CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Thousands of cars travel along Interstate 85 through Charlotte everyday and now a portion of that road has a new name.

  • Part of highway dedicated to Julius Chambers
  • Interstate 85 between Interstate 77 (exit 38) and the 85-connector (exit 42) dedicated to him
  • Chambers recognized for his activism by many political figures

It's paying homage to Charlotte attorney and civil rights activist Julius Chambers, who reached national prominence during the civil rights movement.

"I knew him, I respected him, I admired him, but most of all I knew the path I was walking had been cut by him," former U.S. Transportation Secretary and former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx said.

It’s an honor Foxx says is bestowed only to a select few.

"This type of designation does not happen as it typically has, in typical fashion, but I am so grateful to the state and city," Foxx added.

In a posthumous nod to all of his contributions, Foxx was the first to recommend naming Interstate 85 between Interstate 77 (exit 38) and the 85-connector (exit 42) after the late attorney and civil rights.

"I want everyone in the city and throughout the state when they’re passing that sign to please go look up his name and understand the work that he did for all mankind," Chambers’ son Derek said following a dedication ceremony Thursday. It was held at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Chambers’ church before he died.

Derek Chambers accepted the honor on his family's behalf. He says his father's life was focused on equity for all, including civil rights, equal rights, voting rights, housing rights, and education rights.

Gov. Roy Cooper spoke during the dedication ceremony and said there is direct connection between Chambers and the commerce the I-85 artery supports. "They [drivers] will be reminded that that was the road that Julius Chambers took," Gov. Cooper said.

Various local and state dignitaries forever impacted by the man who founded the first integrated law firm in North Carolina filled the audience during the dedication ceremony.

"Julius was a lawyer for the people," Charlotte mayor Vi Lyles said. Gov. Cooper added, "he did face racism, blatant racism, as he grew up, and instead of running away from it, he charged ahead."

On the national level, Chambers argued some of the key cases in Brown vs. Board of Education, the case that ended segregation.

Its recognition some say is long overdue. "I'm glad that he is being recognized for his legacy and the memory of his livelihood," Derek Chambers added.

Julius Chambers was born in the Montgomery County town of Mt. Gilead in 1936. He died in 2013 in Charlotte. At one point, he served as chancellor of North Carolina Central University.

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