Charles L. Becton, an attorney and former judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, took office as interim chancellor of North Carolina Central University on Monday, Aug. 6. His appointment was announced in July by UNC President Tom Ross soon after Charlie Nelms, NCCU chancellor since 2007, announced his retirement.
A Durham resident who grew up in the Eastern North Carolina town of Ayden, Becton has had a long and distinguished career as a lawyer, judge and law professor. He is an internationally recognized expert in trial procedures. He earned his undergraduate degree at Howard University and holds law degrees from Duke University (J.D.) and the University of Virginia School of Law (LL.M.).
“I am honored to be named interim chancellor of this great University,” said Becton. “I will embrace the strategic directions of the University enthusiastically. In many ways, the things that are so good about this University—the things we proudly celebrate—are the things we can build upon,” he said.
Becton began his legal career in 1969 with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York. In 1970, he joined the Charlotte law firm of Chambers Stein Ferguson & Lanning, where he worked alongside Julius L. Chambers, the famed civil rights lawyer who subsequently served as chancellor at NCCU from 1993 to 2001. Becton helped establish the firm’s Chapel Hill office, where he practiced until his appointment to the Court of Appeals in 1981. He served on the appellate bench until 1990, when he returned to private practice with the Raleigh law firm of Fuller, Becton, Slifkin & Bell.
The former judge recently served as the John Scott Cansler Lecturer at the UNC–Chapel Hill School of Law and a visiting professor at the Duke University School of Law. In 2010, he was the Charles Hamilton Houston Chaired Professor of Law at the NCCU School of Law. He has taught and lectured at trial advocacy skills institutes across the country, in Canada, and in South Africa.
“We have the utmost confidence that Interim Chancellor Becton, a talented and knowledgeable leader, will continue to advance the key priorities of NCCU in the coming months,” said Dr. Dwight Perry, chair of the NCCU Board of Trustees.
Becton has been included in “The Best Lawyers of America” since 1993, and he is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Trial Attorneys, and the International Society of Barristers. He has served as president of the N.C. Bar Association (2008-09), president of the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers (1995) and president of the N.C. Association of Black Lawyers (1980). His many awards and honors include N.C. Appellate Judge of the Year; the Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Trial Advocacy Award; the Roscoe Pound Foundation’s Richard S. Jacobson Award; and the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers’ Trial Advocacy Award, which was named in his honor.
The NCCU Board of Trustees will soon form a search committee of trustees, faculty, students and alumni to help identify a permanent successor to Chancellor Nelms.