Frye visits ICC to observe Black History Month
Henry Frye, North Carolina’s First African-American Chief Justice, stopped by Isothermal Community College for a special Black History month event on Wednesday.
The event titled “A Life of Service and Compassion for Others,” was held in the Library Auditorium and hosted by the college’s Uncommon Leaders Club and the Student Government Association (SGA).
Frye, who is now 81 and retired, is a native of Ellerbe in Richmond County. He spoke to the audience about his history and how they can overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams.
“Dream big and follow your dreams,” Frye said. “Don’t let little things keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Frye said he grew up on a farm where he worked with his father and 11 brothers and sisters. He graduated as valedictorian from Mineral Springs High School in Ellerbe. During his time as a student the schools were segregated and were considered separate but equal.
“It was separate but in so many ways we were not equal. It was in the 8th grade before I got to see new books. During the earlier years and later years, new books went to the white school and old books came down to our school,” Frye said. “If a new bus went there, an old bus came to our school. I know because I drove a bus and we kept the mechanics busy working on it.”
Frye was also a member of the Boy Scouts of America. He talked about the Boy Scout motto and the Scout law; be prepared.
“What a great two words to remember. Did you ever got to class without preparing and that’s the day the teacher calls on you?” Frye asked the audience. “Always be ready because that might be the day that somebody is asking that teacher whether or not you would be a good person to move to something higher. You ruin your chance by not being prepared.”
Frye graduated Summa Cum Laude from North Carolina A&T University after high school where he majored in biology. After college he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force Reserve and later became captain. He served as an ammunition officer in Japan and Korea.
“When I was at the Air Force University in Montgomery, Alabama I went to the church and heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preach. I listened to him and talked with him for a little bit,” Frye said. “I came back to North Carolina with a dream of my own. That North Carolina, my home state, would rise up and live up to it’s motto which is ‘To be, rather than to seem.”
Upon returning from the military he attempted to register to vote in his hometown only to be required to pass a test in order to do it. After failing the test, he decided to become a lawyer and graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law. He practiced law in Greensboro for 21 years.
In 1983 Frye became the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court of North Carolina. In September 1999, he was appointed by Governor Jim Hunt to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
“My message to you is this, think about what you want to do and work hard to make your dreams come true,” Frye said to the audience.