Local News

Former UNC President Reacts to Kennedy Tragedy

Posted July 18, 1999

— You do not have to know the Kennedy or Bessette families to feel their pain. But for those who are friendly with the family, the sense of loss really hits home.

FormerUNC SystemPresident William Friday spent some time with President John F. Kennedy. He says he reacted the way the rest of America did when he heard the news this weekend.

Friday says he was shocked to learn that John F. Kennedy Jr. had died and says news of his death reminded him of the impact the Kennedy family has had on the country.

A pen and a note from President Kennedy is proudly displayed in Friday's home. Kennedy sent the pen to replace the one he borrowed during his visit to UNC's Kenan Stadium in 1961.

"A kid ran up to him and asked him for an autograph, and he reached and didn't have a pen, so I took mine out like this and handed it to him," says Friday.

Friday remembers that day, and like many Americans, can tell you what he was doing when he heard Kennedy was assassinated. The death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. brings back vivid memories.

"That scene that you've seen so many times over the weekend -- of John saluting his father's coffin -- no one who ever saw that will ever forget that," he says.

Despite the younger Kennedy's decision not to enter politics, Friday believes he carried his father's legacy.

"He chose another way of expressing himself, and he was on his way, I think, to becoming a true person in his own right," he says.

Friday says the younger Kennedy also shared his family's commitment to public service and that his death is another part of the Kennedy legacy -- a family that had so much to give and so much taken away.

"It's one of the great tragedies of the United States," he says.

Friday believes the reason Americans feel such sorrow is because we have all identified with the Kennedy family. He hopes we will all remember the contributions they have made.

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