Campaign to rename courthouse after late Julius Chambers launched

by: Tenikka Smith Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Colette Forrest is launching a grassroots email campaign to garner support for an idea to rename the Mecklenburg County Courthouse after civil rights icon attorney Julius Chambers.

Chambers, who died is August, is best known for taking eight cases to the Supreme Court, including one that led to the integration of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

"He didn't back down on his convictions for me and mine that were nameless and faceless at the time and I can't back down on this for him," Forrest said.

Commission Chair Pat Cotham brought up the idea to the board last month. But some commissioners and residents think there are other ways to honor his contributions. Ideas tossed around include a school, a statue, or naming a federal courthouse after Chambers, since that's where many of his landmark cases were won.

While there has not been a vote on the issue a majority of the board did agree to change a policy that previously prevented the county courthouse from being renamed.

"Hopefully in time the folks who might be against it will support it," Cotham said.

Attorney and former judge Chase Saunders has practiced in Mecklenburg County for 40 years. He knew Chambers and said he deserves to be honored in a lasting way.

However, Saunders thinks commissioners should maintain tradition and keep the name of the county courthouse as is. He said if the board votes to change the name of the building now it creates the same option for commissioners in the years to come.

"How do you make a policy that's consistent over time?" Saunders said. "That's where the concept of precedent and law is important."

Forrest disagrees and is now targeting civic, professional and political organizations to help push commissioners to support the name change.

There's no date for when the a vote on whether to rename the county courthouse will be back on the agenda but Cortham said she hopes to bring it up again soon.

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