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Title: Oral History Interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992. Interview C-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Frye, Henry Ell, interviewee
Interview conducted by Boening, Amy E.
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 200 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-02-20, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992. Interview C-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0091)
Author: Amy E. Boening
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992. Interview C-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0091)
Author: Henry Ell Frye
Description: 300 Mb
Description: 53 p.
Note: Interview conducted on February 18 and 26, 1992, by Amy E. Boening; recorded in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Part of the University of North Carolina Law School Oral History Project.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
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Interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992.
Interview C-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Frye, Henry Ell, interviewee


Interview Participants

    HENRY ELL FRYE, interviewee
    AMY E. BOENING, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
AMY E. BOENING:
This is Amy Boening in the offices of Justice Henry Frye. I am conducting our first interview. It is 5:10 p.m. February 18, 1992.
AMY E. BOENING:
Justice Frye, could you tell us about your background, growing up in Ellerbee, on the farm, being the 8th of 12 children.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes, I suppose I can. The question is where do I start? As you indicated, I was the 8th of 12 children. Six boys and six girls, born to Walter A. (for Atlas) and Pearl Motley Frye. Both of them moved to the Ellerbe area prior to the time of my birth and I was born in a small, white wood-painted house. I recall that because they told me about it and I saw it sometime later. Ellerbe is a very small town and I was born I suppose within the town limits, but as long as I can remember, we had lived about a mile or so from town. It was a small farm, little less than 50 acres and we farmed tobacco, cotton, and various other crops — corn, watermelons, cantaloupes, and beans, you name it. But the money crops were tobacco and cotton. In addition to that we farmed other people's properties. There were several of us, so my father kept us busy by farming a lot of other property in addition to that we owned. They had in our area, as I'm sure in a lot of other areas, what they call farming on halves. The person who owned the land would furnish the land and would furnish the fertilizer and things of that nature and the other person would farm the property, supply the labor and so forth and then when the crops were sold, you would divide the funds one-half to each side. So they called that farming on halves. So we did a lot of that in addition to the farm which we owned. Also, my father had a truck and so he hauled a lot of wood for people and at times hauled what we call

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lumber and later pulp wood. In addition to that he at times ran a saw mill. So we had plenty of work to do all of the time.
I went to school there for the full length of my school term which was grades 1-12. I think I'm correct on this that at the time I started school you graduated with grade 11, but they changed it to 12 grades. While I was in the 7th grade, I stayed about 12 weeks if my remembrance is right and another student and myself were promoted to the 8th grade, so we really made the 7th and 8th grades in one year, so I still ended up with only 11 years of the secondary education. The schools at that time were separate — black and white. Ours was called Ellerbe Colored High School, even though it had grades 1-12; and the other school was just Ellerbe High School. However, I checked later to look at my diploma and my diploma has Ellerbe High School, so apparently they did not bother to make separate diplomas for the two schools. I thought that was quite interesting that all of the correspondence and everything in reference to the school was Ellerbe Colored High School and sometime they would put Ellerbe Negro High School and that type of thing. But the actual diploma just has Ellerbe High School on it.
AMY E. BOENING:
At the time, what did you think of schools being segregated?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, at that time we sort of understood that that was the way it was. I recall one thing in particular that with our basketball, we did not have a gymnasium and the other school did. I always wondered about that. Why we had to play outdoors on a dirt court while they could go inside. Interestly enough in the small towns and rural areas and that type of thing, whites and blacks lived almost next to each other. In other words, our farm was on one side of the road and then on both sides—north and south of our home—were white families. We farmed together and worked together in tobacco barns at night. I guess you are probably not familiar with that. In those days, the tobacco once you harvested it, it had to be placed on sticks and placed in a barn. Then for several days and nights you would have a fire

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which would heat the barn and we heated it with wood, so somebody had to stay there all night long keeping the wood in the furnaces to keep it warm. So as kids we had a lot of fun really going from one tobacco barn to another at night, keeping the fires going. We had a lot of fun doing that and we did it, black, white, everybody did it together and it was no big deal. In the fields where we worked, everybody was the same, but on the weekends, the whites went their way and the blacks went their way. Usually they had very little contact until Monday morning when time came to start back to work. At that point those who were workers — some of course were people who didn't have to work and that's a different class — but I'm talking about the working people, all of us were the same as far as getting out there and doing the work. That's the way it worked.
AMY E. BOENING:
How early did your mornings start back then?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
My father described it as from "cain't to cain't", and what he said was that you can't see when you start in the morning and you can't see when you stop at night. So the idea was to get up and be ready to go as soon as it was enough light so you could see how to do whatever had to be done. I recall on occasions going to the sawmill to get lumber to take to the plant and I recall getting there too early and having to wait until we got some light so that we could see how to load the truck. Of course, we would load the truck and take that and deliver it. I did that at times even during the school year. We would take a load of wood before I would go to school in the morning. My older brother, who at that time was beyond high school age, was driving, so I would go with him and we would load the truck and everything, and I would come back home and eat breakfast and go on to school. He, of course, would haul lumber the rest of the day. We understood what work was all about. Interestingly enough, in the small towns, most farmers did not like to work on a Saturday afternoon. About 12:00 or 1:00 on Saturday, most farmers quit work and they would go to town to buy whatever you were going to buy or whatever you were going to do. If there was

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nothing else to do, some of them would stand around on the street, that type of thing. Because we had the truck and hauled wood, my daddy kept us working lots of times until almost dark on Saturdays. That was one of our major complaints—everyone else was off and we had to work, so we were the exception in that sense.
AMY E. BOENING:
What was your father's view of education? Did he push you in that regard too?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Not really. My father probably, as I recall, had something like a 5th grade or so education. I think he saw the importance of it and so he always encouraged us to go to school. If things got pretty tight around home, he did not mind keeping us out a day or so to help get some work done. In those days, only a small percentage of people went to college from that area. He did not encourage us to go, but then on the other hand he tried to help if we really wanted to go. He was the kind that sort of let you [do] whatever you wanted to do. In other words, he didn't push you or anything of that nature except when it came to work. He told me that I was awful slow and that I had better go to school, otherwise I couldn't make a living on the farm. [laughter] I remember him telling me that one time that I was too slow to make a living on the farm, so I needed to go to school so I could learn to do something else.
AMY E. BOENING:
What about your brothers and sisters? Did any of them continue on in education?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
One of my sisters finished, got her Masters degree. I believe, we are the only ones who actually got a college education. A couple of my sisters had some college and a couple of my brothers had some technical training of that nature. Three of my brothers went into service — two involuntarily and the other voluntarily. That's about the education level.
AMY E. BOENING:
Did you have a role model when you were in school who encouraged you to pursue higher education?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I had so many it's hard to name them all. I suppose I would start with my Scout master, Mr. McIntyre. He was, incidentally, my 8th grade teacher. He was very strict, but he

Page 5
was the kind who expected a lot of you and encouraged you but was very hard on you if you really didn't do what you were supposed to do. I admired him a great deal. My agriculture teacher who was almost the opposite. He was the kind that always encouraged you, but he was not strict at all. There was just something about him that impressed me that he was concerned about us, so that's another one. My English teacher I thought was the greatest person in the world in terms of knowledge and things of that nature, and she was also a our class advisor and the wife of the principal.
Very different from the principal who was, I thought, in earlier years mean — but I found out later that he wasn't so mean after all. It was just his idea that he was a strict disciplinarian and the kind of person who just would not take no for an answer. I recall that our—this is really unusual, you couldn't do this today—incidentally, we were a small school. There were 300 to 400 people in the entire school, so you are talking about a small number of people in the classes. With our choir, for some reason or other, none of the seniors were in the choir, and he found out about this one day and he had a meeting with us. He said, "Starting tomorrow, I want every senior in the choir." We fussed and complained, but all of us joined the choir. That was his way of doing things. If he decided that something was to be done, you would do it. Some of us didn't sing very well, but that's the way things went. But continuing with Mr. Easterling, that's his name. He is well known throughout that area incidentally. Mr. Easterling was the coach of the girls' basketball team, and they had a great team. They were really good. He worked them hard, but he trained them. They were really, really great. We also started a band, and I wanted to play the saxophone. The band instructor gave me instead a clarinet or trombone or something. Anyway, whatever it was, I didn't like that. So after a few times, I decided to quit, not play in the band. Mr. Easterling called me to the office. Everybody was afraid to go the office. At any rate, I

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went to the office and he said, "What's this I hear about you quitting the band?" I said, "I don't like that instrument." He said, "Let me tell you something. Winners never quit and quitters never win. Now you go back out there and get that trombone or whatever the instrument was and start back playing." So I did until we had a concert, and I think I must have been off key a lot [laughter] because after that the band instructor suggested that maybe I should concentrate on other things rather than playing in the band. [laughter] But I have never forgotten the lesson that winners never quit and quitters never win.
AMY E. BOENING:
Have you stayed in contact with any of your former mentors?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes, but most of them are dead now. Mr. Easterling is dead, Mrs. Easterling. Mr. McIntyre is still living and doing well as far as I know. Several of the others, Mr. Forte is still living. I always go to see him. He is still in Ellerbe and doing well as far as I know. But getting back to people I looked up to, in addition to people around in Ellerbe, I read about Walter White who was active with the NAACP. At that time, Thurgood Marshall was — I did not really know him at that time, I learned of him later and I was impressed with him at a later time. What's the guy that, the famous lawyer with the Scopes Trial. I remember reading that. The name escapes me. But at any rate — Clarence Darrow, yes, yes, yes. I was very impressed with him, but at that time really I had no idea or intention of being a lawyer. The thought of being one barely crossed my mind in spite of the fact that I enjoyed reading about lawyers and things of that nature. I went through, I guess, a lot of different ideas as to what I wanted to do. At one time I was going to be a pharmacist. I thought it would be a great thing, you know, to hand out prescriptions and things of that nature. Then after I went to A&T and took chemistry and took some courses in biochemistry and I really enjoyed that. I think a lot of it had to do with the teacher who was Dr. Isaac Miller, a very young person who later became president of Bennett College,

