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Chambers named '96 MLK speaker

Julius L. Chambers, a relentless litigator of civil rights cases for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund for nearly two decades and currently chancellor of North Carolina Central University (NCCU), will be the keynote speaker at MIT's 22nd annual celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on February 16.

The MLK activities will be held in La Sala de Puerto Rico in the Student Center where members of MIT's senior leadership and other members of the community-students, faculty and staff-will gather for a breakfast to be hosted by President and Mrs. Charles M. Vest.

Dr. Vest will speak and also will introduce Dr. Chambers, who will present the keynote address.

Presentation of awards by the MLK Committee will conclude the program. The annual awards recognize a faculty member, an alumnus and a student or a student group for work that exemplifies the legacy of Dr. King.

Day-long activities in Lobby 7 will be part of the observance and will include videos and tapes of Dr. King's activities, talks by MIT students and musical selections.

The 1996 observance differs from past years in that the annual MLK breakfast is expanded to include the speaking program which in the past took place in Kresge Auditorium.

Also part of MIT's MLK celebration is the 7th Annual Youth Conference organized by the Community Fellows Program, directed by Adjunct Professor Melvin H. King. It will be held February 16-18.

Another traditional event of MIT's MLK observance, the presentation by jazz vocalist Semenya McCord and her associates of "Journey Into a Dream: A Musical Tribute to Martin Luther King," will be held in Kresge Auditorium at a time to be announced.

Dr. Chambers, who has been the chief administrator at NCCU, his alma mater, since January 1993, gained a national reputation in the areas of school desegregation, voting rights and fair employment during his years with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Among his first Supreme Court cases was Swann vs. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. Argued in 1971, it put the Supreme Court's stamp of approval on busing as a means of achieving desegregation.

Dr. Chambers was director-counsel of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund from July 1984 until his appointment at NCCU. He was president of the fund for nearly a decade before he became its senior executive.

He received his bachelor's degree summa cum laude in history from what was then North Carolina College at Durham in 1958. He received his master's degree in history from the University of Michigan in 1959, and then entered the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill where he received the juris doctor degree in 1962. He served as editor-in-chief of the North Carolina Law Review and graduated first in his law school class. The following year he received the LLM degree from Columbia University School of Law.

Dr. Chambers became the first legal intern for the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, helping to litigate civil rights cases in several southern states. In 1964 he established a private practice in Charlotte, NC, where he opened the state's first interracial law firm.

During his career he has taught civil rights and constitutional law courses at the University of Virginia, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and the University of Michigan.

In 1971 he was appointed to the then newly created University of North Carolina Board of Governors and served until 1977. He has been a member of the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education, the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, the Board of Directors of the Children's Defense Fund and of the Legal Aid Society of New York, and the Board of Editors of the American Bar Association Journal.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 29, 1995.

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