‘Long time coming.’ Charlotte post office renamed after legendary Julius Chambers

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Charlotte’s Derita Station Post Office will now bear the name of the late North Carolina civil rights icon Julius L. Chambers.

A bill that U.S. Rep. Alma Adams introduced in 2019 became law two months ago, and on Thursday, in the middle of Black History Month, the Julius L. Chambers Civil Rights Memorial Post Office will be officially unveiled by the United States Postal Service.

Chambers, a prominent civil rights lawyer, dedicated his career to fighting injustice. He won numerous landmark civil rights cases, including school segregation case Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.

Born in rural North Carolina, Chambers went on to attend the University of North Carolina School of Law, where he served as the law review’s first Black editor-in-chief. He later served as chancellor of North Carolina Central University in Durham.

A founding member of Ferguson, Stein & Chambers, the first integrated law firm in the state, Chambers and his family were targeted at the height of some of his civil rights litigation in North Carolina. When his house, office and car were firebombed in the late 1960s and early 70s, his response was to “keep fighting.”

“My state and our nation are undoubtedly better for the life of Julius L. Chambers,” Adams said last February in a speech on the House floor about the renaming. “During this Black History Month, I hope that my colleagues will join me in voting in favor of this legislation and help me honor this civil rights legend in a community he worked so hard to improve.”

Chambers died at the age of 76 in 2013, months after a heart attack. He is survived by two children, Derrick and Judy, and three grandchildren.

Julius Chambers legacy

Derrick Chambers said when Adams first contacted him about the bill, he was left speechless.

“It’s humbling, and it’s a big honor to see that all the hard work that my father put in during his lifetime is being honored and recognized,” he told the Observer Wednesday.

The post office, located at 2505 Derita Avenue, isn’t far from Derrick’s childhood home off Beatties Ford Road. And it’s near the former Vance High School, which is now named after Julius Chambers, after a school board vote in October.

Derrick, who described his father as a “country boy at heart,” said it was a special honor for the renaming to take place during Black History Month, but said his father’s legacy should be celebrated always — not just during February.

“It’s been a long time coming for my father to finally get the recognition that I so feel he deserves, in honor of Black History Month, but in honor of his life, period,” Derrick said. “He made a lot of sacrifices to help not just African-Americans, but all people — the rich, the poor, those that didn’t have opportunities ... I honor that. I’m thankful for that, and I’m thankful that I was a part of his life.”

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It’s the congresswoman’s second bill to rename a U.S. Post Office after a civil rights icon — her first was a Winston-Salem post office named after Black poet Maya Angelou in 2016. Angelou lived in Winston-Salem for two decades.

Adams, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, N.C. Rep. Kelly Alexander, Jr., attorney James Ferguson and Derrick Chambers will speak Thursday at 10 a.m. during a virtual ceremony. To register for the free event, visit adams.house.gov/chambers.

“My mother and father are smiling down from heaven,” Derrick Chambers said Wednesday.

“But (for) my dad, accolades weren’t a big thing for him. He was one of the most humble individuals ...”

“About this honor, I think he would say we’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go. Each and every day we should be fighting for equality of all mankind and never take our eyes off the prize.”

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