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North Carolina Central University Icons To Be Honored

Julius L. Chambers
Dr. John Hope Franklin

North Carolina Central University (NCCU) alumnus and Chancellor Emeritus, Julius L. Chambers and distinguished educator and civil rights icon, Dr. John Hope Franklin will be honored with sections of North Carolina highways bearing their names.

Outgoing transportation secretary and former Charlotte mayor Anthony Fox set the process in motion last week by signing a proclamation that called on the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to name an interstate section in Mecklenburg County for Chambers and a portion of I-85 in Durham County for Franklin. Although the proclamation also requires approval by local governing bodies and a state Board of Transportation committee, officials are almost certain that it will happen.

Chambers, who died in 2013, was a pioneering civil rights lawyer and led NCCU as chancellor for eight transformative years. He was the first — and so far, only — NCCU graduate to lead the university. As chancellor from 1993 to 2001, Chambers laid the foundation for a significant expansion of the university’s scope and mission. When he took office, NCCU was primarily a teaching institution with an emphasis on the liberal arts. When he retired to return to his law practice, the university was emerging as a mid-sized institution with a growing research presence, notably in the biomedical sciences.

He also worked to raise the university endowment from $1 million to more than $25 million. He elevated academic standards and set priorities for allocating NCCU’s share of the $3.1 billion UNC system bond issue approved by voters in 2000 that provided the major capital improvements at all state university campuses. In 2008, he was honored with the title of chancellor emeritus.  

Beyond the NCCU campus, Chambers was well known for his work as a tenacious civil rights crusader. He took eight cases to the Supreme Court and won them all, including the landmark 1971 case that led to integration of the schools in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

Franklin, who died in 2009, was a renowned African-American historian and close friend to NCCU founder Dr. James E. Shepard. Shepard recognized Franklin’s brilliance, and as a member of the Selective Service Board, had him excused from service during World War II and brought him to the campus to teach in the history department. Franklin would later write in his autobiography about the contradiction of fighting in Europe for human rights denied to black people in the United States.

It was during his tenure as a history professor at then North Carolina College (NCC) for Negroes from 1943 to 1947 that Franklin wrote the first edition of his seminal work From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans. Franklin also is credited with beginning the tradition of university history majors pursing the Ph.D. in history. The NCCU Department of History has had more African-American graduates to receive the Ph.D. in history than any other historically black college or university in the country.


Published: Friday, January 27, 2017
by Director of Marketing and Communications, Quiana M Shepard
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