Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from A-E » Chambliss, Alvin O.(1944–) - Lawyer, civil rights activist, Chronology, Pursues Higher Education, Returns to Mississippi and the Ayers Case

More Appeals, Challenges, and Life Changes

chambliss court african settlement

Chambliss filed yet another series of appeals, contesting the fairness of the settlement. In 2002, shortly after he was given the Trial Lawyer of the Year award by the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, he was told that his contract would not be renewed at Texas Southern. He had not been negatively evaluated for his work as a professor in the law school, but his continued involvement in appealing the Ayers settlement left the impression that his dismissal may have been politically motivated. The appeals were preventing the settlement agreement from going into effect and bringing a final resolution to the case.

Chambliss contended that the settlement did not do enough to provide equal educational opportunities for African Americans in all of Mississippi’s public higher   education institutions. He noted that it did not provide enough funding to equalize programs, facilities, and other resources in the state’s three HBCUs, and contested the designation of $246 million for the purpose of attracting white students to the HBCU campuses, which the state finally acknowledged had been neglected and under funded from the era of segregation through the last decades of the twentieth century.

In 2003, Chambliss and his new legal team presented his appeal of the case before the court of appeals in New Orleans, after overcoming such obstacles as missing court records, going through unrelated documents and paperwork included in requests for specific and pertinent information, the short timeline between preparation and presentation, and inadequate funding to support his colleagues. Several attorneys volunteered to assist Chambliss and worked nearly nonstop in the thirty days before the court hearing.

Chambliss and his colleagues were successful in their efforts, and the New Orleans hearing on November 3 drew significant national media attention when students, educators, and activists from all over the nation came to the city in support of the Ayers appeal. Despite an outstanding presentation by Chambliss, in which he argued the case citing legal documents and precedents, including the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, Plessey v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education , and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the court did not reverse the settlement agreement in its January 2004 ruling. Chambliss then appealed the case to the court of last resort, the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chambliss again was forced to deal with personal, professional, and financial challenges after losing his professorship. Even though he was no longer employed at Texas Southern, he still retained ties to the institution. In May 2004 he celebrated as his son and daughter in-law became graduates of the university. Alvin III received a degree in biology, and Miriam was ranked fourth of 150 receiving the J.D. degree from the law school.

While waiting on the final appeal of the Ayers case, Chambliss was interviewed by journalists from various news media and invited to speak in a variety of settings about the case and its implications. He lectured at Indiana University, where he eventually accepted a position as distinguished visiting professor in the School of Education and Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies. In October 2004 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of the Ayers settlement agreement, ending the case he had been involved with for nearly thirty years.

Alvin O. Chambliss Jr. made history through his unwavering commitment to the legal and social struggle for the educational advancement of African Americans. Paula Powell of the National Association of African American Students noted that Chambliss should be considered a hero of his times, and the publication Black Issues in Higher Education agreed, when it recognized him as being one of the most significant African Americans in the last one hundred years.

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