North Carolina People: William Friday

NC People

"William Friday is one of the most significant North Carolinians of the 20th century."

- William Link, Author "William Friday: Power, Purpose, and American Higher Education" 

William Clyde Friday was born on July 13, 1920 and grew up in the small town of Dallas in Gaston County. After attending Wake Forest College, Friday graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor's degree in textile engineering in 1941. Friday married Ida Howell on May 13, 1942 and served as a lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve from 1942 until 1946. He received his law degree from the Law School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1948.

From 1948 until 1951 he served as assistant dean of students at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was named assistant to University President Gordon Gray in 1951. He was appointed secretary of the University in 1955, named acting president of the consolidated University system in 1956, and became president later in the year. Friday served in this position for thirty years until his retirement in 1986, the longest-serving University president of the 20th century.

William C. Friday began his tenure as the host of North Carolina People thirty seasons ago, bringing to audiences the fascinating lives and experiences of North Carolinians ranging from fishermen to actors. Nearly 1,500 guests later, Bill Friday has become one of North Carolina's most distinguished television figures, captivating viewers with his engaging interviews.

You can learn more about Bill Friday and his presidency at the university in Biographical Conversations With...William Friday.

Now you can enjoy a special moment with Bill Friday and UNC-TV. Read the transcript of an interview conducted with Mr. Friday after he won the prestigious Caldwell award. In the interview, Mr. Friday talks about growing up in North Carolina, going to war and returning to begin his career in the University of North Carolina system. 

North Carolina People's William Friday is featured in the recent article, Two Titans Fought As Friends By Rob Christensen, Staff Writer, The News and Observer (Published: Jul 20, 2008)

Jesse Helms and Bill Friday were products of the same red clay soil -- part of of the old cotton, Bible-Belt South. Both were reared during the hard times of the Depression, served their country during World War II and forged high-profile careers in the Triangle. Both came to be seen as elder statesmen -- even the state's grandfathers -- although usually not by the same set of people. Helms was born in 1921, and Friday in 1920. They were reared about 55 miles apart: Helms in the Union County town of Monroe, Friday in the Gaston County town of Dallas. They even share the same biographer, William Link, a University of Florida historian.