mr. Chambers retired from NCCU in 2001, and reentered private practice with the firm he started, now known as Ferguson Chambers & Sumter, P.A. In 2002 Chambers became director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights in the University of North Carolina School of Law.
Chambers’ family included his wife Vivian Giles Chambers and children, Derrick and Judy, and three grandchildren. He died August 2, 2013 at the age of 76 in Charlotte, North Carolina.