Attorney Loses Job, Blames Involvement With Ayers Settlement HOUSTON
A Texas Southern University law professor representing plaintiffs opposed to a $503 million college desegregation settlement in Mississippi says pressure from angry government officials in that state prompted his bosses to fire him.
Alvin Chambliss Jr., 57, the former lead attorney in a 27-year-old lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s neglect to its historically Black colleges, learned last month that his year-to-year contract at TSU’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law wouldn’t be renewed this fall.
“The main heat is coming from the state of Mississippi,” Chambliss, who has taught at TSU since 1995, told the Houston Chronicle.
Chambliss said McKen Carrington, the law school’s dean, told him that “word came from Austin that you are to be fired immediately” after his pending appeals have held up distribution of the 2001 Ayers settlement to three historically Black Mississippi colleges.
TSU confirmed that Chambliss’ contract will not be renewed, but spokeswoman Page Rander said no state officials from Texas or Mississippi called the university about the professor.
She said she couldn’t comment on his firing because it is a personnel matter. Carrington also declined to comment.
Pam Smith, spokeswoman for Mississippi’s College Board, which runs the state’s eight public universities, dismissed Chambliss’ claims.
“There is absolutely no credibility to the accusations,” she says.
“The settlement has the backing of the governor, the (Mississippi) attorney general, the U.S. Justice Department, the Legislature and the class that the court recognized as the representatives for the plaintiffs,” Smith says. “Everybody except (Chambliss).”
Chambliss in recent months has filed a string of appeals of the $503 million Ayers settlement signed last spring by U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. (see Black Issues, May 10, 2001). Chambliss claims it doesn’t go far enough to erase segregation.
He said he approves of the amount of money that would go to Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State universities over 17 years. But he said he also wants lower admissions standards for Blacks applying to Mississippi universities and addition of law and pharmacy schools at Jackson State.
He has insisted that the three universities should have received money even while his appeals are pending.
But Mississippi College Board member D.E. Magee said last month that the appeals are slowing Jackson State’s construction of a $20 million engineering facility and delaying Alcorn State’s launch of a multimillion-dollar biotechnology program.
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