Pierce, Julia. "Julian Pierce '76: an attorney who was 'for the people.'" Of counsel [North Carolina Central University] 2003-2004: 2-3.
This brief but detailed article by Julian Pierce's daughter (an attorney for the U.S. Indian Health Service) outlines his family background, education, and accomplishments until his untimely death on March 26, 1988. Pierce, one of twelve children of tenant farmers, was born in Moore County, North Carolina. His undergraduate degree (from UNC-Pembroke) was in chemistry.
After working several years as a chemist in Newport News and then Norfolk, Virginia, he obtained a law degree from North Carolina Central University. He worked briefly for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, obtained a Masters of Law in Taxation from Georgetown School of Law, and then, by invitation, became the first director of Lumbee River Legal Services in Pembroke, North Carolina, a legal service for low-income individuals of all races.
Pierce worked to help low-income people obtain services; helped the movement to merge Robeson County's school systems; and was one of the authors of the Lumbee Petition, which was submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1987 in an effort to obtain true federal acknowledgment of the Lumbee Tribe.
The North Carolina General Assembly created a new Superior Court judgeship for Robeson County in 1988. Pierce was a candidate, running against the county's district attorney, Joe Freeman Britt, known in the 1978 Guinness Book of World Records as the "deadliest prosecutor." Pierce resigned as director of Lumbee River Legal Services and campaigned tirelessly. On March 26, 1988, he was discovered dead in his home, having been murdered with a shotgun. The Sheriff's Department declared the murder the result of a domestic dispute, but Pierce's family did not accept the story. When the Superior Court judgeship election was held, thousands voted for Pierce. By a vote of 10,787 to 8,231, Pierce won posthumously over Joe Freeman Britt.
In 1999, a Julian Pierce Scholarship Fund was established at North Carolina Central University School of Law.