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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William C. Friday, December 18, 1990. Interview L-0049. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Comparing presidencies of the University of North Carolina

Friday compares his own presidency of the University of North Carolina (1957-1986) to that of Frank Porter Graham (1930-1949). Friday had worked with Graham and expresses his admiration for Graham's adherence to law as a vehicle for change, particularly in reference to integration.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William C. Friday, December 18, 1990. Interview L-0049. 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

There's been a lot of criticism that the liberal community in Chapel Hill was living on its legacy of liberals such as Frank Porter Graham and Howard Odum and Carl Green. How would you comment on that on that criticism?
I would first ask who is making the criticism and see where they stood, you know. There's a famous old dictum, "You never know what the chief thinks till you stand in the chief's moccasins." There's a lot in that. The difference today and the difference in the years that Dr. Graham was here, and I worked with him, so I can speak with some experience, is the television cameras here and there are people crawling all over you for interviews and all this. He didn't have that experience. You live on the front page or on the television screen and there isn't that much news every day. But if there isn't something there they'll go out and try to create an incident, you know. You've seen this happen. No, that's an unfair allegation. Tell me which is the freest university in the state today. Tell me which University didn't violate the law during all of those crises. That was Frank Graham's number one principle. Frank Graham never advocated the integration of the University until the law said so. He was a great respecter of the legal process, the sanctity of the law, and that was precisely the position that I took. I talked to him and I understood what he wanted. His great liberalism came from his personal actions in trying to get the human heart to understand that all men, meaning all men and women of all races, sat down together. That was his whole strategy. I've had people ask me, "What did I look back upon as the most important thing I ever did?" Not that anything I ever did was important, but I would say the first thing with me was to keep the University free. The Speaker Ban law was put upon us under outrageous circumstances, you know. They suspended the rules. There were no hearings. We weren't given notice. They jammed the thing through. We tried one process. We couldn't get it reversed, so we went to the courts and it was done. No man has the right to ask you to disobey the law. That's the reason you go that route. And I happen to be a lawyer, so I naturally think that way.