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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William C. Friday, November 19, 1990. Interview L-0144. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Describing the leadership of William Carmichael

Friday describes his professional relationship with William Carmichael, focusing on Carmichael's administrative leadership at University of North Carolina in the 1940s and 1950s. In particular, Friday recalls Carmichael's fondness of working with the Women's College and his efforts to bring public television to the university system. Carmichael's adept ability in lobbying with the state legislature is also emphasized.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William C. Friday, November 19, 1990. Interview L-0144. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WILLIAM LINK:
You have, I gather, a fairly close working relationship with Billy Carmichael?
WILLIAM C. FRIDAY:
Very close. He and I were good friends. And working partners, and that stayed that way everyday.
WILLIAM LINK:
You knew him, you mentioned earlier that you had first met him when you were a student at State? Is that right?
WILLIAM C. FRIDAY:
That's right.
WILLIAM LINK:
What was the contacts there?
WILLIAM C. FRIDAY:
The same thing. Legislative things. Although, he was more involved in the life of an institution at the time, and I remember very well, that one time Kay Kyser was over there with him NBC radio show, and Mr. Carmichael brought him out to the Riddick Stadium, where we were having this huge pep rally between State and Carolina, and WRAL Radio, at that time, had opened lines between the two campuses, and they'd do one thing on this campus, and it would be answered over here, and then vice versa it. It worked up quite a forbear. He brought Kay out there, and that was my first exposure to him, which developed into a reach and deep friendship forty years later. But, he was very sports oriented. And loved to get out and meet people, and get involved. Billy Carmichael had a very tender spot in him. A lot of people didn't know that. He was an exceedingly sensitive person, in a lot of ways. He was a very gentle man. I've never seen him hurt anybody. But, he'd work himself to the point of exhaustion. And he would not let anybody drive the car. He'd always had to. And only one time, in all those years, we were down, we were down in Kinston, at some occasion and he got very sick, and I just put him on the back seat and let him go to sleep. And I drove his car all the way home. He did a lot to position knowledge about the University out in the State. He worked hard at organizing the foundation and structure you see in North Carolina right now at all of our campuses. He got the major wealth in the State to start giving to these institutions. And he built buildings, and [Phone ringing] I'm sure that he was the man that got William Neil Reynolds to give the initial money for the Reynolds Coliseum. And he was just that kind of person. I don't know of a man that loved Chapel Hill, [unclear] than he did. And he and Dr. Graham complimented each other. Mr. Carmichael never was the kind of person that would do anything to suggest undercutting, or anything like that. No, that wasn't in his nature. But he knew how to interpret Dr. Graham, to people like the money-structure, and the textile industry. But some people were just completely unreconstructed, so he just didn't work with it, just went on, because there's nothing you can do with them anyway. They didn't want to learn. They didn't want to grow. They didn't want to understand. They just were very rigid in their position, and Billy understood that so awfully well. But he was a great one for laughter. He was a great influence with his humor. And I don't think he loved any place any more than the Woman's College. He'd go over there @ he'd just love to be invited to come over there to speak, because he had so much fun with people like; Professor Barton, and Professor Shaeffer, and Mark Freelander, and Gregory Ivey, and all that wonderful crowd that had been over there for @ I don't know how long, how many years. And so he was appreciated by a small segment of society, but most people never understood really how much he did do. The Good Health Program that built the big hospitals all over the State. Converted this to a four-year medical school. And built clinics around it. He was as much responsible for that, than any one person in the history of the State. And it was a very dramatic thing cause North Carolina led all states at the end of the war, in the numbers of youth rejected for physical disability. That was a terribly, terribly incriminating fact. And we set out to change, and I think have, I rather consider. But I say I brought television here, that was a long, long struggle, but he raised the million dollars, virtually by himself. And he saw to it there was studios on each campus, to keep everybody involved.
WILLIAM LINK:
That is the foundation of the public @ what became public television?
WILLIAM C. FRIDAY:
That's right. We got the allocation of the channels and kept them, and went on from there.
WILLIAM LINK:
He was a very key figure in the lobbying efforts?
WILLIAM C. FRIDAY:
He was it. Nobody could touch him. He was that good. And he was very effective. He worked his way through all of his contemporaries at the university were then power structure of the legislature. And he organized them. It was really amazing to see the man work. And he didn't know any of that till he came here. He had never made a public speech until he came back here to work. And when his career ended, he was probably the most sought after speaker ever here, because he was a good entertainer. Very, very close to Charlie Justice, and Kay Kiser, and that group. All of the great athletes were his buddies. He enjoyed them. But he moved in the circles of economic power, which were very important to Chapel Hill. And State, and Woman's College, at the time.
WILLIAM LINK:
So he was able to push the University out there?
WILLIAM C. FRIDAY:
And did. Very much so. A rather remarkable achievement, in the end, it really was.