BAR Awards Profile – Charles E. Daye

2004 Outstanding Faculty Staff Award
Charles E. Daye

A colleague describes Professor Charles Daye this way:

“He wears his conscience on his sleeve. He is the kind of fellow who will always be advocating for the right of people to be free and unencumbered by these social artifacts we create, such as race. It’s a part of his ethos.”

As a young attorney with a law degree from ColumbiaUniversity, Charles became the first black law clerk in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals — for the chief judge. Then he practiced law with a Washington, D.C., firm that sued to end discrimination in government contracting and housing.

And then the University of North Carolina Law School, which had once the fought racial integration of its ranks, recruited Charles Daye. He became its first black tenure-track faculty member in 1972.

While black colleagues at Northern law schools complained to him of poor treatment, Charles felt welcome at Carolina.

“I came into an environment where the law school had already made this commitment to diversity,” Charles told the faculty newspaper recently. “I was nurtured, helped and accepted in every conceivable way, and that has made all the difference.”

And so it is a proud moment for Carolina to honor Charles Daye with the Outstanding Faculty Award for 2004, not for fighting for the right to be here, but for being such a phenomenal scholar and leader for more than 30 years.

He left us briefly for North Carolina Central University, where he served for four years as dean of the law school, but fortunately, he came back.

His research has covered a broad array of subjects, from ethics to North Carolina torts to federal housing programs.

Charles has been called a demanding teacher. He is a gregarious fellow with an incisive wit. He loves to meet new people and get to know them. He personifies the tradition of scholarly debate that defines great universities.

Charles has the grace to argue his position against those whose views are nearly opposite without personalizing the matter — and he is always ready to learn from the interchange. He extends that profound respect to students as well as his colleagues.

Despite the considerable demands on his time, Charles seldom refuses a request for help with something that will make the world better. He models for his students and colleagues a deep sense of responsibility to society.

Charles works diligently to improve the diversity of Carolina’s student body, faculty and staff. He has led both the law school’s special Admissions Policy Committee and the university-wide Affirmative Action Advisory Committee. He co-wrote an amicus brief that helped persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to allow university admissions offices to consider race to enhance diversity.

We know that we do not yet live in society where all are unencumbered by race. But Charles Daye paints for us the vision of that society. As he told the faculty council this year while receiving another award, he works toward it with grandchildren in mind — and so should all of us.