Local News

Frye Named N.C. Chief Justice

Posted July 31, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— As had been widely predicted, long-time state Supreme Court Associate Justice Henry Frye will become the court's next chief justice, the first black ever to hold the post.

Frye was named North Carolina's 25th chief justice by Gov. Jim Hunt Monday morning. He replaces Burley Mitchell, who announced last week that he will retire September 1.

Hunt said Frye is the very best and most qualified person in North Carolina to be chief justice.

The announcement was made in the old House chamber of the state capitol. A crowd filled with prominent black leaders, judges and top Hunt administration officials packed the room.

Frye said he felt honored to be named to the post and that he had worked hard to rise to the state's top court.

The associate justice with the most seniority is traditionally the one who gets promoted to chief justice. Frye, 66, has been on the Supreme Court bench since 1983.

Prior to being named to the state's highest appellate court, Frye was a state legislator from Greensboro. He served in the House from 1969-80, and in the Senate 1981-82.

Frye served two years in the U.S. Air Force and continued active duty in the Air Force Reserves, where he reached the rank of captain.

He is found of Greensboro National Bank, now Mutual Community Savings Bank, serving as its president from 1971 - 81.

His professional affiliations include the Institute of Judicial Administration, the N.C. Association of Black Lawyers, the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the N.C. Bar Association and the American Judicature Society.

His civic activities include being a member of the National Black Child Development Institute and a life member of the NAACP and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

Frye is a recipient of the Charles D. McIver Medal from UNC-Greensboro for outstanding achievement in education, as well as the first North Carolina A&T State University Alumni Excellence Award, the UNC-Chapel Hill Distinguished Alumnus Award and the Alumni Excellence Award from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law.

Frye lives in Greensboro with is wife Shirley, who is community relations director for WFMY-TV in Greensboro. They have two sons. Henry, Jr was elected to the 18th District Superior Court in Greensboro, and Harlan, who is personnel director for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Mitchell's departure also allows Hunt to make another appointment to the court. He is rumored to be ready to name his chief of staff and chief lobbyist at the General Assembly, Franklin Freeman, to the post.

Freeman, 54, worked for 11 years as director of the state's Administrative Office of the Courts, then served in Hunt's cabinet for four years as secretary of correction.