Alumni Henry E. and Shirley T. Frye Honored with Statue in Downtown Greensboro

By Alana V. Allen / 02/23/2024 Alumni

Image on right courtesy of YES! Weekly

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Feb. 23, 2024) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University power couple Henry E. Frye ‘53 and Shirley T. Frye ‘53 have been immortalized in a statue that pays tribute to their legacy in the city of Greensboro and across North Carolina.

The statue, unveiled Feb. 20 at Center City Park in downtown Greensboro, shows the couple holding hands on top of a singular base with plaques that highlight their contributions.

The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation funded and provided the statue, which was accepted by the city July 18, 2023.

The unveiling ceremony included remarks from Gov. Roy Cooper, Mayor Nancy and N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin, Sr. ’74 and ‘76.

Henry Frye is the first African-American chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, while his wife Shirley Frye is a leader and activist in the community – a trailblazing team. They met as students at A&T, married on Aug. 25, 1956, and have two children, Henry Frye Jr. and Harlan Frye.

Henry Frye graduated from A&T with highest honors, majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry and air science. He joined the Air Force upon graduation, serving his country in Korea and Japan. Despite his high academic achievement and military service, he was denied the right to vote in North Carolina by way of the literacy test that was designed to prevent African Americans from participating in the government. He decided to become a lawyer and work to undo systemic racism across North Carolina.

In 1983, Gov. James B. Hunt appointed Henry Frye to the North Carolina Supreme Court, making him its first African American justice. He served with distinction for 16 years, elected to his first full-term position in 1984, then re-elected in 1992. Hunt named chief justice in 1999, retiring in 2001.

Shirley Frye earned her B.S. in education and English and went on to teach at Washington Elementary School. She earned her master’s degree in special education and psychology to become a special education teacher serving the Greensboro community. She later returned to A&T as assistant vice chancellor for development and university relations and as special assistant to the chancellor. 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 Award.

In 1985, Shirley Frye also earned North Carolina’s highest civilian award, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. This award highlights individuals who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments. In 2017, she was named The (Greensboro, North Carolina) News & Record Woman of the Year and in 2022 received the Triad Business Journal’s Outstanding Women in Business Special Achievement Award.

A year later, Triad Business Journal awarded Henry Frye its inaugural Leader in Diversity Legacy Award.

The Fryes are a living example of Aggies who endured racial injustice in the segregated South and became public servants working to undo inequalities.

Media Contact Information: avallen@ncat.edu