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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Henry M. Michaux, Jr. “Mickey” was presented with the State Bar’s John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award on September 14, 2022, at the University Club in Durham, North Carolina. The award was presented by Past-President Barbara R. Christy and State Bar Councilor Judge Dorothy Hairston Mitchell. The presentation was also attended by State Bar Executive Director Alice Mine and State Bar Councilors Judge Patrice Hinnant, Meredith Nicholson, and Warren Savage.

Representative Michaux is one of North Carolina’s most prominent African American political figures and a pioneer in the legal profession. He graduated from North Carolina Central University with a degree in Biology in 1952. After graduation, Rep. Michaux served in the United States Army Medical Corps from 1952–1954 and in the Army Reserves from 1954 until 1960. Rep. Michaux returned to NC College at Durham (now North Carolina Central University) and received his Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) with honors in 1964. In 1966, Rep. Michaux and his brother Eric Michaux were the only two African Americans admitted to practice law in the state. They applied to the North Carolina Bar Association but were denied admittance. Rep. Michaux was admitted to the NCBA in 1968. He was the fourth African American ever admitted.

In the 1950s, Rep. Michaux became involved with the civil rights movement and established a close friendship with Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King encouraged Michaux to run for office. In 1972, Rep. Michaux won three straight two-year terms as a state House representative. He was the first African American to represent Durham County in the NC General Assembly, and the third African Americans to be elected to the General Assembly since Reconstruction.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Rep. Michaux to serve as United States attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, the first African American in the position and the first in the South since Reconstruction. Following the confirmation of his appointment in 1977, Rep. Michaux resigned from the North Carolina House of Representatives. Leaving the office of the United States attorney at the end of the Carter administration, Rep. Michaux ran for the United States Congress second congressional district and lost the Democratic primary in a runoff election. The upset loss sparked the rewriting of the state’s 74-year-old runoff primary law (from 50% plus one vote with more than two contestants or face a runoff if the second candidate called for one, to become 40% of the vote to win a party’s nomination).

Rep. Michaux returned to the state legislature in 1983 and served until his retirement in 2019. In January 2020, at age 89, Michaux was appointed to fill a seat in the North Carolina Senate temporarily, following the resignation of Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. He retired, this time from the North Carolina Senate, in March 2020. Rep. Michaux was recently appointed by Governor Cooper to the Juvenile Sentencing Reform Commission, a continuum of his dedicated and selfless service to the State of North Carolina.

Upon his retirement, Rep. Michaux was the longest-serving member of the North Carolina General Assembly. During his time in office, Rep. Michaux used his position in the North Carolina General Assembly to obtain greater access to the ballot for minority communities and sponsored affordable housing initiatives. He was successful in supporting legislation that increased more equitable laws governing primary runoffs that led to an increase in African American judges in the state of North Carolina. From 2007 to 2010, Rep. Michaux was the General Assembly's senior chair of the Appropriations Committee, which resulted in a robust budget for rural North Carolina communities and significant funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Filed Under: General News

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