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Oral history interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992

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Creator:Frye, Henry Ell
Creator:Boening, Amy E.
Creator:Southern Oral History Program
Title:Oral history interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992
Date:1992 Feb. 18-1992 Feb. 26

Henry E. Frye grew up in Ellerbe, North Carolina, during the 1930s and 1940s. His parents owned fifty acres of land there, and he describes growing up farming tobacco and cotton for his own family and for other farmers in a system called "half farming." Frye also discusses attending segregated schools during those years. He recalls that despite segregation, black and white children in the farming community played and worked together outside of school. In the late 1940s, Frye left Ellerbe to attend North Carolina A&T in Greensboro. While there, he became actively involved in various activities, including Air Force ROTC and student government. Following his graduation, Frye served briefly in the military and was stationed in Japan. When he returned, he enrolled in the School of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At the time, he was the only African American student. Frye graduated from law school and passed the bar exam in 1959 and opened his own law practice in Greensboro, where he and his wife had settled. In this portion of the interview, Frye describes some of his most memorable cases, most of which involved representing the under-represented. During the 1960s, Frye continued to practice law and became increasingly involved in community activities and politics. In 1969, he became the first African American elected to the North Carolina General Assembly. Serving in the House from 1969 to 1980 and in the Senate from 1981 to 1982, Frye worked to address racial issues in the state legislature. Notably, he introduced legislation to abolish literacy tests for voter registration. During the 1970s, Frye was a founding member of the Greensboro National Bank, which was established to offer African Americans a more discernible role in business. He served as the bank's president for its first ten years in existence. In 1983, Frye was appointed to the North Carolina Supreme Court. The next year, he was elected by North Carolina constituents to continue his service on that court. He spends the final parts of this interview discussing his experiences as a supreme court justice and his thoughts about the role of the legislature and the judiciary in state politics.

The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the aggregation and enhancement of partner metadata.

Types:Transcripts | Sound recordings | Oral histories (document genres) | Text | Sound
Subjects:Frye, Henry Ell | African American judges--North Carolina | North Carolina--Race relations | North Carolina--Politics and government | African American legislators--North Carolina | North Carolina. Supreme Court | Judges--Attitudes | African American banks--North Carolina--Greensboro | Practice of law--North Carolina | United States, North Carolina, Guilford County, Greensboro, 36.0726355, -79.7919754
Collection:Oral Histories of the American South: The Civil Rights Movement
Institution:Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Contributors:University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Documenting the American South (Project)
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Forms part of Oral histories of the American South collection.

Persistent Link to Item:http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/C-0091/menu.html