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incidentally. He was an excellent teacher and, anyway, I got real interested in that, so I decided at that point that I was going to go off and get a degree in biochemistry. Then, later I decided I was going to dental school and actually went to the University of North Carolina Dental School in March of '56 to talk with the persons there about the possibility of going to dental school. I was told that I needed two other courses that I had not had in physical chemistry, as I recall, and that in any event the earliest I could be admitted would be September of '57. I was a little discouraged by that and had given some thought to law, based on two or three things.
Let me just tell you a little bit about those since we are talking. Growing up in Ellerbe and with a lot of the things that I saw, I had a very negative idea with regard to lawyers. I just got the wrong impression I suppose that most of them were very terrible people whose job it was, as a lot of folks said around there, was to lie people out of trouble. So I did not have a very high opinion, generally, of lawyers. But at any rate, the thing that really started me on the road to changing my idea about lawyers was an experience I had while I was in service. This lawyer spent his free time teaching prisoners. These were military people who were in the stockade who couldn't read and write. He spent his free time teaching them to read, teaching them to write. This just sort of shocked me. Here this guy is, this was in Japan and of course on the weekend, all the rest of us were going out having fun, and this guy was spending his free time doing this. That sort of changed my idea a little bit. After that, of course, I met other lawyers and talked with others and I began to read more about them and that was when I read about a lot of the things lawyers were doing and the good things they were doing. I talked with, among others, Kenneth Lee in Greensboro who had come from Hamlet which was a little town about 15 miles from Ellerbe, who had done a lot of things in the civil rights area. He had done a lot of things to help people and had done some economic things in terms of improving the lives

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of people. He had a lot to do with me deciding I wanted to try law and, probably more importantly from a standpoint of Kenneth, was the fact that I had been discouraged by some others on going to law school because of my background. They said, "Well, suppose you go to law school, what are you going to do when you get out? Do you have anyone in your family who is in business or anything?" I said, " No." "Anybody in your family who is in law?" I said, "No, nothing like that." "Anybody in any governmental position? Anybody in any field that could help you get started in the practice of law?" Of course, the answer to all of these things was no. When I talked to Kenneth Lee, he said, "Don't pay attention to that stuff. You go down and you do well and you'll be all right." And of course that's what I did and it was all right. All of those things had a lot to do with my deciding to go into law.
AMY E. BOENING:
What made you decide to go to UNC for law school?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Several things. First all, by this time I was very conscious of the fact that we still had largely separate black and white institutions. In talking with other lawyers and people I found out first of all that a substantial number of the judges, legislators, and people who ran the state were graduates of Carolina Law School. So I said, "Well, maybe that's where I need to go." That, together with the fact that I could go there cheaper than I could to one of the private schools, of course. At that time, no black had started at Carolina and completed the three year course and graduated. All of the others had either started and not finished or had transferred from North Carolina Central which prior to that time had been the school for blacks— the law school for blacks in North Carolina. So I said, "Well, I'll try." I applied and was accepted and went on to law school.
AMY E. BOENING:
What was it like? You were the only black in your law school class, weren't you?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes, yes. That was not a major problem for me. It would have been probably if I had been single. But I was married and by this time my interest really was solely in law and my

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social life was back in Greensboro; so I was interested in just going to school and getting my work and that type of thing. There was no real problem other than trying to get those tough cases and briefing those and that type of thing. So I thought that I was treated fairly by the instructors and things of that nature.
AMY E. BOENING:
Did you live in Chapel Hill at that time or were you commuting from Greensboro?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I commuted completely the first year. There were two other persons from Greensboro, and the three of us generally rode back and forth every day. The second year I—I'm not sure, either the second or third year, I got a room in the dormitory down there and I would stay down a couple of nights a week or something of that nature. Near the end of my third year, my wife was pregnant; so we found an apartment in Chapel Hill and she moved down with me. For the last semester, I guess, I lived in Chapel Hill and she was there with me.
AMY E. BOENING:
From what I have read, you were involved in the NAACP pretty early.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, yes, a little bit when I was in high school. We had a little NAACP chapter and I sold memberships in the NAACP and things of that nature. Incidentally, this is an interesting thing I observed at that time. Contrary to the situation today, in the eyes of a lot of people the NAACP was looked at a very radical organization. Black teachers who were members, and only a few of them were members, kept that a secret. They would not dare let the school board, for example, or people generally in the community know that they were members of the NAACP because they were afraid they would be fired for that reason. I recall incidentally my English teacher again, Mrs. Easterling, who was elected an officer in the NCTA which was the North Carolina Teachers' Association and that was the black teachers. In other words, they had two separate organizations then for teachers. You had the North—I've forgotten the name of the white group, but the white group had a teachers' association and the black

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group had one. At any rate, there was something in the paper about it. Someone, some official contacted her wanting to know why she was an officer in the NAACP. She had to explain to them that this was not the NAACP. This was the NCTA which was the teachers' association and not that terrible radical National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. At any rate, getting back to my own involvement. From that then at A&T we organized. I help organize an NAACP chapter, which again was not very active and not radical at all by most terms. We were concerned about racial things, but not, at that point, we were not sitting in or anything of that nature. Later on I became a life member and generally tried to work with the organization. But I've—I'm trying to think, I don't think I've ever, since I left college I don't think I ever been an officer myself.
AMY E. BOENING:
So you weren't active during law school?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
No.
Let me back up if I might. I think this is of some significance. One of the questions that I was asked about when I was being considered for my character and so forth for the practice of law, that is really to get my license, one of the questions they asked about was my involvement with the NAACP, which I thought was a little unfair, frankly. I didn't think that had anything to do with it. But that was one of the questions along with some others that I thought were quite inappropriate. Our bar association thing, I understand now, is a lot better and you don't have the kind of problems that we had in those days.
AMY E. BOENING:
What other questions did you find problematic?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I don't want to try to repeat them because I don't remember the exact questions. But I was interviewed at the Bar office and the person who interviewed me is dead now, so I don't want to get into all of that. A lot of lawyers who took the bar at that time would understand because there weren't just blacks, even though blacks I think had a harder time. There were some of the other students who had a very difficult time with some of the

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questions that were asked and the manner in which they were treated who were applying to take the North Carolina Bar examination. I think all of that is behind us now. I think we have got — in fact I'm the liasion from the court to the Board of Law Examiners. So I have watched real closely over the years the improvements that have come in that area. That is an area that we have had a lot of substantial improvement.
AMY E. BOENING:
Prior to going to law school, you mentioned you were in the Air Force in Japan and Korea. Was there anything from that experience, other than what you mentioned about the lawyer you observed, that particularly stands out in your mind?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I could go back. First of all at A&T, as I recall, all of the able-bodied men had to be in the Army ROTC. They had to take the basic Army ROTC. And then while I was there, they organized the first Air Force ROTC chapter. I did not apply for the officers' candidate portion. So later on all of my best friends were in the Air Force ROTC, so I wanted to get in too. In order to do so, you had to double up in terms of the courses in order to be able to graduate. To make a long story short, I did that and I recall one thing in particular — that the idea of taking the advanced ROTC was to get a commission as an officer upon your graduation. In those days, 21 was sort of the magic — in other words, you were not an adult in North Carolina until you were 21 years of age. Well, I graduated at age 20 and the big question was whether I was going to be able to get my commission or whether they were going to hold it back until I was 21. So I got my commission at age 20 and I don't know — to this day I have never asked any questions because I didn't want to stir up anything about it, but it came through all right. I think one of the things I know happened, during the summer while I was at A&T and in ROTC, we went to camp. At the camps the black and white were together, from the black schools, from the white schools, everybody went to camp together. One of the questions I had in mind because at that time I had gone to school only with blacks, both in high school and at A&T because

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A&T was black and Carolina, for example, was white and that type of thing. I just wondered how we would do in terms of the academic material and so forth with them. And I found out that we did as well and sometimes better. So I began to realize what I didn't know and had hoped to be true was that blacks and whites could compete and that race really would not make any difference in terms of the academic ability and things of that nature. Where was I?
AMY E. BOENING:
We were talking about the Air Force.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Oh yeah, yeah. The same thing carried through when I went into service. I got my commission and later on went into service. As a practical matter again, let me tell you something else that might serve of interest to students who graduate and have difficulty finding work. When I graduated from A&T with highest honor and all kinds of various honors and things of that nature, including the commission in the Air Force, I was not called for active duty. So I had a period of time when I had nothing to do, so I tried to get some work around Greensboro. I couldn't find anything. There was nothing around Ellerbe of any significance, so I went to New York looking for a job. And, it was just like a broken record, when I would finish the interview, "We don't have anything right now, but if we do we will call you." And I must have heard that a hundred times because I just applied for job after job after job. And the other thing that I heard over and over again, "Well, we want someone with two years' experience." And the question in my mind always was, "How is anybody ever going to get any experience if everybody requires two years of experience." So I ended up taking a common laborer job at Armour and Company, which was called, the company was called, the one in New York at this point where I was working, was called New York Butchers. And that's where I worked until I went into the service. Made good money and built up my muscles very well. And learned a lot about people on the job. One of the things that I found different on our working, growing up, for some reason or other, maybe my experience was unusual, but we

