Henry Frye

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Henry Frye
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 by Burley Mitchell
Succeeded by I. Beverly Lake
Personal details
Born (1932-08-01) August 1, 1932 (age 85)
Richmond County, North Carolina, United States
Spouse(s) Shirley Taylor
Alma mater North Carolina A&T State University
University of North Carolina School of Law
Occupation lawyer

Henry E. Frye is an American judge and politician who concluded his public-service career as the first African-American chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Early life and education[edit]

He was born August 1, 1932 in Ellerbe, Richmond County, North Carolina.[1] 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 so-called "literacy" tests.[2] He graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Political career[edit]

Frye became an assistant U.S. Attorney in 1963, one of the first African-Americans to hold such a position in the South.[3] 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. 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.

Post-Supreme Court[edit]

Frye currently practices law with Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard in Greensboro, North Carolina.[4]

In 2007, Frye received the North Carolina Award for public service.[5] In 2009, he became honorary co-chairman of the U.S. Senate campaign of Kenneth Lewis.[6] He was named chairman of the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership in 2013.[7]


One of Frye's children, Henry Frye, Jr., also became a lawyer and judge.[8] Frye is the uncle of professional basketball player Channing Frye.[9]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Burley Mitchell
Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court
1999 - 2001
Succeeded by
I. Beverly Lake, Jr.


External links[edit]