A blaze which firemen said was intentionally set gutted the office of civil rights lawyer Julius L. Chambers Thursday and destroyed piles of legal files.
Asst. Fire Chief Otis W. Dowdy ruled the early morning fire was intentional after his men found an unidentified chemical at the rear of the two-story building. He declined to identify the chemical but said it was "incendiary."
Chambers, a young black lawyer whose firm had led the fight against racial segregation in North Carolina schools, was out of town when flames erupted in the empty building.
His offices were in a converted two-story home a few blocks from the center of Charlotte. The rambling wooden frame was left standing but floors of the interior were damaged.
Adam Stein, a lawyer who works with Chambers on many civil rights cases and is a partner in the four-man firm, said files on the hotly disputed Charlotte desegregation school case were saved but that many others had been damaged or scattered.
Stein said it would take "thousands of man hours" to reconstruct many of the case files. Chambers firm has taken on hundreds of civil rights cases in the state, many in collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
The automobile repair shop of Chambers' father in nearby Mt. Gilead has been hit twice by fire in recent months.