Charles L. Becton of Durham, an attorney, law professor, and former judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, will become interim chancellor of North Carolina Central University on August 6. Becton, appointed today by UNC President Tom Ross, will succeed Charlie Nelms, 65, who announced earlier today that he is retiring from the University after five years in the post and nearly four decades in higher education administration. Nelms will work with Becton through August 31 to help ensure a smooth transition in leadership.
In announcing Becton’s appointment, President Ross said: “Chancellor Nelms has made extraordinary contributions to the academic quality and stature of NC Central University that will hold it in good stead as we search for his successor. Judge Charles Becton is known and respected throughout the Durham community and the state of North Carolina for his sound judgment and ability to get things done, so I’m confident that NCCU won’t lose any momentum as the search for a permanent chancellor gets under way. I am grateful that Judge Becton has accepted this important assignment, and I know that the campus will be in very capable hands.”
Born in Morehead City and raised in the eastern North Carolina town of Ayden, Becton earned his undergraduate degree at Howard University and holds law degrees from Duke University (J.D.) and the University of Virginia School of Law (LL.M.). He began his legal career in 1969 with the New York-based NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and joined the Charlotte law firm of Chambers Stein Ferguson & Lanning the following year. He soon helped establish the firm’s Chapel Hill office, where he practiced until being appointed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 1981. Becton remained on the appellate bench until 1990, returning to private practice with the Raleigh law firm of Fuller, Becton, Slifkin & Bell.
Becton also has taught and lectured at trial advocacy skills institutes across the U.S. and beyond and is currently the John Scott Cansler Lecturer at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law and a visiting professor of the practice at the Duke University School of Law. In 2010, he served as the Charles Hamilton Houston Chaired Professor of Law at the NCCU Law School.
Becton has served as president of the NC Association of Black Lawyers, the NC Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the NC Bar Association. His many awards and honors include NC Appellate Judge of the Year; the Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Trial Advocacy Award; the Roscoe Pound Foundation’s Richard S. Jacobson Award; and the NC Academy of Trial Lawyers’ Trial Advocacy Award, which was named in his honor. He and his wife, Brenda, have three adult children.
The NCCU Board of Trustees will soon form a search committee of trustees, faculty, students, and alumni to help identify a permanent successor to Chancellor Nelms. The Board of Trustees will forward a slate of finalists to President Ross for consideration. The new chancellor, upon nomination by the President, must be elected by the UNC Board of Governors.