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sort of talked civilly to each other. And on that job I found that I thought the people were going to fight on a daily basis. Some of the things that they said to each other, and, somehow it seemed to me that instead of trying to work together to get the job done, everybody was concerned with what my job is, is that in my job description, and that type of thing. And I was not very impressed with a lot of that, during that period of time. But any rate, I was glad to, when I got my orders to go on active duty and get away from it.
AMY E. BOENING:
What type of manual labor were you doing?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
It involved several different things, but basically this was a plant where they killed the cows, pigs, and sheep as I recall. It was a slaughterhouse. And so I ended up handling those animals after they were killed, and putting them on racks and moving them from one place to the other and even doing some cutting and things of that nature. Got pretty good at it before I left.
AMY E. BOENING:
What did you think of it, was this your first real living experience up north?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes, I had been to New York two or three times before, but this was the first job I had had away. And, well, it was an interesting experience.
AMY E. BOENING:
I notice you didn't stay up north.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I always said, at that time, if I could get a job making ?100,000 a year, I might consider living in New York. I would change that now, it would have to be ?300,000. But I did learn some things. I got to the place I could ride the subway. I could get on the subway, the A train. And late at night go to sleep, wake up just as I arrived at 125th Street station. So I thought I had really learned. I also learned how to stand up on the subway and read the newspaper while I was riding along. And one other thing, incidentally, I did go back to New York, to Brooklyn actually, after I came out of service, while I was waiting to go to law school. And I lived in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn and I had a 1951 Chevrolet

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automobile, which I parked out in front of the house each night and I did not lock the doors.
AMY E. BOENING:
Times have changed.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
So my opinion changed just a little bit. I was in a much better neighborhood at that time and it was not bad at all. We did not have the crime at that point that they have now.
AMY E. BOENING:
Going back to your college experience at A & T. What kind of activities were you involved in?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Everything. [laughter] I was a very active person. I was in a lot of different organizations. One of them was the Richard B. Harrison Players. Richard B. Harrison was an actor on Broadway, played the role of the Lord in The Lord and Green Pastures, I don't know if you've heard of that. But any rate, he taught at A & T for a while, so the Richard B. Harrison players was named after him. I had the leading role. I played Leo in The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman I believe. I played in the Welsh boy in The Corn is Green by Maynard, I believe he wrote that. And then I also participated in some shorter plays over at Bennett College which was across the street. And in one I recall in particular, I don't even recall the name of it, I was supposed to smoke a cigar in this play. And so for about three weeks before that, I practiced smoking a cigar because the first one I smoked didn't go very well with me. But any rate, I learned to smoke cigars during that particular time and I thought did very well in the play. But addition to that, one of the things that I enjoyed most was the Student Legislative Assembly. And I came to Raleigh for the Student Legislative Assembly. At that time we actually met in the House and Senate Chambers. And during the second time that I came, I was elected Speaker Pro Tem of the House. And I was presiding one day and there was a real rivalry between State and Carolina, even then, among the students, in the student legislative assembly. And, they got into, the two got into just a big argument about something, and students then from everywhere started jumping up and trying to get attention and one would say this one's out of order and everything. I at first

Page 15
was, "The Chair recognizes the gentlemen from here, the lady from there." Finally I just took the gavel and I said, "Everybody's out of order but me." [laughter] Any rate, that sort of quietened things down, and everything, and we finally got control again. But it was a great experience and I still have a picture of me presiding over the House at that time. And since then, of course, later on as you know I got elected to the House.
AMY E. BOENING:
Was it through the student assembly that you met your wife?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
No, that's an interesting story. We had an organization known as Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society which was primarily in black colleges and universities. And I was the dean of pledges. We sent letters to freshmen who had averages, academic averages above some certain level. And so one of the persons that I sent one to was E. Shirley Taylor. And I think that's the way I first met her. But in terms of actually becoming boyfriend/girlfriend, that occurred later. I did not have a steady girlfriend at that time. But there was a young lady that I liked. And so I had invited her to come to something, some party that we were having, a dance or something. And she kept putting me off. And after about the third time, she said she hadn't decided whether she was going home that weekend or something. And I said the next decent lady I see walking past I'm going to ask her to go to this dance with me. And the next one I saw was Shirley. And so I asked her if she would go to the dance with me. She put me off. Any rate, we were in the same class, incidentally, so she had figured she would see me at the class, at the next class meeting, and she had planned all of the time to go, but she wasn't going to give me an immediate answer. Any rate, it turned out that I didn't go to the class the next day. And so I think she got real upset because she really wanted to go. But to make a long story short she finally, she finally got word to me that she would go. And it's very interesting, at that dance, just prior to that, I had gone to some dances with some other ladies, who, for some reason or other, would not leave

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me, you understand. Every dance, they would either catch hold of me or stay with me and I didn't like that. I liked to kind of be free at that time. And Shirley — if I wanted to dance she danced, if I didn't, she went on with somebody else. And I liked that. And so one thing led to another, and we became fairly close before I left A & T. Then after I left and went into service she wrote me every day that I was in Japan.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
HENRY ELL FRYE:
She wrote a letter every day. And she had some beautiful pink stationery and blue stationery. And I think it had a little scent to it. But I looked forward to, I could tell when the mail came, I could spot her letters among the mail anytime. I kind of liked that.
AMY E. BOENING:
I hear you were quite a poet. Did you ever write her love letters and poems?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Not very much. I may have written one or two poems, or something of that nature. Some of my letters may have been just a tiny bit romantic, but not too much.
The thing of poetry really came later. It's simple poetry. Most of it relates to things that are happening right at the moment. I really got started I think this way. Curry School, Curry High School in Greensboro. had been operated by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Before that it was Women's College. And the school was closing. This was going to be the last high school graduation from this school. And they asked me to do the commencement address. And, as the time got closer and closer, I just had difficulty trying to prepare a speech for that commencement. I just said, what in the world do I say to these seniors who are graduating. They know this is the last graduating class. Finally that afternoon I picked up a copy of the graduation program. I said, let me write a little poem to sort of get started with. I started writing it and using the names of the students of the potential graduates. And the more I wrote, the more came to me. And, by the time I had finished, I

Page 17
had included every student's name in that poem in some way. I read that thing that night and it just went over extremely well. And a lot of it was true, some of the things that I said about the particular students. Well, in fact I knew some of them. But others I didn't know but I just sort of guessed something, and something to make it rhyme, really. And I enjoyed giving it and they enjoyed it and in fact they asked me for it and later I typed it up. It was hand written for that night. Later I got it typed up, so all of them could have a copy of it. But after that I started on a lot of speaking engagements, either for myself or attending events for others. During the course of the program I would get bored. So I got in the habit of writing poetry about the program itself. And that carried over, and then the same thing happened in the legislature. We would be debating a bill and sometimes it just got boring, so I started writing something about that and so I just got in the habit of doing it. So it's a lot of fun, I enjoy it.
AMY E. BOENING:
After you got out of law school, you started practicing in Greensboro, is that right?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes.
AMY E. BOENING:
I have a picture of you when you started your law practice. It's from an article announcing the opening of your law office.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Oh, yes. Now where did you find that? This is a picture of me opening my law office in Greensboro for the general practice of law. Sworn in before Judge L. Richardson Preyer. At that time he was a Superior Court Judge. Later he became a federal judge and when I was appointed assistant United States Attorney, he was the person who administered the oath of office to me. And I felt real great about that, you know he was the same person who administered the oath to me as a lawyer to practice law, and then the same one who administered the oath for that purpose.
AMY E. BOENING:
During your law practice, do any cases stand out in your memory?

Page 18
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, one of the more trying ones, was the time that I represented a group of workers at UNC-G. What had happened was that the cafeteria workers went on strike at the university and they wanted higher pay and better working conditions and things of that nature. But they were not employed by the university. It was a private concern that handled it. And the student government at UNC-G got interested in it and wanted to help the cafeteria workers. And they tried to get, I don't know how many lawyers they tried to get, and they couldn't get a lawyer to handle it, of course they didn't have very much money for one thing. And it was a very sensitive type of thing, too, because you would be representing people who were trying to form a union and that type of thing. But, any rate, to make a long story short, I recall that the president of the student government of UNC-G, and somebody else came to my office and practically begged me to take the case. They said, "All we have is ?500." They said, "But we'll pay that and we wish you would do it, and they said something like, "You're our last hope." I am sort of sensitive to things like that, at least I used to be, I'm trying to get away from it. So any rate, I said I'd see what I can do. But the most interesting thing about it was, they had a negotiating committee that would meet with the lawyer and someone from the company that handled the food service. And so every time the lawyer for the company would make a suggestion he could look at the faces of the members of the negotiating committee and tell whether they agreed or disagreed with it. And so I found that my being there wasn't much help one way or the other because it was just a poor negotiating situation and so I finally told them, it doesn't make sense, let's find something else, and I won't go into all the details, but we settled it because the persons from the university got involved. When we first started, the people at the university said they had nothing to do with it. It was a private matter between the cafeteria workers and the company, but we finally convinced them that the university was involved. And once the university got involved we worked it out.

