Highway Dedicated to Julius Chambers
By KEN KOONTZ
CHARLOTTE, NC - On Wednesday, May 23, 2018, a stretch of Interstate Highway in Charlotte was officially named and dedicated to the late Atty. Julius Chambers in a special ceremony at the church where he worshipped and served a virtual stone’s throw from the start of the section that honors him. A broad cross-section of political, civic, community, religious and social estimated 250-300 persons who attended the sign unveiling in the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church where Chambers had also served as its lawyer, a mantel that was also passed down to other influential members of his law firm and church across more than 4 decades.
The storied Chambers legal and historic legacy has been documented over decades. His passion for justice and civil rights began in his childhood in rural Stanley County when a local white customer refused to pay his dad for some auto mechanic services and his father had no legal recourse to fight. His career and professional achievements are documented in numerous productions, publications, awards and presentations. His legal challenges to injustice and passion for equality and academic achievement are voluminous. But, his winning arguments in school desegregation before US Supreme Court chartered a new course for the country. Before retirement, he would ultimately return to serve as Chancellor of his revered alma mater, North Carolina Central University in Durham.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper was keynote speaker for the event. But, he recognized the various high levels of representation alongside him at the podium, all of whom who had recounted variety of ways that the iconic late-civil rights attorney had on them as their careers and leadership roles evolved from Charlotte to Washington and with him in Raleigh. They included: former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx who served as US Secretary of Transportation under then-President Barack Obama; former City Councilman David Howard now serving as Chief Secretary of Transportation in the Cooper Administration. Congresswoman Alma Adams was represented by her District Director Phenalphie Rhue. NC Secretary of Transportation was joined on the podium by Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, also a Friendship member and close associate with Chambers and chairman of Friendship Board of Trustees and former Chambers law partner Frank Emory. Chambers’ son, Derrick, represented his dad’s family and thanked those who had taken on the naming project and those attending the dedication ceremony.
The Chambers family, led by Chambers’ son Derrick and the lawyer’s brother, Kenneth Chambers, a retired Charlotte obstetrician, joined Governor Cooper in unveiling the large sign. The actual road signs had been set up on the Interstate earlier.