Read James Cates’s story, the proposal in its entirety, and see the list of signatories and endorsers here.
To show your support by signing on as an endorser, email email@example.com with your name and title or town of residence.
This proposal was submitted on June 15, 2021, to Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert A. Blouin, and the members of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Naming University Facilities and Units.
James Lewis Cates Jr. was a lifelong resident of Chapel Hill; a Black man born in 1948 who attended segregated schools until his senior year of high school and marched in the local civil rights movement as an adolescent; the son of a U.S. Air Force sergeant; raised by his grandmother, a longtime UNC employee; stabbed in 1970 at the age of 22 on UNC’s campus next to the Pit, outside the Student Union and the Daniels Building; denied by police life-saving medical treatment in a timely manner; and largely forgotten about by the University community and people of Chapel Hill.
The University needs a building on its campus named for Mr. Cates to honor his memory and ensure that his name is seen and spoken on campus and not forgotten again. Mr. Cates’s life ended while he was in his youth, so we will never know the full potential of what he could have contributed to society. However, having the Student Stores building named for James Cates would keep his legacy alive and help move the University away from an era of denial of the persistence of white supremacy and into a future of necessary acknowledgement and reckoning, which can lead to reconciliation. It is imperative that institutions forthrightly recall how little value they have historically prescribed to Black lives so that a death like his never happens again. Mr. Cates’s legacy could then become one of helping to facilitate in death a way forward for the University and Chapel Hill communities all these years later.