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They got a fairly decent settlement and things were worked out. But, I see some of those people today and they thank me for doing that. So that was a very helpful one.
Without going into a lot of details, another thing that I got a lot of satisfaction out of, down at Salisbury, North Carolina, a redevelopment project was being conducted down there. That involved condemning a lot of homes and then removing them and making, eventually, an improved area from the standpoint of buildings and things of that nature. And this particular woman owned her own home and she decided she wasn't going to move. And they sent the people out there from the Highway Department or something and she got a shotgun and ordered them off the property. Any rate, to make a long story short again, her minister called me and asked me if I would represent her. She was not satisfied with the representation she was getting down there. And I went down and decided to represent her and we eventually got something worked out on it. As a result of that, I ended up representing a lot of people whose land, whose houses, were being taken, frankly without getting fair compensation for their property, that's really what it amounted to. And we were able to get a better deal for all of them, so I was well satisfied with that.
I could go on and on. Let me give you one more, then I'll quit. There was a federal program which allowed non-profit organizations to form a corporation and build housing for low and moderate income people. And so I worked, first of all, with one of the churches there in Greensboro who was trying to get some land for that purpose. And the people who were handling it for the government who owned the land at that particular point really gave them bad advice. After I checked out the law, we found a way to get the property and then eventually form the corporation and get the money and then build that housing and then later on working with the Low Income Housing Development Corporation out of Durham. I worked with a lot of other organizations. Mostly churches, incidentally, who would form these corporations and

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build houses and the idea was not just to build a house and get somebody in it, but to teach the people how to take care of the houses and things of that nature. And we did that in several cities in North Carolina: Greensboro, one here in Raleigh, incidentally, and in Charlotte, and Salisbury, one or two other places like that. I found that very, very enjoyable, very rewarding.
AMY E. BOENING:
From that story and from some other things you have mentioned, do you see as part of a lawyer's role going beyond just the legal aspects of his client's case?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, yes. I think, and this is a little oldfashioned, I suppose, but I think of a lawyer as being a person who is performing a service and that your primary interest ought to be in performing a service for someone, realizing that you need to paid for your work, but that you're working not just for the pay, you're working because you want to perform a service.
And whether that's helping someone who needs to have a will drawn or handling their estate or advising them about various things or whether it's representing a big corporation, or whatever it is, that the idea is service. Of course, the servant is worthy of his hire. But that the emphasis ought to be placed on service, then the money is another thing. Incidentally, along that line, I recall this elderly woman who was getting ready to go to the hospital and she wanted a will drawn before she went to the hospital. And the undertaker, believe it or not who was her friend, and incidentally undertakers are friends of a lot of people, they advise a lot of people. Some of them actually practice law…they shouldn't be doing it, but some of them do. But anyway, he called me and told me that this lady wanted a will, said she had ?17, that's all she could afford, but he called and asked me if I would do it for her. I told him, yeah, I'd be glad to do it. So she came in and I got all the information and everything and told her to come back in a couple of hours and I would have the will for her. And she came back and she was a lady who made a living as a housekeeper, and so she

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brought the lady for whom she worked with her, along with another neighbor to my office, because she wanted them to be witnesses to her will. And we did. And she went into the hospital, and she lived after the operation, thank goodness. That lady sent business to me as long as I practiced law. People were always coming to me saying that this lady was the one who sent me. And incidentally later, about two or three years ago, she was honored by Channel 2 [WFMY], the TV station in Greensboro, as a person who cares for the community. She was the kind of person who did a lot of work in the community, helping people and so forth, so she was one of the people who was honored by them. I was there and she reminded me of that at that time.
Incidentally, that was another enjoyable part of my practice — advising people concerning their estates and regarding planning for the future and doing wills and estate planning and things of that nature. I had several people who sort of came to me on a regular basis I think not so much for legal advice, but for practical advice. Elderly people whose children or grandchildren were not doing as they thought they should, and they were trying to decide whether to name them in their will, or whether to give the money to charity or something, and what they could do to work with them and to help them and that type of thing. I probably spent more time than I should dealing with things of that nature. I almost got out of doing regular domestic legal work because I found out that I was not very good at that because people would come to me for advice and then I would give them the advice and they would go and do exactly the opposite of what I told them to do. And then blame me because it didn't work. I found that a bit…disillusioning, I guess would be a good word. So I tried to get away from a lot of the domestic law and let somebody else handle that.
AMY E. BOENING:
Well, that's kind of common in family law matters sometimes. What made you decide to go into politics?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, we in Greensboro we had run a black candidate on a couple of occasions for the House and been unable to get a

Page 22
black elected and as a matter of fact had blacks running from Winston-Salem and some other places and at that time there had been no black in the legislature in this century. I just said it's time for somebody to do it and I believe I can do it. And so I talked with a lot of people and everything and was encouraged, and ran, and lost. Very interesting, at that time Guilford County had six representatives and you ran at large so that the six top candidates won and anybody below that lost. I don't remember how many we had, let's see there were nine people running. I came in seventh, so I lost. But the sixth person was James Exum, who is now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. And I think that's very interesting. So I told him the other day that he was the person who beat me in the election. But any rate, I lost that time, and the next time that I ran I won fairly handily. But I thought I could make a difference, and so I ran and finally won and went down and tried to make a difference.
AMY E. BOENING:
Who were some of your supporters back then who encouraged you to run?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I could name a hundred. I remember one fellow, a dentist there, Dr. B.W. Barnes, who said well, if you run I'll raise the money for you. And he did. Then I had other people who said they would be glad to do work for me and things of that nature and they did. And I remember after I lost, there were several people who came to me and said, "We want you to run again and we're going to help you win the next time." Very interesting thing. Dave Morehead, who was the executive director of the YMCA and friend of a lot of people in Greensboro, including a lot of the so-called power structure of Greensboro, talked with, and I think this is all right to tell, with a fellow named Ed Zane, who was the treasurer as I recall, of Burlington Industries. Very fine gentleman and very active in the community and everything. And he said, "Get a complete resume and get it to me. And I'm going to make copies of it and distribute them among a group of my friends." And I got a detailed list, that was my first

Page 23
detailed biographical sketch, from the things you've seen, being born in Ellerbe, and right on up. And Dave Morehead gave that to him and he distributed it and I know that he did because I found out later from other people, that that's how they learned about me. I recall by this time that I had another treasurer because Dr. Barnes was getting a little old and so forth, and this treasurer when my campaign started and he told me, he said, "You're going to win this time," and I said, "How do you know?" He said, "I can tell by the checks that are coming in." And there were a lot of checks that came in from a lot of people who had not contributed before, and he said that means you're going to win. And he was right. I did. I won. One of the things that I got criticized for, not me as much as some of the people who were espousing it, they said that we had bloc voting by blacks for me. And they were saying, by bloc voting, in other words, even though you could vote for six, that a lot of black precincts, they just voted for me, and the intent of course was to be sure that I got elected. And so I was asked about that, and I said well, I understand that because if I had depended on certain of the silk stocking precincts, I would have still lost because in several of those precincts I still came in seventh or eighth place, which meant I would have lost, so the bloc voting helped me to get elected. And I said once we get blacks in the legislature commensurate with the population, then we can stop bloc voting, and just vote basically on qualifications on the total rather than on that particular thing. But that didn't end the controversy, of course, it continued.
AMY E. BOENING:
Did your campaign encourage bloc voting among the black population? Or did the black voters take it upon themselves?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, a lot of the people who were active in my campaign did it. I didn't go out and say that. But I didn't go out and preach against it either, because at that time that was the only way to get elected. What had to happen was that I had to get enough votes in the black precincts to offset the fact that I lost in so many of the others. And so you put those

Page 24
together, I came in rather high. Now, by the time before I left the legislature, that was unnecessary because then I was also winning in a lot of those precincts. And I'm a great believer that if you've got a bad situation, you've got to do drastic things to change that situation. Hopefully, those things are temporary, you see, so that once you get over that bad situation, then you can go back to normalcy, I guess would be a good term. But I believe you have to do what needs to be done to get the job done. So I defended bloc voting in that situation. And not only with me, but with others where we were trying to get blacks elected into various positions.
AMY E. BOENING:
Did you see that as a major goal — to elect black people in North Carolina?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes. Very definitely. You see because up until a few years before then, you had very few blacks in any elected office. Town councils and everything else. You would have occasionally one and in many cases, none at all, and so you had to take drastic methods to try to get that done.
AMY E. BOENING:
So as the first black elected to the state legislature, what was your main priority?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, my first thing was to get through that amendment to abolish the literacy test as a requirement for voting and I got that through. I found myself, though, spending a great deal of time going through bills for what I considered bad things in bills that came up in the legislator and a lot of those were local bills. I also found myself talking with blacks from all over the state of North Carolina. They would come from all over the state to Raleigh to see me to try to get me to either put in a bill for them, or try to get me to stop a bill, and so I spent a great deal of my time trying to convince them that what they should do is deal with their own legislators. But there was no dialogue between a lot of blacks then and their representatives in the legislature. Sometimes I would take it to the delegation. Somebody would come up and I would take them and go to that legislator and take them with me and say that this was so and so

Page 25
from your district, and they have got a little problem here with this bill, and I told them you would be glad to talk with them. And, of course, they were.
AMY E. BOENING:
Playing liaison once again.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes, yes. But I found that to be very effective and it wasn't long before a lot of them began to have that dialogue with their representatives, which is what they should have had all of the time.
AMY E. BOENING:
Do you remember any confrontations occurring early in your years with the legislature regarding any racial issues that came to the floor?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, when I was presenting my bill to abolish the literacy test, in talking about it and giving the history and so forth, one of the legislators asked for the floor and he said that this amendment had nothing to do with race — nothing whatsoever to do with race. When he finished, I explained on the floor of the House very clearly that it did have a whole lot to do with race, that that really was the primary reason for it being there in the first place and gave my own personal example to prove it. That, incidentially, helped to get the bill passed. Another thing that happened that was — I'm not sure it was racial — but it was when I was elected to the Senate. Offices are assigned based on seniority and at that time the rules of the Senate required that seniority be based on service in the General Assembly, which meant that a person who had 10 years in the House and 2 years in the Senate had 12 years' seniority and offices were assigned on that basis. So based on my seniority, I was something like — let's just say, 7th in seniority in the General Assembly, so I should have gotten 7th pick on the offices. But the person in charged just ignored me and didn't make an assignment, which meant that that left me with just a regular office like people with no seniority. When I complained about it, two or three members came to me and said all you are going to do is stir up problems and all like that and so forth. And I said that I understand that, but I just want to be sure that we

