Statue to be unveiled on Charlotte’s Trail of History, greenway for trailblazer, Civil Rights leader Julius L. Chambers

In 1971, Chambers won the Supreme Court ruling that ended desegregation on school buses here in Charlotte
Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 4:41 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Julius L. Chambers was a prominent figure in Charlotte.

He was a Black lawyer, who ran the first integrated law firm in North Carolina, and was a Civil Rights leader.

In 1971, Chambers won the Supreme Court ruling that ended desegregation on school buses here in Charlotte. It started the end of desegregation across the United States.

Chambers’ work paved the way for Civil Rights.

And, he continues to be honored for his efforts and impact in Charlotte.

Recently, Vance High School had its name changed to Julius L. Chambers High School. There’s also a stretch of I-85 named after the trailblazer.

On Friday, a statue of Chambers was completed on Charlotte’s Trail of History along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

“Mr. Chambers exhibited unwavering courage and commitment, persistent in his legal work and activism despite having his home, his car and his office firebombed several times,” the Trail of History said in a statement.

The Chambers statue is located at the main fountain on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway at the intersection of Torrence Street and Kings Drive.

There will be an official statue unveiling will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the central fountain off Kings Drive.

WBTV’s Steve Crump spoke with Ed Hamilton, the man who created the Chambers statue.

He said he hopes everyone who sees it walks away with one message.

“We are compelled to oppose Judge Thomas’ confirmation,” Chambers once said.

Civil Rights Attorney Julius Chambers never held political office, but such a strong presence influenced public policy.

Enduring personal hardship meant surviving a dynamite attack at his house, having a car bombed by KKK members and seeing the law practice he started violently targeted by arsonists.

“We had federal and state officials who supported what the perpetrators were doing,” Chambers had said.

Chambers died in 2013, and his well-documented commitment to equality is bringing another moment of recognition to be discovered on Charlotte’s Trail of History.

The image and likeness of Julius Chambers are getting a prime viewing location for many to see on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway along Kings Drive.

“My task is to not only bring him alive but to, to make him feel who he was, the strength in him, you know, to show strength,” statue sculptor Ed Hamilton said.

Highway dedicated to Julius Chambers

The task for sculptor Hamilton started three years ago when he first came to Charlotte for what was then an initial site survey.

That’s where he connected with former Central Piedmont Community College President Tony Zeiss, the architect of the Trail of History.

Louisville, Kentucky is the home of Ed Hamilton studios where the artistic magic comes to life.

“There are moments when I’m scared,” Hamilton admitted. “Am I doing the right thing? Have I got him in the right position?”

Jitters do come with this labor of love that’s lasted more than 50 years.

Among Hamilton’s cherished pieces is a creation titled Spirit of Freedom which honors contributions made by African Americans who fought in the Civil War.

It stands in Washington D.C. near Howard University

“One of the tenants of what the Trail of History does is recognizing the history of Mecklenburg County,” said David Taylor, CEO of Charlotte’s Harvey B. Gantt Center.

Taylor had a voice in the selection of Chambers in this public space.

“His presence on the greenway will be measurable immediately and, in the future, because people see a champion in Julius Chambers on the greenway,” Taylor said.

While art is said to be in the eye of the beholder, the creator of the bronze work wants viewers to leave with one important takeaway.

“And so when you come up on him, I want them to feel that this man had something to do with the role that he played in this North Carolina,” Hamilton said.

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