Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bill Friday, Virginia's gift to North Carolina

William Clyde "Bill" Friday was born 92 years ago in the Rockbridge County, Va. community of Raphine, but he moved with his family to North Carolina as a child -- a historic event that in time would change North Carolina for the better.  Friday's contributions to the state can be measured in the progress North Carolina made in the second half of the 20th Century, when Friday's sure-handed guidance of the University of North Carolina system  contributed to the state's economic progress, the increase in its college-going rate and especially in his raising the expectations of students from low- and middle-income families that at the 17-campus UNC system, it would always be possible to go to college.

Bill Friday was my friend, though I never could quite bring myself to call him "Bill."  He did not have a doctorate and didn't particularly like to be called Dr. Friday, though many did.  Most of the time it was simply "Mr. Friday," and many was the time when Friday would have some issue on his mind, or a suggestion for an editorial, or a story one of our reporters might tackle, and when I answered the phone, the conversation would start this way: "Hello, old friend. This is Bill Friday...."

I'll miss his friendship and guidance, and his even-handed approach, as will North Carolina, but perhaps our policymakers will keep his approach and his convictions in mind in future as they make tough decisions.

Here's a piece I wrote for today's Charlotte Observer about Mr. Friday:

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