Service for C.E. Mitchell

Charles E. Mitchell
Charles E. Mitchell
Posted: July 27, 2014

A memorial service will be held Saturday, July 26, for Charles Edward Mitchell, 88, of Philadelphia, a trailblazing lawyer who excelled in the area of labor and employment law.

Mr. Mitchell's funeral is set for 10 a.m. at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, 6361 Lancaster Ave. A visitation starts at 9 a.m. Burial is private.

One of the first African Americans employed as an attorney at the DuPont Co. in Wilmington in 1972, Mr. Mitchell died Thursday, June 5, at Temple University Hospital.

The cause of death was cardiac arrest following a stroke the day before.

Mr. Mitchell was a labor arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association from 1993 to 2003, and an active member of the American Bar Association's Section of Labor and Employment Law from 1973 to 1992.

A Philadelphian for 61 years, Mr. Mitchell was born in Seymour, Ind. His father, Edward Charles, an orphan raised by Catholic nuns, was a traveling salesman. His mother, Lula Belle Thompson, was a homemaker.

Mr. Mitchell moved east after his marriage to Julia Sarjeant in 1951. They raised a family in West Mount Airy. Julia Mitchell, a social worker, died in 1994.

Mr. Mitchell attended Morehouse College in Atlanta and graduated from New York University. His education was interrupted when he was drafted into the Navy. He served aboard the hospital ship Repose and then returned stateside to finish his undergraduate degree. He earned a degree from Temple University School of Law in 1954.

Mr. Mitchell began his career as a legal assistant in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. He went on to become an examiner for the National Labor Relations Board before joining DuPont, where he represented company management in unfair labor practice matters, union election challenges, and employment discrimination cases.

In the early 1970s, he and other 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 Supreme Court and the examiners agreed to change the bar exam from essay questions to multiple choice and to stop requiring candidates to submit a photograph with their application.

"After these changes, the number of black candidates rose significantly and resulted in a larger pool of black attorneys," his son Charles Leonard Mitchell, a lawyer, wrote in the Villanova Law Review in 1974.

Mr. Mitchell married Lloyd Overton in 2002. The two lived in East Falls. They enjoyed golf, relaxing, and traveling the world.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Mitchell is survived by another son, Albert B.; a stepdaughter, Alexis Martin; and a granddaughter. A second stepdaughter, Victoria Martin, died in February.

Donations may be made to Absalom Jones House, African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, 6361 Lancaster Ave., Philadelphia 19151.


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