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The Voice of the Black Community
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In Remembrance of James Lewis Cates Jr.
Published Sunday, November 22, 2020
by A statement from Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger

James Lewis Cates Jr. was born in October 1948 and raised from infancy by his grandmother, Ms. Annie Cates, who lived on Graham Street. Friends and family called him “Baby Boy.” He came of age during the 1960s civil rights movement, and he marched to protest Jim Crow in Chapel Hill. He worked on the school newspaper and was part of student government when he attended the all-Black Lincoln High School. He was a son of Chapel Hill and remains a part of us.

Fifty years ago, on Nov. 21, 1970, Cates was murdered outside of an all-night dance marathon on UNC’s campus. He was just 22. His family and friends have carried the pain of his loss for 50 years. Today, Chapel Hill mourns with them.

Today, we also acknowledge a need for a full accounting of the events that led to the attack on Cates, his subsequent death, and all that occurred after he died. We seek to learn why this tragedy happened in Chapel Hill, what role the Town of Chapel Hill played in these events, and how we can ensure that it never happens again.

We commit to working with the Cates Family and with our partners at UNC to engage honestly with the people of Chapel Hill to comprehensively investigate the events of Mr. Cates’ murder. We commit to being open to and transparent about all discoveries made as a result of this process. By working together, we will be working to make Chapel Hill a more just, understanding, and resilient community– one where a young Black man like Cates can thrive and take pride in calling home.

On December 9, the Chapel Hill Town Council will recognize James Cates and formalize our support of this work. Through November 23, community members can leave messages of remembrance and comfort to the family through the Chapel Hill Community History website.



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