James E. “Fergie” Ferguson II has championed civil rights and educational equality for a half century. Fergie co-founded the first integrated law firm in North Carolina in the late 1960s and continues advocating for justice as head of the firm Ferguson Chambers & Sumter. He serves in an of counsel capacity with Pfeiffer Rudolf.
Fergie was born into the Jim Crow South in Asheville, NC in 1942. His civil rights career began in high school when he organized meetings between the all-black junior high school with the all-white junior high to discuss issues of race. The group became known as the Greater Asheville Interfaith Group. During that same year, Fergie and his student group formed the Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality, which worked successfully to help desegregate lunch counters, libraries, and other public facilities in Asheville.
Fergie earned his undergraduate degree at North Carolina Central University, where he continued his civil rights work in the sit-ins and desegregation efforts in Durham, NC. He received his JD from Columbia University in 1967, after which he joined fellow lawyer Julius Chambers and two others to create North Carolina’s first racially integrated law firm, one of the first in the South.
Fergie defended the Wilmington 10 in 1972, and 40 years later he was successful in gaining pardons of innocence for each of them. Fergie successfully litigated a reduction of the death sentences to life imprisonment for the only four people whose cases were decided under NC’s Racial Justice Act, the only law of its kind in the nation. Throughout his career, Fergie has used his legal skills to desegregate schools, police departments and countless other public and private agencies.
Fergie co-founded South Africa’s first Trial Advocacy Program, offering the program to black and white lawyers, even during the apartheid era. He has taught trial advocacy in London, Cambridge and Stratford-on-Avon, England, as well as throughout the United States, including the first advanced trial advocacy program offered in the United States through the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. He has taught as a lecturer at Harvard Law School, North Carolina Central University Law School and was selected as an Honorary Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Santa Clara University Law School. He has served as president of both the NC Association of Black Lawyers and the NC Association of Trial Lawyers. He also served on the Board and National Executive Committee and as General Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union for 12 years. He is the recipient of dozens of local, state and national awards and is a member of the coveted Inner Circle, a group of 100 of the best plaintiff’s lawyers in the country.