GREENSBORO -- Henry Frye is a living legend, making history when he became the first African-American chief justice to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court.
He was born Aug. 1, 1932 in Richmond County.
“Well I enjoyed my childhood. I guess that's the best thing I can say about it, hard work. I just thought that's what you were supposed to do,” he said.
He graduated from North Carolina A&T State University and UNC School of Law. He experienced racism, such as getting denied the right to vote and taking his oldest son to get ice cream.
"And the person said in effect, 'We'll be glad to serve you, but we serve coloreds in the back.' Well I wouldn't go to the back and instead I said, 'Forget it' and went back to the car. And Henry [Jr.] cried because he couldn't get his ice cream. Now you talking about hurting? That hurt.”
But those experiences didn't stop his climb to the top. He worked as a lawyer and a state lawmaker before getting to the North Carolina Supreme Court as Chief Justice in 1999. His judicial robe is on display at the Greensboro Historical Museum.
“I got letters, calls and so forth...people all over the states in fact some from other places. One from somewhere out of the outside of the United States, congratulating me.”
He retired from the bench in 2001. He lives in Greensboro with his wife. They share children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He offered some words of wisdom.
“Look on the bright side. And look for positive things. And try to be positive, if you can.”
His legacy will live on. Greensboro dedicated a mile marker to him in downtown. NCDOT also named a bridge after him in his hometown. Frye said if he had to do it all over again, he would.
"Oh yes, yes. No question about it. Don't have to think about. I'm happy with what I've been able to do. And let me just add..I didn't do it by myself...I had a lot of help.”