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N.C. A&T Establishes Justice Henry E. and Shirley T. Frye Archival Collection

By Staff Report / 04/20/2022 Alumni

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (April 20, 2022) – Henry E. and Shirley T. Frye have donated their personal archives, professional documents and artifacts to the F.D. Bluford Library Archives at their alma mater, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

The acquisition of this collection, which was announced following the university’s Student Honors Convocation, represents more than five decades of materials that document the Fryes’ legacy in civil rights, social justice and civic engagement.

The materials will establish the Justice Henry E. and Shirley T. Frye Archival Collection, which will be preserved, protected and made accessible to the university, the public and the world for study, research and discussion.

The Fryes both graduated from N.C. A&T in 1953 and went on to become local, state and national trailblazers, each in their own right.

Shirley Frye, who will in May will receive the 2022 Triad Business Journal’s Outstanding Women in Business Special Achievement Award, has earned many accolades in her lifetime, including The (Greensboro, North Carolina) News & Record Woman of the Year Award for 2017 and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of North Carolina’s highest civilian honors.

After she earned her B.S. in education and English with high honors from A&T, she taught at Washington Elementary School then earned a master’s degree in special education and psychology to become a special education teacher serving the Greensboro community. Later, she returned to A&T as assistant vice chancellor for development and university relations and as special assistant to the chancellor before her career led her to serve as special assistant to the president and director of planned giving at neighboring Bennett College. She also worked for the state Department of Public Instruction and retired as vice president of community relations at WFMY News 2, where she won an Emmy.

Throughout her career, Shirley Frye has also been a devoted community volunteer. She led the integration of Greensboro’s two segregated YWCAs in the 1970s, serving as the new organization’s first president and with her work used as a model for YWCAs across the country. The city’s newest YWCA building is named in her honor. Additionally, she chaired the steering committee for Action Greensboro, served on the Greensboro City Schools Board of Education and in leadership positions at United Way of Greater Greensboro, N.C. A&T Real Estate Foundation Board, High Point University Board of Trustees and others.

“Shirley Frye is the most requested woman in the archives,” said James Stewart, archives and special collections librarian at A&T. “Her leadership and civic engagement are of the highest order and her dedication to public service is matched by that of her husband, Justice Henry Frye.”

Henry Frye joined the Air Force upon graduating with highest honors from A&T. When he returned home, he married Shirley Taylor on Aug. 25, 1956 – the same day he was denied the right to vote. This act of discrimination fueled his desire to build an equitable America and in 1959 he became the first African American student to complete all three years of study and graduate from the University of North Carolina School of Law.

His continued hard work and dedication led to a series of additional firsts: the first African American assistant U.S. district attorney (1963); the first Black man in the 20th century to be elected to the N.C. General Assembly (1968); the first African American appointed to the N.C. Supreme Court (1983); and the first African American chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court (1999).

While making a career out of making North Carolina history, Henry Frye also remained dedicated to serving Greensboro through endeavors such as establishing Greensboro National Bank to combat lending discrimination against Black business owners in the city. He is also moved by poetry, having memorized Edgar Albert Guest’s “It Couldn't Be Done” and writing a poem for his wife on the occasion of their 65th wedding anniversary that was published in The News & Record.

“I am proud that my alma mater, which gave me my foundation to do all I was able to do, is receiving this collection,” he said.

Media Contact Information: uncomm@ncat.edu

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