Page 26
uphold the rules of the legislature and the rules of the Senate. Under the rules I am entitled to pick number 7 or whatever the number was. The chairman came in and I picked the one that I got, but it meant that the Senator who had moved in had to move out. There was some criticism about that, but it didn't bother me because I knew I was right and then, of course, others came and told me that I was right to insist on it and that type of thing. I was generally respected — for whatever reason, you know, [laughter] — when I went there and a lot of the legislators went out of their way to try to be helpful and everything and I appreciate that. I developed some very longterm friendships from that legislative service. Incidentally, one of the persons who is in the legislature with me was Willis Whichard, who is now on the court with me. He left the legislature before I did and he was a very fine legislator.
AMY E. BOENING:
Were there other instances where you confronted the "don't rock the boat" mentality when bringing racial issues to the forefront?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes, this had to do with the Appropriations Committee. At that time the money that was appropriated by the legislature to the various child caring institutions depended not on any formula or anything of that nature but just whatever, I guess whoever had the most influence would get that amount for that particular institution. It included institutions which discriminated on the basis of race. I asked a lot of questions. That was one of the things that I did in the legislature. I asked more questions I guess than anybody else because a lot of things I really didn't know. I was always asking questions and probing. I found out a lot of things by doing that. At any rate, I was made chairman of a subcommittee to look into the way those funds were handled. My subcommittee visited several of the institutions and then we came back and developed a formula really based on need. Based on that some of them at least that had not been getting very much money began to get a little bit more. We had to be very careful with that because one of the most needy

Page 27
was the Orphanage up in Oxford and we had two. One was Central Orphanage where black orphans were and the other one was Oxford Orphanage where white orphans were. The white orphanage was getting much more money than the black one even though the need was much greater. We finally got that worked out, and that worked out fairly well. I don't know what they are doing now, how that works. Another that I sort of gave in on — we were appropriating money for the Home for Confederate Widows, I believe, I'm not sure that's the exact name — Daughters of the American Revolution and I think it was the Confederate Home for Women. I sort of questioned a very large expenditure for that and they told me not to rock the boat and I said okay, all right. Maybe that's not worth making a big issue out of, you know. I tried—my thing was to try and concentrate on the big issues and the long haul to get the job done, so it worked pretty well.
AMY E. BOENING:
During the sit-ins, what were you up to?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I was practicing law at the time the sit-ins started. Then shortly after that, I went into the U.S. Attorney's office. Let me back up — during the sit-ins, I was not involved in it, though some of my friends declared I started it; but really — it really caught me as a surprise. One of the persons who was in law school with me said that I had said that's what ought to be done back then, you know. As I said, I had nothing really to do with it. I was supportive, but I was not directly involved. Then later in the U.S. Attorney's office when we had another group of sit-ins, it got very tense because, here again, I was the only black in the office. We made it through all right. I ended up marching one night. What happened was that there was an article in the paper, in The Greensboro Daily News in effect saying that the so-called responsible black citizens of the community were not behind this thing. These were nothing but the students and the radicals and that type of thing. So a group of responsible citizens, including me, got on the phone and we called and got a bunch of people. We got school teachers, principals, professors from A&T, doctors in the community, and

Page 28
everything. So that night we had a meeting, I forgot what we even called the meetings in those days but any rate, we had a silent march downtown. I was out there marching with all the rest of them. That was really my only — I may have marched twice, but that's the only one I remember because I was not a marching type and I'm not now. I'd rather do mine another way. Among other things, I don't know what I would do if somebody spit in my face or something. I think I would — I don't know if I could handle that, if you understand.
AMY E. BOENING:
I understand. You also taught at N.C. Central. What classes did you teach there?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
What didn't I teach! [laughter] I was there for two years. I taught constitutional law, criminal law, future interests, civil procedure. I had a different subject each time, and it was probably that I was new on the faculty. I think that I taught what nobody else wanted to teach, but I learned a lot. The best way to learn something is to try to teach it. Take it from me. I learned things about — future interests. I took future interests in law school. I think I made a B out of it, but I still didn't understand it. When time came to try to teach it to somebody else, I had to understand it, and so I spent hours and hours and hours and hours reading and drawing diagrams and trying to understand future interests. I think I finally got to the place I understood it. So it was a good experience for me. I taught for two years. When I got ready to run for office, one of my classes paid my filing fee. Yeah, back then it was ?17.50. So they got together their dollars and fifty cents and quarters and things and paid my filing fee. So the first time I ran, my filing fee was paid by my students.
AMY E. BOENING:
Did you feel any pressure to be a role model for your students?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
That didn't bother me. What I tried to do was, in addition to trying to get them to not use "canned briefs" and to actually brief the cases and to actually talk about them and be able to deal with them and be able to write and things of that

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nature, was to try and convince them that the important thing is to start at the beginning of the year and keep up rather than trying to catch up later on. One of the problems and I won't go into all the details, but one of the problems with a lot of the students there at that point was that they were working. So you had students who were driving cabs at night and trying to go to school in the daytime. It made it very difficult trying to keep up with all of the work that you have to do in law school. That was a real problem. I spent a lot of time with the students and tried to be of help where I could. It was not an easy task. Two things and I feel real good about this. Two of my students are now judges, there may be some others. But one of them is Cliff Johnson, who is on the Court of Appeals. I remember in constitutional law that I told him that I thought he could do better than he was doing, and he did better. The other one is — his name escapes me now — but he is a presiding judge in Indianapolis, Indiana. He's white, incidentally. We did have white and black students at Central at that time, and they do now, of course, you know. I spoke at the National Bar Association. They had a luncheon honoring a bunch of lawyers out there and I was the speaker. So while I was sitting there waiting for my speech, this guy walks in and comes up and says, "Well, you won't remember me, but I took constitutional law under you and I made a B and I remember the question that I missed." Any rate, he is chief of a group of municipal courts in Indiana. So that is a good feeling.
AMY E. BOENING:
Did your students consider you to be a stickler?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, they said I was. I thought I was fairly lenient. I tried to get people to say exactly what they mean. A lot of times, all of us don't say exactly what we mean. In that sense, I am a stickler.
AMY E. BOENING:
In 1971, you organized the Greensboro National Bank. Could you tell us a little bit about this business venture?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Oh, yes. Well, let me give you my experience again. Again, growing up in Ellerbe and then going to Greensboro and

Page 30
being around in North Carolina and so forth. The only way that I know how to explain this is that every building I went into, I saw white people. The blacks I saw were either operating elevators. You don't do that know, but we used to have somebody that actually operated the elevators. The only blacks I saw were people who were operating the elevators or sweeping the floors or coming in to buy something if it was a regular store or something like that. Banks, you walked in the banks, all the tellers were white, the officers were white. You go into the insurance company, this was the situation. One day I went into North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company building in Durham and I saw all of these black folks in there with suits on and women dressed up and everything and working. I said, "Boy, this is really something." Then I went in Mechanics and Farmers Bank and I saw the same thing. Then I came back to Greensboro and I didn't see that. I didn't see any of that.
So I said, we have got to do something about that. So my first thought was a savings and loan association because I thought that would be cheaper. When I say cheaper, I mean, easier to organize. But Kenneth Lee beat me to that and he organized American Federal Savings and Loan Association. Then I said the next thing is a bank, so let's try a bank. To give you some idea how much nerve I guess I had — first of all, I didn't have any money and everybody told me that if you're going to organize a bank you've got to have some money. I said, "Well, we'll get some money." So I started talking to people and trying to get some interest in it. The controller's office is in Washington, DC, but the one for the region for North Carolina is in Richmond, Virginia. So any rate, once I got a group of people, a small group who were interested enough to agree to put up a little money, I went to Richmond. I caught the bus, went up there, transacted my business; I had to spend one night up there and then caught the bus and came on back. At any rate, they told us we needed ?300,000 capital minimum in order to start. The next time I went back, it was ?500,000. The third time, it was

Page 31
?700,000. I said, "We better hurry up and get started because at the rate we're going, we never will get it." Any rate, I finally pulled some people together. I told them that what we needed was 10 people, and I said that everybody has got to have at least ?10,000 except me. The minimum you had to have according to the way we had it set up was ?2,500 in order to be an organizer. I said I would come up with ?2,500 somehow. So I got the other people and I borrowed some money, frankly, for mine and we put the money in an account. We started working on it and after a period of time, we were able to find a person from Richmond, Virginia, who was a vice president of the bank up there — a black person, you know, who was going to come in and run the bank for us. We did our offering circulars and started distributing the offering circulars. He called me and told me that he was not going to be able to come because of some things that had occurred at the bank.
AMY E. BOENING:
Things that had occurred at your bank?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
No, at his bank. I don't know exactly what they was, but it wasn't too long after that that they made him president of that bank. Okay. So we had to start all over again. We had to tear up those offering circulars, had to find somebody else.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Where were we?
AMY E. BOENING:
You were just saying that at that point you were determined to get a black person to run the bank.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes, any rate, so when I found somebody who was really qualified to do it, he said, "Well, do you have the money to open the bank?" And of course I said no. We can't get the money until we know who is going to run the bank, because people are not going to subscribe to stock if they don't know who is going to be handling it. Again, to make another long story short, I talked with Tom Stores, who at that time was heading NCNB, which is now NationsBank. He told me that there was a retired person from his bank who would, he thought, would be happy to work with

