Charles E. Mitchell was an attorney and labor arbitrator.
He died on Thursday, June 5, 2014 at Temple University Hospital of cardiac arrest and intracranial hemorrhage. He was 88.
Mitchell was born on July 7, 1925 to Edward Charles and the former Lula Belle Thompson in Seymour, Ind. He spent his early years in Gary, Ind. experiencing challenges.
Mitchell’s father, an orphan raised by Catholic Sisters, was a traveling salesman and manager of a private club in Seymour. His mother was a housewife. Times were often hard and he had to work his way through college, law school and admission to the bar to practice law.
Mitchell was a resident of Philadelphia for 61 years. He first moved to Philadelphia after his marriage to Julia Sarjeant Mitchell in 1951 and together they raised their two sons until she died in 1994.
Mitchell began law school at Brooklyn Law School and transferred to the law school at Temple University shortly after his marriage. He was awarded his law degree from Temple in 1954 and had previously graduated from New York University, after his initial college years at Morehouse College. His college education was interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Navy to serve in World War II on board the USS Repose.
Mitchell began his legal career as a legal assistant in the Office of the District Attorney in Philadelphia.
In 1972, he became one of the first two African Americans employed as an attorney at E.I. Du Pont de Nemours in Wilmington, Del. At DuPont, Mitchell represented the company and its management employees in unfair labor practice charges, union election challenges, arbitration and employment discrimination litigation, traveling around the country to do so. He served as an examiner and attorney for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from 1993 to 2003.
Mitchell was an active member of the American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law from 1973 to 1992.
In the early 1970s, Mitchell and other Pennsylvania African-American bar examination applicants joined forces to challenge the Pennsylvania State Board of Law Examiners, claiming that the state bar exam, as it was then written and implemented, discriminated against Black candidates. As a result, the Pennsylvania State Board of Law Examiners and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to change the bar exam from essay questions to include multiple choice and to stop requiring candidates to submit a photograph with their applications. After these changes, the number of successful Black candidates for the bar exam rose significantly and resulted in a larger pool of Black attorneys.
Mitchell married Lloyd Overton Martin in 2002. They lived in the East Falls section of Philadelphia. Through the marriage, he gained two stepdaughters.
He enjoyed traveling to China, Spain, Italy, France and London, and he played golf across the United States and throughout the Caribbean.
His son, Dr. Albert B. Mitchell, said that his father was “overflowing with kindness and unselfish love.”
Yvonne Mitchell remembered her late father-in-law as “someone who never had anything bad to say about anyone.”
He was preceded in death by his stepdaughter Victoria Martin.
Mitchell is survived by his wife Lloyd of Philadelphia; sons Dr. Albert B. Mitchell and Charles Leonard Mitchell; daughter-in-law Yvonne and granddaughter Julia of New York; and stepdaughter attorney Alexis Martin of Philadelphia.
A memorial service will be held July 26 at 10 a.m. at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, 6361 Lancaster Ave. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Absalom Jones House, African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, 6361 Lancaster Ave., Philadelphia, Pa., 19151.
Wood Funeral Home handled the arrangements.