Henry Frye

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Henry Frye
Frye in 2015
Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
In office
Member of the North Carolina State Senate
In office
Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court
In office
Preceded byBurley Mitchell
Succeeded byI. Beverly Lake
Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court
In office
Personal details
Born (1932-08-01) August 1, 1932 (age 91)
Richmond County, North Carolina, U.S.
SpouseShirley Taylor
Alma materNorth Carolina A&T State University
University of North Carolina School of Law
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Air Force

Henry E. Frye (born August 1, 1932) is an American judge and politician who served as the first African-American chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Early life and education[edit]

Henry Frye was born August 1, 1932, in Ellerbe, Richmond County, North Carolina.[1] He was 8th of 12 children, born to Walter Atlas and Pearl Motley Frye. His parents were tobacco and cotton farmers. He went to the Ellerbe Colored High School, but by accident he obtained a diploma from Ellerbe High School, the white one. After graduating with honors from North Carolina A&T State University, Frye reached the rank of captain in the United States Air Force, serving in Korea and Japan. Upon returning to North Carolina, Frye was inspired to become a lawyer when he was denied the ability to register to vote by literacy tests. He was the only African American in his law school, but despite this Frye mentions never feeling as if he was treated differently.[2] He graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law.


Frye c. 1973

Frye became an assistant U.S. Attorney in 1963, one of the first African-Americans to hold such a position in the South.[3] Five years later, when Frye was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly as a state representative in 1968, he was the only black North Carolina legislator, and the first elected in the 20th century. No other African American had been elected to this position since 1889, which was John E. Hussey who represented the county of Craven, North Carolina.[citation needed] He was sworn in to the North Carolina House of Representatives on January 15, 1969.[4] Frye helped eliminate the vestiges of Jim Crow from North Carolina law. He was re-elected several times to the state House, serving until 1980, and served one term in the state Senate from 1981 to 1982. During this time, he was also an instructor at North Carolina Central University's law school.

In 1983, Governor Jim Hunt appointed Frye to the North Carolina Supreme Court as an associate justice, the first African-American to hold that position in North Carolina history. Elected in 1984 to the court and re-elected in 1992, Jim Hunt appointed Frye to the state's highest judicial post, chief justice, in 1999 to replace the retiring Burley Mitchell. He was defeated for election to a full term in 2000 by Associate Justice I. Beverly Lake.

Frye currently practices law with Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard in Greensboro, North Carolina.[5]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2007, Frye received the North Carolina Award for public service.[6] In 2009, he became honorary co-chairman of the U.S. Senate campaign of Kenneth Lewis.[7] He was named chairman of the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership in 2013.[8]

In 2014, the General Alumni Association had awarded Frye with the Distinguished Service Medal.[9]

In 2015 a portrait of him was dedicated to him.[10]

In 2017 he was invited to participate at the University of North Carolina School of Law's Constitution Day celebration.[11]

In 2018 a bridge was named in his honor.[12]


One of Frye's children, Henry Frye Jr., also became a lawyer and judge.[13] Frye is the uncle of professional basketball player Channing Frye.[14]

Legal offices
Preceded by Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court
1999 – 2001
Succeeded by

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Henry E. Frye (1932- ) - North Carolina History Project Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  2. ^ "Interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992". University of North Carolina. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  3. ^ "Henry Ell Frye '59, Distinguished Service Medal Citation". Carolina Alumni Review. May 9, 2014. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  4. ^ Schlosser, Jim; Alexander, Dave (January 15, 1969). "Frye Takes Oath Of Office". The Greensboro Record. p. A1.
  5. ^ "Good lawyers must be care about people, be trustworthy, Frye says during Bryan Lecture". Elon University. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  6. ^ Mitchell and Frye recognized Archived October 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Frye gets behind Lewis for Senate Archived March 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ IOPL Announces Former Chief Justice Henry Frye as New Chairman of the Board of Directors Archived July 8, 2013, at archive.today
  9. ^ "GAA Awards Five Distinguished Service Medals". May 9, 2014. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  10. ^ "Portrait of Former Chief Justice Henry Frye Dedicated at Supreme Court". December 8, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  11. ^ "University Hosts Former N.C. Chief Justice Henry E. Frye '59 for Constitution Day, Sept. 18". University of North Carolina School of Law. September 11, 2017. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  12. ^ C.K. Craven (January 24, 2018). "TOP STORY: Ellerbe Native and Former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye has Local Bridge". The Richmond Observer. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  13. ^ Biographical Conversations with Henry Frye
  14. ^ Larry Keech (March 17, 2004). "Fryes to Miss Chance for Family Reunion Channing Frye Plays in Raleigh Today, but his Great Uncle, Henry Frye, Will be in Florida on Business". Greensboro.com. Retrieved June 4, 2019.

External links[edit]