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us in organizing the bank, who had a lot of great experience and that type of thing, that it would be worth talking to him and so I did. So I talked with Mr. Witherspoon, that was his name. He agreed to come in and help us with the bank as really a consultant is what it amounted to, but I think we named him vice president or something, I don't remember what title it was and to help train the person who was going to run the bank. So we finally found a person who was not near ready to run a bank but who at least had a good background and we brought that person in. Any rate, we decided to make me the president of the bank even though I'm a lawyer and that type of think, but with the idea of training this person to eventually become the president. So that's what we did and Mr. Wheeler who was the president of the bank in Durham, Mechanics and Farmers Bank that I had talked about, agreed to take the person down there for three or six months prior to opening the bank to give him some experience in a small bank because the guy came from Chemical Bank in New York. He did that. So any rate, we finally opened with me as president (and working without pay, incidentally) and finally got started.
So it was ?700,000 that we had to have in order to open the bank, that is in the amount of stock actually paid in. So the organizers came up with a little over ?100,000 and then we got the rest of it from other people who subscribed. Among the people — in addition to individuals, three or four of the corporations in Greensboro actually bought some stock, really to help us out. I thought that it was a good thing that they were willing to do that because it was not, it really was not much of an investment from the standpoint of really making money. I think when they found out the number of people who had bought ?100 worth, ?1,000 worth, ?500 worth and that type of thing, that it did have some broad support in the black community primarily, that others went along with it and bought some stock. So we opened it and I served as president for 10 years. Each year the income of the bank went up just a little bit, not much — very

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slow; but it was an increase, it was going in the right direction. And then, of course, since I left they have had some difficulties — bad loans, the economy, and all of those things; and I haven't heard from the last year whether they made money or not, I'm still waiting to hear.
But that was a real experience and one of the things when we opened, we opened in a trailer. I remember talking to a lady about putting some money in the bank and she said that she wasn't going to put any money in there because the wind might come along and blow that trailer away and when we got a permanent building then she would put some money in that bank. [laughter] She actually thought we were going to keep all the money, you know, in that trailer. She didn't know that, you know, that it just flows through and that type of thing. But we had a lot of interesting experiences with that. That's one of the things that I'm glad that I did.
AMY E. BOENING:
Do you feel it is very important to have black figures in control of corporations, in control of businesses?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I think it is very important. Incidentally, we got jobs for a lot of black folk at other banks. I would talk to a black person who was at another bank and it wasn't long before that person got an increase, got a new salary — if not a salary increase, got a new position, and others began to hire more blacks. I'm not saying that was the only reason, but that helped a lot of others from that standpoint. But it's really only a trickle, I guess that's the sad part about it, that it has an impact, but it is not a big impact. Sometimes I wonder if I should have really just gave up the practice of law and run the bank just to see how well we could have done in terms of expansion and including so many things and so many people and everything like that. But you can't do everything, so you have to settle for what you have.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

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AMY E. BOENING:
Justice Frye, I'd like to talk a little bit about your role as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and that will probably be most of the focus of today's interview.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
All right.
AMY E. BOENING:
Can you tell me a little bit about your appointment in 1983? Were you surprised at all?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I was surprised when I received the call and also the fact that the Governor called me one night and discussed the possible appointment with me and told me that he knew that I would have to talk it over with my wife and give it some thought and so forth, but to please call him back before breakfast the next morning, because he didn't want the press to get word of it before he actually made the announcement. That didn't give me a lot of time to think about it. Luckily it was the type of thing that I had given some thought to before, so it was a matter then of really saying, do I really want to do this, or can I afford to make a switch at this point in my life to change from a full-time practicing attorney, which is what I was doing at that time, to go on the court? And, of course, there were other things like whether I wanted to make a commitment at least for a period of time to serving as a judge as distinct from being an advocate, because it is a completely different role. So, any rate, I thought about it. I talked it over with my wife, also with my sons and decided yes. So early the next morning I called the governor and told him what my answer was. I recall that I told him that I would need 6-8 weeks or something like that to try to sort of wind down my law practice and get everything straight. He said, "Well, I'd like for you to be on the court at its next session which is in February." At that time I think it was about three weeks away, and we discussed that at some length. He was sort of insistent on that and so I said, "All right, I'll do

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that." That was a real problem trying to close down a law practice of 21 years in about three weeks.
AMY E. BOENING:
What was the reaction in the press to your appointment?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, as I recall, the actual first press announcement was either after the appointment or the day of the appointment, I've forgotten which. So it worked in the sense that there was not a lot of speculation in the paper about it for two or three days as you would have with some. It made headlines in the local paper in Greensboro. I don't recall seeing any negative press about it. In other words, everything that I saw, as nearly as I can remember now, was positive in terms of a good appointment and that made me feel, made me feel very good.
AMY E. BOENING:
What were your greatest assets, at that time, that you thought you brought to the bench?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I had been practicing law for over 20 years. In fact, for a longer period than that, but active practice for about 21 years. I had served in the legislature in the House for 12 years, the Senate for 2 years. I had served on almost every committee in the legislature, and I had been a prosecutor in the federal system, assistant prosecutor — actually Assistant U.S. Attorney — and so, I don't think there was any question at all about my qualifications for the court. So, and again, I don't recall any negative comments. I am sure there may have been some and I just didn't hear, obviously. [laughter] As I recall, there was something about the question of politics and of course, he was a Democrat and I was a Democrat. I had actually served as one of the co-chairs of his re-election campaign and of course that question, somebody raised that. I don't think that hurt. People don't usually appoint their enemies to positions. They appoint people that generally or even if they are not friends, at least they aren't on the opposite side of things. All in all I thought, well, of course you're not interested in what I thought. Generally I think most of the people who commented for publication were favorable in terms of the appointment.

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AMY E. BOENING:
Was it difficult for you to make the transition from advocate to a judge?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
It was not a big problem. It was some difficulty. I had to sort of catch myself a few times to be sure I remembered that I was not an advocate now. I was the person who had to make a decision. But it was not a major problem. It was a major adjustment and along with that adjustment, of course, was the adjustment of not saying everything that I wanted to say publicly about things generally. So that when a public issue came up, for example, when I was in the legislature, I could give my opinion on it, say what I thought ought to be done and whether I thought what another person was doing was right and what I thought the General Assembly should do, what I thought the governor should do, or what I thought the members of a city council or mayor of a city should do. All of a sudden, I had to be very careful not to comment about things like that because they might eventually come before the court and that was an adjustment and a very significant one.
AMY E. BOENING:
Often the role of the legislature is to create the law and the role of the judge is to interpret it, but in many cases, the judge's role is to fill in the gaps and create case law. In such cases, do you find yourself tending to be more of a strict constructionist because of your experience as a legislator?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, how do I answer that? If the question is one of what did the legislature intend, of course you have the easy cases where it is very clear. There are others where it is unclear and in North Carolina we don't have legislative history as such in terms of our opinions for the court. Obviously, some of the things I could remember when I was in the legislature, how I felt about things. But I also knew that what was placed in a bill did not always accurately reflect a combined, at least understood, will of all of the members who voted for it. In other words, some people would have one motive for voting for a bill and others would have another motive. So where the language is clear then you construe it right down the line and that's what

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I tried to do. Where it was unclear, then I tried to, and still do, try to look at what's the purpose of it and to the extent that is stated clearly in the legislation to try to follow it. Now there are a lot of things that will come up under a statute that were not anticipated in the sense of the legislature saying now this is what we want to happen in this type of situation. At that time you try to draw on your experiences and the purposes of the legislation and your leanings and that type of thing, I think, in interpreting it. I'm not a strict constructionist, I'm sure in the sense that the term is sometimes used to say, well, going back at the time this was enacted if it was 100 years ago, what did it mean at that time and without considering the impact today. So in that sense I guess I'm not a strict constructionist.
AMY E. BOENING:
Soon after your appointment the following year, you decided to run for election.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I probably made that decision when I took the appointment. I would not have taken it had I not intended to stay on at least a while. So, when I came on the court I knew the term would expire the next year and that the only way I could stay on would be to run for re-election. So, it was just a matter of getting my campaign together and hoping that nobody would file against me. That hope turned out not to come true, of course.
AMY E. BOENING:
Are there any stories from that first year that stand out in your mind, being the rookie on the bench?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, yes, a lot of things. The first one is that the junior member of the court gets the honor of being the clerk of the conference or the secretary for the court. That means that you have to sign all the orders of the court and keep the minutes and things of that nature. That turned out to be a lot more work than, well, than I had thought about to begin with. I thought I could just come and be a member of the court. But as soon as I got here I found out that that was the tradition and so I had no choice but to do that. After I had been on the court for quite

