Founding Executive Director of Lumbee River Legal Services and Candidate for Superior Court
Julian T. Pierce (died March 26, 1988) was a Lumbee Indian born in Moore County, North
At sixteen, Pierce graduated from Hawkeye High School. He attended the University of North
Carolina at Pembroke in Pembroke, North Carolina on full scholarship and graduated with a
Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry.
After graduation, he began working as a chemist for the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry
Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia, and later worked as a chemist in the Navy Shipyard
in Norfolk, Virginia. There he developed an award-winning chemical process for
decontamination of nuclear reactors.
After several years, Pierce attended law school. He chose the North Carolina Central University
School of Law. After graduation from NCCU, in 1976, he was offered a position with the United
States Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.. While working, Pierce
attended Georgetown School of Law to earn his Master of Laws in Taxation.
In 1978, he returned to North Carolina to become the first director of the Lumbee River Legal
Services, a poverty law office in Pembroke. For ten years, Pierce worked at Lumbee River Legal
Services to raise the standard of legal care for the poor citizens of Robeson County. He took part
in merging the tri-school board system into a one-school board system in the county so that all
children would receive equal educational funding.
In 1987, Pierce, along with others petitioned the United States Department of the Interior for
federal acknowledgment and entry to tribal rolls for the Lumbee. The petition was denied due to
language in the Lumbee Act of 1956. The group then introduced a recognition bill, but it failed
due to opposition from the Department of the Interior and from other recognized tribes.
In 1988, the North Carolina General Assembly created a new Superior Court Judgeship in
Robeson County. Joe Freeman Britt, the county's district attorney, announced his candidacy first.
At the time, while Pierce did not have the popularity of Britt, many people knew him from his
numerous community service roles such as when he was Chairman of the Lumbee Medical
Clinic, on the board of directors of the North Carolina Legal Resource Center, or Vice-Chairman
of the Robeson Health Care Corporation.
Pierce resigned from his position as director of Lumbee River Legal Services to start a campaign
to become the first Native American superior court judge in North Carolina.
On March 26, 1988, Pierce's body was found in his home where he had been murdered. In the
aftermath, Britt was automatically declared the winner of the primary election. However, some
reporters and campaign workers counted the votes and determined that Pierce actually won the
vote posthumously, 10,787 to 8,231.