The James Cates Remembrance Coalition collaborated with the Chapel Hill Public Library and the UNC Center for the Study of the American South to host a remembrance webinar in honor of James Lewis Cates Jr. on Thursday.
On the night of Nov. 21, 1970, Cates, a 22-year-old Black man, was stabbed to death in the Pit by members of a white supremacist biker gang.
The Chapel Hill community remembers the 51st anniversary of his murder this week. Cates, who was born and raised in Chapel Hill, would have celebrated his 73rd birthday this year.
The James Cates Remembrance Coalition is a collective that includes members of Cates’ family, community leaders, scholars, activists and students. The Nov. 18 webinar featured speakers from the community that were friends, family or advocates for Cates to share his story and discuss ongoing efforts to memorialize him.
Robert Campbell, a local minister and a longtime Chapel Hill resident who grew up in the Northside community, remembers the night he last saw his childhood friend and neighbor
“He said he was going to go down on campus, and I was afraid he was going to get too cold because already the temperature was dropping,” Campbell said. “So I gave him my peacoat and said, ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’ The next thing I knew...they woke me up and told me that James had passed away.”
Attendees at the event said that to know Cates was to love him.
"James was more than just a neighbor, he was a best friend,” Campbell said. “He was a visionary and I just try to imagine, what would he have accomplished if he was still alive today?”