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some time, I remember speaking to a small group of lawyers and telling them about the fact that the junior judge signs the orders for the court. This lawyer responded that he was glad that I told him that because the last order he got I had signed it and it went against him and he thought that I should have given his case a little bit more attention or something of that nature. He thought that I had made the decision to deny his petition. He said he thought he had prepared such a good petition that at least I would have seen that it was a good petition. So I found out that a lot of, not only lawyers, but others who saw orders signed by me thought that I was making the decision on those particular petitions.
Then there was another very interesting thing. Because the court had several cases that had been argued before I came, when the opinion came down after I was on the bench, there was this line at the end of the opinion saying Justice Frye did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Quite often in the write-up in the paper, this would be repeated. So I had a lady who was a friend of mine, an elderly lady, ask me why they wouldn't let me participate in those cases. She couldn't understand, she thought they were discriminating against me in some way by not letting me participate in those cases. So I thought that was somewhat interesting. I explained it to her. I had to explain that to several people, incidentally, that it was just that I wasn't there when the case was heard and that was the reason why I did not participate in that particular case.
Another thing that was rather interesting. We among the court at the time we pick our cases for writing sort of go around the table in order of seniority and you pick your cases. There is sort of a general understanding among those who have been around for some time that unless you've really got a special interest in a case that generally you sort of, the first case that you pick — you've got four cases you've got to write — the first one you pick, you sort of pick the easiest thing you can pick. Well, I hadn't thought about that. I just looked at the

Page 39
more interesting cases. So my first pickings of cases were cases that were very tough, but they were interesting, so folks had a lot of fun off that for a while. So I got to a place that I could pick a little better after I had been on the court for a while or for some time.
AMY E. BOENING:
What were those first cases?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I wouldn't want to answer that [laughter] because some of the cases would be well known. I'd just as soon not get into the names of them; but some of them were very difficult and it took me a long time and a lot of research and a lot of work to get those cases written. I felt good once I got through with it.
AMY E. BOENING:
Was there any case you were especially anxious to get your hands on and write the opinion for?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I don't know if there was any one opinion or even any one in a particular area. You would read the briefs and then you would listen to the oral argument and some of them just presented interesting questions or interesting arguments or cases where they might be a split in the court, but you felt very strongly that this is the way the case ought to go so you wanted to write it and use your language and hope to get the court to go along with you. So that was sort of what I had in mind. Off hand, I don't know of any one or two cases that I felt particularly strong about that.
AMY E. BOENING:
Which would you say has been your most influential opinion?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I don't know. I guess I would have to leave that to posterity, I suppose. More recently I know one that has been referred to quite a bit. The case Smith v. Nationwide dealing with underinsured motorists' coverage. It was sought after quite a bit partly because it overruled some previous cases, a major case from the Court of Appeals and it was an area that dealt with a statute that the legislature has passed which is almost impossible to understand. Now the legislature has amended it some more and I'm not sure if it is any clearer overall, the statute I mean, than it was at that time. In that opinion I

Page 40
tried to simplify the statute as much as I could. I think some people thought that I did a fairly good job of doing that and so I think some people got the opinion to see at least what this court thought the legislature meant in terms of how it divided up the types of insurance, that is liability insurance and then the uninsured motorist insurance and then underinsured motorist coverage.
AMY E. BOENING:
From your experience on both sides, in the legislature and on the court, how responsive do you think the legislature is to the court when you make decisions like that that affect statutory law?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
When you say responsive to the court, I think that whenever we interpret a statute, depending on the type, for example, something in insurance, well, that's a very hot subject and so you have your interests. You have your insurance industry and you have in that particular case, I suppose, the plaintiff's bar and those they represent who they would say is the consuming public, of course. So then both sides, depending on their interests, would go to the legislature to try to either confirm what we have already done or to change it. In the case of some of our decisions in that area I don't know that there was anything as a result of that case, but another case that another member of the court wrote shortly after that the legislature made some changes in that area. As to the terms of what the legislature does, though, I think it has a lot to do with their interests, looking at it from the people back home and to some extent, of course, from the lobbyists from both sides.
AMY E. BOENING:
What do you think are the best attributes for an attorney to possess? And what do you look for in an attorney who is arguing a case in front of you?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
One of the things that helps greatly is if the attorney will be thorough in the sense of carefully laying out the facts as established from the record, which may include the transcript of the trial and that type of thing. Accuracy and thoroughness. And then the second thing is the clarity with which the argument

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is presented. Depending, of course, on the subject matter, it's necessary a lot of times to give some history. The historical development of the doctrine, for example, that's being talked about including the purpose of the doctrine and how it developed and why it developed, and then why this case ought to continue that development or why this case should be contra to that development. In other words, it is a matter of thoroughness, preciseness, clarity — that type of thing is what is very important. Now, it's awfully important also to be honest in the presentation and not overstate the case and obviously not to misrepresent either the facts or the law. I have to say that on the whole I think that most of the attorneys who appear before us have been fairly good, and you almost never have intentionally, I think, misstating of either the law or the facts. So I feel fairly good about the bar that practices before the Supreme Court.
AMY E. BOENING:
I've heard people talk about when opinions come down and there sometimes will be a great deal of discussion of facts that were not raised or case law that was not presented by either side. How much does the court go back and do their own research beyond the content of the parties' briefs?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I guess we sort of say that we have no obligation to go beyond what the parties furnish us. But I think all of us tend to have our clerks and sometimes ourselves go a little beyond what the attorneys present. And especially if it's a difficult question. If it's easy we may just look at the briefs and go ahead and make a decision and write an opinion and let it go. But if it's a very serious question or if we are going to go contra to what may generally be considered the weight of authority or in death cases, for example, we're reading transcripts, you know, to see exactly what was said in terms of what the witnesses said or what they didn't say. And you'll find cases, opinions where we count the number of times that, for example, bench conferences occurred or something of that nature because we want to be thorough and we want to be right. And

Page 42
while as I said, on the whole I think that the bar has been good as far as who appears before the court, some of them, especially, are not thorough, and sometimes even those who seem to be thorough will miss something. So we sort of double check it.
AMY E. BOENING:
When the members of the bench are in opposition and wish to dissent from the majority, how does that all diplomatically get handled?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I guess the best way to do this is to look at our procedure. And while we take a tentative vote in conference on the same day that the argument is heard, that tentative vote is not binding. But whoever gets the case to write has to circulate a copy of that opinion to all of the other justices at least one week prior to the filing date. Really, one week prior to the conference date for filing opinions. Then the other person has ordinarily about three days, don't hold me to the exact figure, to come up with the dissent. But we are very good about extending the time for filing a dissent if the person asks us for one. So quite often the cases are held up in order to give the other person time to write a dissent. The other thing is, quite often the person doing a dissent will cause the writer of the opinion to make some changes in it. And on at least three or four occasions since I've been on the court, the dissent has caused us to change and reach a result opposite from that originally taken by the majority of the court. So, the dissents are very, very valuable things in this court. And, while the language sometimes appears a bit caustic, on the whole, we get along well.
AMY E. BOENING:
That's good. How long do you get to write the opinion, from the time you choose the case to the period when it gets circulated among the court?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, we don't have any absolute guidelines. We try to get them out within three to six months. But a lot of the very difficult cases, and some of the death cases, take much longer. We feel generally that it's better to be right than to rush an opinion and make a mistake.

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AMY E. BOENING:
Back in the early 70's when you were in the Legislature you supported a bill to abolish the death penalty.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes.
AMY E. BOENING:
Do you find that your personal feelings affect your outlook on some of these death cases?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, that's an interesting question. Let's talk about that a little bit. I did introduce several bills at different times to abolish the death penalty in North Carolina. And my two basic arguments were, number one, that the statistics and the studies and all of those things have not shown that the homicide rate was really any different in those states which had the death penalty and those which didn't. The other thing was, the studies showed the death penalty was effectuated most often on the disadvantaged, whether that was because of color, race, that type of thing, or whether it was just poor and people who were outcasts and things of that nature. In other words, it was not administered in a fair way. Any rate, added to that the thing that death was final. And if you made a mistake, as has been done in history, there was no way of correcting it. But that failed continuously through the entire time that I was in the legislature. When the question first came up about my coming on the court, I had to think about the question of how I would deal with that. I concluded that as long as the death penalty is a part of the law, then it is my duty to uphold the law. So that's the approach I have taken to it. I have voted and gone along with opinions which have upheld the death penalty in North Carolina and will continue to do that where I feel they have been tried in accordance with the law and the law has been followed. So that's been my approach to it and as far as I know will continue to be it. I think the question as to whether it should be a part of the law is a policy question which is for the legislature. And the legislature has made it fairly clear, not fairly clear, it has made it clear in North Carolina as in some other states, that that is a part of our law. So any rate, the key now seems to be, to have it administered so that only those

Page 44
who commit the worst crimes get the death penalty. Without going into details, that's why we have the findings of aggravating, and mitigating circumstances, and the aggravating outweigh the mitigating and so forth. And it's about as good a system as you could get, if you're going to have the death penalty as part of the law in North Carolina.
AMY E. BOENING:
Would you have said that if McKoy had not been overruled?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
[laughter] Well, now that you ask about McKoy, and I don't know how much we need to get into this for anyone who may hear this later, but just a little history on that. The United States Supreme Court in the Mills case, which was a case out of Maryland, in effect, said the instructions could be taken to mean that a juror who felt there was somethign mitigating, would not be able to consider that in deciding whether a person should get the life or death. And so they sent it back. The question was, whether that case applied to North Carolina law. And, to me there was just no doubt that the Mills case, which was a United States Supreme Court case, did apply to North Carolina, because North Carolina instructions didn't leave any doubt. They said that each juror had to find each mitigating circumstance unanimously so it was very clear to me that the case did apply. So I dissented to the decisions which this court handed down saying that it did not apply. And, as you know, we had a lot of those cases, and eventually the Supreme Court of the United States agreed that it did apply. And that was the McKoy case, of course, which said that. So then we had the question then of whether it was subject to what we call harmless error, and we said, yes, it is, so then of the cases that had come up, we had to first see if there was error, and then if there was error, was it harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. And if we couldn't find that we'd have to send it back for a new sentencing hearing. And so that's what we did. Obviously, I feel that — not I feel, everybody knows — we've got to comply with the decisions of the United States Supreme Court as far as meeting their requirements

