Chambers was a groundbreaking civil rights lawyer, winning cases against racial segregation since he graduated from the UNC School of Law. During his presentation, Nichol called him the greatest lawyer to ever emerge from the University.
Nichol said he asked Chambers to help him found the UNC Center for Civil Rights, which continues to provide an outlet for law students hoping to work on civil rights cases today.
All three speakers noted the center may be evaluated for decommission, and they urged students in attendance to support the field of civil rights law. Haddix said Chambers provided an excellent model of conduct.
“That professionalism in the face of being treated oftentimes like you’re less than, like you’re not quite up to par, like you’re a civil rights lawyer because you weren’t at the top of your class in high school,” Haddix said, “That’s something we always keep our eye on at the center, and we are grateful for his model and his memory in that regard.”
Matt Taylor, second-year law student, said he and his peers were inspired to organize the event after reading Richard A. Rosen and Joseph Mosnier’s recently UNC Press-published biography of Chambers and hearing about the possible decommissioning of the civil rights center.
“We’re hoping to mobilize everyone to do this, so a big part was getting everyone to come eat Chipotle and put their emails on the listserv, so we can hit them with all these events and organize an effective student response,” he said.
Taylor hopes the informal lunches have inspired students to take formal action moving forward.
“We knew that by educating people, we’d inspire them to get more involved,” he said.