The Honorable Sammie Chess, Jr. Obituary in High Point at Phillips Funeral Service, Inc. | High Point, NC
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Phillips Funeral Service, Inc. | High Point, NC

The Honorable Sammie Chess, Jr.

Passed 07/23/2022

Obituary For The Honorable Sammie Chess, Jr.

Sammie Chess, Jr. is son of the late Sammie Chess, Sr. and the late Susanna Hagood Chess. On March 28, 1934, he was born in the Bull Pond community of Allendale County, South Carolina. He departed this life, peacefully, in the early morning of July 23, 2022.

Until age 9, Chess and his family lived on the farm where he was born, and at age 12, Sammie Sr. migrated the family to Harlem, New York. It would be later in his adolescence that Chess and his family moved to High Point, North Carolina, where the stewardship and educator’s love of Mr. Samuel E. Burford would set the course for Chess’ life of service to mankind. These were Chess’ formative years at his dear William Penn High School, and at a time in our history where public schools were segregated; yet, educators such as Mr. Burford and others saw the promise in their young students in these ‘separate by unequal’ schools. Chess often spoke of how Mr. Burford saved his life.

Mr. Burford and educators of the segregated William Penn High School saw to it that Chess enrolled in North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University). There, he would excel and enter The College’s School of Law his junior year, completing both undergraduate and law school in 6 years. After passing the North Carolina Bar exam, Chess served two years in the United States Army, including a tour of duty in Korea.

Upon completing his service in the Army, in 1960, Chess hung his shingle to practice law in the city of High Point. He immediately engaged in the Civil Rights Movement taking on cases in High Point and across the state. Chess’ focus was ending discrimination and segregation. He fought tirelessly. For the next decade, he would argue (and win) cases that would lead to desegregation of the High Point Public Schools system, public hospitals, theatres, restaurants and other institutions and facilities intended “for the People.”

Chess was often called upon by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to help “fight the good fight” and join legal teams who would argue landmark cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. One such case was Griggs v. Duke Power, a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on March 8, 1971, established the legal precedent for so-called “disparate-impact” lawsuits involving instances of racial discrimination.

In 1971, Chess became the first Black Superior Court judge in the state of North Carolina. Governor Robert W. Scott appointed Chess as a special Superior Court judge, empowering him with the ability to hold court state-wide, thus ensuring justice in civil and criminal trials and hearings. In this capacity, Chess changed many practices commonly accepted during this time, such as judges and prosecuting officials referring to Black witnesses by their first name, while referring to White persons as Mr. or Mrs. Judge Chess made it clear that there would be no unequal treatment in his court. Judge Chess afforded all who appeared before him an equal, fair and impartial trial regardless of color or station in life. Judge Chess returned to his law practice in 1975 where he served faithfully until 1991, when he was appointed Administrative Law Judge in the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. He retired in 2007, thus concluding nearly a 50-year career serving the people of North Carolina and the United States.

During the next 15 years, Chess continued to be of service. He found purpose in the High Point Bar Association, his church and with his beloved brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He always found time to encourage young lawyers to be the best - to always be prepared, to persevere and pursue excellence.

The recognition of Judge Chess’ service to others is far-reaching. Respected by his colleagues and community was overwhelmingly humbling to Chess. His purpose and conviction led him to believe he was doing God’s work. The acceptance he sought was from his Creator; and to one day hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” was the only acknowledgment for which Chess lived his life. Some of Judge Chess’ honors include:

Member – North Carolina State Board of Higher Education; governor appointee

Liberty Bell - awarded by the North Carolina Bar Association; recognizing individuals exemplifying lifelong service to the law in North Carolina.

Rosskopf Award for Judicial Professionalism and Ethics - awarded by the National Association of Administrative Law Judges; its highest honor for excellence in professionalism and ethics

Hall of Fame inductee - National Bar Association

Meritorious Service – awarded by North Carolina Association of Human Rights Workers

Citizen of the Year – awarded by Kappa Lambda Chapter, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; awarded for outstanding services rendered to the community

Legal Legend of Color – awarded by the North Carolina Bar Association

Member, Board of Directors - the National Association of Administrative Law Judiciary (NAALJ)

Chess is survived by his wife, Sandra Chavis Chess; two daughters, Eva Chess and Janet Chess; stepson, Cory Watson (Sherry); step granddaughters, Lauren Watson, Chloe Powell (Carl), and Cameron Watson; step great-granddaughter, Corinne Powell; and a host of loving extended family, relatives, and friends.

Funeral service will be held Saturday, July 30, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. at St. Stephen Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church, 1012 Leonard Avenue, High Point, NC. The Honorable Sammie Chess, Jr., may be viewed on Friday, July 29, 2022 from 3:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at Phillips Funeral Service Chapel. Livestreaming link: https://vimeo.com/734573110

Final arrangements are entrusted to Phillips Funeral Service, Inc.

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My Cart

Best Sellers
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
Plant Trees
 
Serene Lily Basket
$131.95
Beautiful Dreams
$106.95
Sweet Moments
$93.95
Peace & Serenity Dishgarden
$99.95
Red and White Handled Basket
$106.95
Mixed Spray
$187.95
Ocean Devotion
$99.95
The Peace Lily
$118.95
Living Spirit Dishgarden
$99.95
Red and White Floor Basket
$112.95
Mixed flowers in a handled basket
$112.95
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Flowers are delivered by the preferred local florist of Phillips Funeral Service, Inc. | High Point, NC.
For Customer Service please call: 1-888-610-8262

 

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