by Mike Rodriguez
UNC lost one of its most prominent family members when Bill Friday died at his home in Chapel Hill at the age of 92.
Friday was born in 1920 and grew-up in Dallas, North Carolina, near Gastonia, during the Great Depression. He started his academic career at Wake Forest University, transferring to North Carolina State University after a year. He received his law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.
After serving in World War II, Friday became UNC’s president, and later, the UNC system president from 1956 through 1986. During his term, he linked the sixteen campuses in the system, and helped form Research Triangle Park, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the UNC Center for Public Television. As a leader, he guided Carolina through the tumultuous 1960s, fighting to end segregation and the North Carolina Legislature’s Speaker Ban.
In the 1970s, he started UNC-TV’s longest running show– North Carolina People — which has been on the air for more than thirty years. In 1997, president Bill Clinton awarded Friday the National Humanities Medal for his commitment to the humanities throughout his work.
He will be greatly missed by the Carolina family, for his legacy and resounding character. Friday’s passing coincided with University Day, a recognition of Carolina’s past and a celebration of its future. Prominent North Carolinians were on-campus to celebrate the school, and remember Friday. They shared their most resilient memories.