A&T Names Key Academic Building for Alumni Legends Henry and Shirley Frye

05/08/2024 Alumni

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (May 8, 2024) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has renamed its most high-profile academic building after two of its most high-profile alumni, 1953 graduates Justice Henry Frye and his wife, Shirley Frye.

Shirley and Henry FryeWell known across the state for their historic contributions to the civil rights movement, public life, higher education and the legal profession in the state of North Carolina, the Fryes are the namesakes of what had been known as the Academic Classroom Building. The building will now be known as Henry E. and Shirley T. Frye Hall.

Frye Hall is one of six buildings on campus designed by the architectural firm of the late Phil Freelon, a nationally recognized figure in the architecture community who led the design team for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. ACB, as most have referred to the building, is notable for its angular green and white façade, soaring atrium and large classroom spaces, including the Rosa M. Beasley Auditorium that seats 300.

Classes from numerous academic disciplines, degree programs and colleges are held in Frye Hall, where the university’s Honors College is based. Located in the heart of campus, it stands next to the Deese Clock Tower and Proctor Hall, another Freelon-designed structure that houses the N.C. A&T College of Education.

The Fryes met while undergraduates at A&T.

Henry Frye graduated with highest honors, majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry and air science. He joined the Air Force and served with distinction in the Korean War. He tried to register to vote the same day he married Shirley in 1956, but was turned away with one of the infamous Jim Crow era poll tests used to stop Black voter registration. He then vowed to become a lawyer to help undo systematic racism.

In 1959, Henry Frye became the first African American student to complete all three years of study and graduate from the University of North Carolina School of Law. That began a career in law and public life that saw him become the first African American assistant U.S. district attorney (1963), first Black man in the 20th century to be elected to the N.C. General Assembly (1968), first African American appointed to the N.C. Supreme Court (1983) and first African American chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court (1999), retiring in 2001. He 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. Triad Business Journal awarded him its inaugural Leader in Diversity Legacy Award in 2023.

Shirley Frye earned her B.S. in education and English with high honors, taught at Washington Elementary School and 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. She earned North Carolina’s highest civilian award, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, in 1985; was named The (Greensboro, North Carolina) News & Record Woman of the Year in 2017; and received the Triad Business Journal’s Outstanding Women in Business Special Achievement Award in 2022.

A statue immortalizing the Fryes was unveiled in February at Center City Park in downtown Greensboro to pay tribute to their legacy in the city and across the state.

Media Contact Information: jtorok@ncat.edu

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