Civil Rights Leader Julius Chambers Fought Through Courts

Julius Chambers argued numerous civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court - and won them all. Host Michel Martin remembers the groundbreaking attorney, who passed away recently at the age of 76.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, we'll talk with the utterly original Alice Smith about her music, her career, and her long-awaited new album "She." That's in just a few minutes. But first, we want to take a moment to remember a leader in the fight for civil rights. North Carolina attorney Julius Chambers died on Friday at the age of 76. In 1964, Chambers opened what would become North Carolina's first integrated law practice. He argued eight cases before the Supreme Court and won them all including, 1971 Swann v. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. His victory led to cross-town busing to end racial segregation in Charlotte schools.

Education mattered to Chambers. He graduated summa cum laude from what's now known as North Carolina Central University. He went on to earn a master's degree from the University of Michigan and Chambers graduated with high honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law. In the 1980s, he led the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. And he went on to become the Chancellor of his alma mater, North Carolina Central, in 1993. His advocacy came at a cost. In 1965, Chambers' home and car were firebombed. His office was burned to the ground in 1971, but he did not let that deter him. When Chambers discovered that his car had been bombed during a 1965 speaking engagement, audience members asked what are we going to do? And he replied, we're going to go back inside and finish the meeting. Civil rights attorney Julius Chambers passed away on Friday at the age of 76. He's survived by two children and three grandchildren.

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