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Honoring a Quiet Giant of Civil Rights

Join us as we celebrate and lift Black voices.
By Corie Pauling, ’93

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Read time: 3 minutes
Attorneys and employees at Ferguson Stein Chambers celebrate a milestone
Julius LeVonne Chambers, MA'59, HLLD'04, front row, fifth from the left, was a quiet giant of civil rights.

Julius LeVonne Chambers, MA’59, HLLD’04. I am lifting up his name.

February kicks off a celebration of American history by exploring the achievements and journeys of African Americans. Generally, this period of recognition makes us think of those in history books, but it’s important to tell the stories of beloved elders, grandparents, or community leaders who led lives of true perseverance and courage.

Attorney Julius Chambers, or simply Chambers, as we had the honor of calling him, is such a figure for many, but shouldn’t be. A quiet giant of civil rights, a man of humble brilliance, a selfless soldier for those unheard and unseen, and yes, an alum of the University of Michigan.

Justice for every client

“Help that man.” I smile now, recalling those three resonant words he once said to me.

I knew Chambers as a law partner in the early 2000s. Chambers rejoined the law firm that he and my other law heroes started in the 1960s as the first integrated practice in the South.

With those three fateful words, Chambers sent me off to help a disabled client appeal military service benefits that were denied to him. I was exhilarated by his faith in me and inspired by his earnest focus on justice for every client and in every case, no matter the scale.

Whether representing clients before the U.S. Supreme Court on landmark cases, including Swann, Griggs, and Albemarle Paper Co., to name a few; simply listening to people in his office for hours; persevering through terrorist bombings of his home and that same law office; leading the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; starting the UNC Center for Civil Rights; or, for the case I had, whether trying to help an elderly veteran resurrect a disability claim — Chambers sought to do what was good and right, for everyone.

Today, I lift his name up as someone who should be remembered and honored. Julius LeVonne Chambers died in 2013, having helped me “help that man” — yes, successfully — and so many others.

Celebrating Black History Month

At the Alumni Association, we’re delighted to kick off Black History History month with three important events.

First, we’re hosting a community service event for alumni of the Divine 9 Black Greek Letter Organization to support seniors in Metro Detroit in partnership with Focus: HOPE, a Detroit-based organization that provides food to over 40,000 limited-income seniors in and around Detroit.

Secondly, I hope you’ll join us as we discuss the State of Diversity with U-M’s Chief Diversity Officer, Tabbye Chavous, on Feb. 20. This webinar will be co-hosted with the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, along with U-M Black Alumni.

And finally, we’ll be celebrating Black History Month at Camp Michigania for a weekend of education, relaxation, and recreation.

In March, we’ll be in Washington, D.C., for the annual Congressional Breakfast. While there, we will be hosting two tours of the National Museum of African American History & Culture. You can sign up here and here.

Black History Month is a dedicated time to honor and celebrate the legacy of Black Americans, but we cannot confine our celebration or our DEI work to the 28 calendar days of February. DEI is integral to all that we do, and all year long, your membership helps to fund our programs, events, and initiatives as we aim to meet our alumni — all of our alumni — where they are.

If you aren’t currently a member, come check us out. We have a lot of new and bold plans for the future.

Happy Black History Month, and as always, Go Blue!


Corie Pauling, ’93, is the president and CEO of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.

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