The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

August 7, 2013

Chambers — gratitude and memories

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 — The death of Charlotte civil rights lawyer, Julius Chambers, gives us the opportunity and, perhaps, the responsibility to reflect upon his importance as a public figure. Simply put, Chambers’ work and the work of others he inspired are directly responsible for North Carolina casting off a culture of segregation and repression and replacing it with one of inclusion and opportunity.

That said, his passing brought to my mind many personal memories.

I remember the first time I heard Chambers’ name more than 50 years ago. In 1962, as a student at Davidson College, still all male, all white, I heard a radio report saying that a Negro law student at the University of North Carolina School of Law had been appointed editor of the Law Review and had the highest grades in his class. I never forgot his name. From that moment on I understood that blacks could not only be just as good lawyers or law students as whites, they could be better, much better.

Six years later I got to meet Chambers for the first time. It was the spring of 1968 and I was in my last year at Yale Law School when I learned that he had started an integrated law firm in Charlotte. So I decided to come back to North Carolina to knock on Chambers’ door and visit other law firms.

I started in Raleigh where I got my friend John McConnell to introduce me to people in his law firm, Broughton and Broughton. Everyone there was busy working on Mel Broughton’s campaign for governor in the upcoming Democratic primary.

Then, thanks to a good friend’s dad, W.W. Taylor  Jr., I visited his firm, Maupin, Taylor and Ellis, where I got a warm welcome. But after waiting a long time to see Ellis, I learned that he was meeting with Jesse Helms about a political campaign, probably Mel Broughton’s.

In Charlotte, my friend, Ross Smyth, got me an invitation to visit Kennedy, Covington, Lobdell and Hickman. Marcus Hickman invited me into his office to talk. Before we got started, he took a telephone call. For a long time, he counseled Jack Stickley, who was a gubernatorial candidate in the Republican primary. That talk went on for a half an hour before Hickman had a chance to look me over.

Later that day, I walked down East Trade Street to visit the Chambers law firm in a walk-up office above pawn shops and low-end clothing stores. Chambers’ partner, Adam Stein, greeted me and sat me down outside Chambers’ office. I watched and listened through an open door as Chambers gave Dr. Reginald Hawkins advice about his Democratic gubernatorial primary campaign. After a long while, he motioned for me to come in, and we spent a few minutes talking about his hopes for his law firm and for the community’s future.

Neither Broughton, nor Stickley, nor Hawkins won their primary elections. I returned to law school without an offer from any of the firms I visited.

But the glimpse I got of lawyers and their political lives demonstrated that North Carolina was going to be a very interesting place for me to live and work.

A month later, Marcus Hickman’s firm gave me an offer that led to 20 happy and fulfilling years of law practice with that group.

It took Julius Chambers 30 years to offer me a job. While serving as chancellor of North Carolina Central University, he asked me to serve a short time as a vice chancellor. It gave me the chance to experience up close his determined work ethic and hard-driving, demanding leadership style, together with the quiet authority his service and success had earned him.

For these memories and the better North Carolina he left us, I will always be grateful to Julius Chambers.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at 12 p.m. and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at

Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 19, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    WASHINGTON - The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 19, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 12, 2014

  • Brent Laurenz If you want to vote in primary, you need to register to vote now

    RALEIGH – North Carolina voters will head to the polls on May 6 this year to cast ballots in important primary elections across the state.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scott Mooneyham Heeding the voter fraud call in N.C.

    RALEIGH – Legislators found the findings outrageous.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Roots

    I took a few minutes over the weekend to enjoy our yard and the arrival of spring. There seems to be so much work that needs to be done, it is hard to decide what to do first. I am excited that I got to run my tiller through the garden. I didn’t go very deep, but I did at least break up the soil. I have a couple of raised beds and the soil in them was in very good shape. I didn’t plant my peas and now after the big rain we got on Monday I realize that I missed a window of opportunity.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 11, 2014

  • Is a paleo vegetarian diet possible?

    Research shows most people can follow a regimented eating plan for a short time. That's not the challenge. The challenge is finding a healthful eating plan you can follow day after day and achieve your long-term health goals. At this point, it doesn't appear that the paleo eating plan meets these objectives for most people.

    April 10, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 2.16.35 PM.png Are Americans smart to stop drinking diet sodas?

    Recent data from Beverage Digest suggest many are cutting back on diet sodas. Consumption of diet sodas fell more than that of sugary sodas in 2013. This raises two questions: Why is total consumption declining, and is drinking diet soda harmful to health?

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content