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James E. Ferguson, born in Asheville in 1942, begins by sharing memories of early political and social activism, the benefits of having a close-knit family, and his time as an undergraduate at N.C. Central University. Ferguson attended Columbia Law School and in this interview he shares memories of working with Julius Chambers at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s office in New York, thoughts about the Wilmington Ten and Charlotte Three cases, the traits that make for a successful trial attorney, and experiences teaching lawyers in South Africa. He recalls his involvement with enforcing school desegregation guidelines in Mississippi and eastern Tennessee before joining Julius Chambers in practice in 1967. He describes being involved in important civil rights cases including the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg [402 U.S. 1 (1971)] school desegregation case as well as death penalty work. He notes that an important aspect of criminal defense work is vigorous representation of one’s client detached from personal feelings of guilt or innocence. He concludes by describing how he has maintained a positive work-life balance.

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