Page 45
under the law. And so it was just a question of whether our interpretation was correct or not. That's sort of the way that went.
AMY E. BOENING:
I don't know if you feel comfortable answering this, but are there any lawyers that have stood out to you in terms of their abilities to argue?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I don't know if I want to get into naming attorneys. Some of the members of the Appellate Defender's office have gotten really good in arguing the death cases because they do it all the time. Two or three of the persons in the Attorney General's office who argue the same type of cases have gotten extremely good on it. Sometimes we may tend to listen a little more carefully to what they're saying, because we know that they really know what the law is in a particular area. Quite often we will ask the representatives from the Attorney General's office, what is the state's position on this. A lot of times we're thinking not just about that particular case, but about the same type of issues that continuously arise in certain types of cases, especially in the death cases because they become experts in that area. And then there are attorneys who come regularly in other types of cases. But I don't believe I want to get into saying this particular lawyer may be a little better than that one. I don't believe I want to do that.
AMY E. BOENING:
When you're hearing a case, are there any techniques you use, such as taking down notes?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes, well, first of all for the most part, and I'll just talk about myself. When I go into the oral argument, I've already read a lot about the case. I'm fairly familiar with the issues. And usually there are two or three things that I have some doubt about. And so those are the questions that I ask. Quite often, for example, in my own mind, I have said that the law should go this way. And let's say that I'm thinking of agreeing with the state on a particular issue. The chances are there are a couple of things I'm not sure about. So I will ask the lawyer for the state questions about that. And quite often

Page 46
the person will go away thinking I'm on the opposite side, that I'm going to vote the other way because of the type of question that I asked. And, I think quite often they're surprised to find that I write the opinion agreeing with that particular side.
And as an aside, I'll give you the first time that that type of thing really came home to me was, when I was in the U.S. Attorney's Office, I represented the United States in a case that went to the Fourth Circuit and Judge Craven, for whom the Craven Moot Court Competition is named in Carolina, was one of the judges on that panel. And he seemed to be the only judge on that panel who agreed with the government's position that I was taking. The others were questioning me very hard, and he would almost argue my case for me. You know, he would state, counsel what you mean is so and so and so and this is what you're saying. So I left that day, I said, well I got one vote on my side. Judge Craven is with me. And of course he wrote the opinion disagreeing with the United States' position in that particular case. And so I found out that what he was doing was being sure that he understood the government's position. And once he understood it, he did not agree with it. I guess I've used that technique quite often to satisfy myself as to a position. To just keep pushing that particular question until I'm sure that that's the position and then I know that either I'm with it or I'm against it. I guess my advice to lawyers is when a judge is interested in a particular question and is pursuing it, try to be sure that you present the best side because that may be the key to the question and try not to dodge the judge's questions.
AMY E. BOENING:
Do you have any advice for new members to the court, a young judge? What would you tell them? What kind of advice would you give him or her?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I think one of the bits of advice I would give the new person is to have a thick skin. And don't be insulted by the fact that another justice not only disagrees with what you say, or write, but also doesn't like the way you said it. Along that same line, I would say don't be afraid to ask questions. And

Page 47
don't feel that you have to reinvent the wheel. I found that, I'll be specific here, when I came on the court, and I don't mind saying this, the first draft of an opinion that I wrote, I circulated it, and Justice Martin came in about forty-five minutes later and brought it back to me, and he had it marked up all through that opinion. He made a lot of suggestions and a lot of criticisms and suggested to me that I should pick up the opinion. My first thought that went through my mind was, who are you to tell me to pick up my opinion. Then, after I thought about it, I said to myself, well, he's really trying to help me. So I picked up all the copies of my opinion and then I worked on it some more and I made some changes and so forth, and I talked with some other justices about it, and we came out with a fairly good opinion. But I could have been stubborn and probably would not have had as good an opinion as I did by accepting his suggestions. And I'll have to say that's not easy to do, because most people who come to this court feel that they are pretty good and they can write about as well as anybody else. So it takes a little humility to be able to accept the fact that somebody says to you you're not saying what you think you're saying.
AMY E. BOENING:
It's easy to be intimidated by a judge, from a lawyer's perspective. Do you think judges are intentionally aggressive?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I think sometimes most of us even as judges become a little more aggressive than we expect to. And incidentally I had to catch myself several times appearing to argue with attorneys and becoming a little more animated than I realized. And how I observed that was listening to the tapes afterwards. I don't think generally judges intend to be. But we're trying to get answers and sometimes we're trying to resolve a question in our own minds and we become a little more of an advocate than we intend to be. But I think that from a lawyer's standpoint, obviously you should be respectful towards the court, but if you've got a good point, you stick to it.

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AMY E. BOENING:
You've been a member of the bar for a while now. Have you noticed a great degree in the different standards that used to be required for admittance to the bar?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I'm not sure that I can really answer that. I think that the methods used today are probably better than they were in the time I came along. I think that, but that's a thought without having any real statistics to back it up. As far as the exam itself is concerned, I looked at the exams and they're pretty tough, but they were tough when I came along. I think there's a conscious effort on the part of the bar examiners to get good questions and to grade them fairly. And so I feel pretty good about the present system.
AMY E. BOENING:
Did you ever face a difficult ethical problem during your practice, any conflicts of interest situations?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Difficult ethical situations, hmm. No specific one comes to mind. When I was practicing law, one of the things I started doing was working with the development of apartments and housing projects and things of this nature, where federal funds were available one way or the other, through the Federal Housing Administration or something of that nature. And the lawyer who worked with it had to fill out all sorts of forms to disclose any type of interest [that may raise a conflict problem].
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
[We were speaking about]
HENRY ELL FRYE:
the requirements of filling out forms, disclosing everybody almost that you ever dealt with in any way, anybody you had any financial arrangements with, any associations, things of that nature. And then later when I organized a bank, I organized a little bank, Greensboro National Bank, and we had to go through the same type of thing, filling out all of these forms and that type of thing. And so then when I went to the Legislature we had the same kind of thing of the question of filling out forms there. So any rate, and I recall the questions of the identity of interests as distinguished from the conflict of interests. In

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other words, you could have the same interests as some other people without being in conflict. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I dealt with that type of thing so much that I became very conscious of those differences. So I never really had anything I considered a real conflict, you know, to deal with. The question arose when I first, again getting back to the organization of the bank … I was on the board of the bank, and an officer of the bank, and one of the questions that came up was could my law firm do any work for the bank. And we looked at it and talked about it and came to the conclusion that, yes, we could. But then there were certain situations where you couldn't deal with it. So as far as I know I've never had any real serious problems of that nature. One of the things I found out about — once you get away from the legalities, if you use your good common sense, you don't have too many ethical problems. And that, I think, is the key to ethics. If, aside from the rules, if you look at something, and say now anybody looking at this thing would say that it's impossible for this person to be fair in that situation or that they've gotta be biased in it, then your best bet is to leave it alone, stay away from it. And if you do that you're less likely to get into ethical situations.
AMY E. BOENING:
There's a lot of talk today about jobs in the legal profession being very stressful and affecting people's personal lives. Have you ever found your career as a lawyer, or as a politician, or as a judge taking a toll on your personal life? How do you manage your many responsiblities?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I'm not sure I've managed it nearly as well as I should have. It can be very stressful. I still don't have the full answer to how to keep it from being stressful. But some of my techniques are these: One, I try to concentrate on whatever I'm trying to do at the moment. In other words, I may have three things all of which have to be done by Wednesday, and today's Monday. So I have to decide, now which one can I work on today. And while I am working on that, get the other one out of my mind. But if I try to do all of them at one time, the chances are I'm

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going to end up Wednesday and none of them are going to be complete. Or I will have botched the job in one way or the other. Another thing I try to do is to always have some time for some kind of relaxation, some type of physical activity. I don't do it nearly as much as I should, but I know, there's just no way you can go seven days a week doing anything and be sound mentally. And so I try to have a lot of variety in my life and that allows me to work a little longer hours than I otherwise would and do a lot of things without so far having the stress become unbearable.
AMY E. BOENING:
What sort of outside activities do you participate in?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, on the physical standpoint, I used to play a lot of ping-pong which I don't play as much of now, but that's probably my most enjoyable game. When I was younger I played a little basketball and things of that nature but I can't do that anymore. But I play a little tennis, hit at the golf ball a little bit and I'm a fairly good bowler, and I love dancing, and so that's along that line. I'm almost always active in some kind of civic activities, church activities and things of that nature, which again give me some variety, give me a change of pace. And I work with everything from tutoring students in school and doing a little speaking around and various things of that nature. So just a lot of different other things, oh, and one of my favorites is watching A & T basketball or football and when I get a little time, Carolina and some of the others. But that's some idea of the variety.
AMY E. BOENING:
When you talk about your involvement with the church, that's your church back in Greensboro?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Now while I work in Raleigh, I live in Greensboro. So, that's where my activities are primarily. A lot of my time in Raleigh is spent working, even at night, sometimes early in the morning. But I do get my physical exercise here in the sense of ping-pong and things of that nature, bowling.
AMY E. BOENING:
Where do you play ping-pong?

Page 51
HENRY ELL FRYE:
In the place where I live. We have a ping-pong table there and two or three people who think they're pretty good. So we play sometimes as late as 11:00 at night. When I get through with that, go and take a shower, I go to bed and sleep like a baby.
AMY E. BOENING:
Did you find it difficult to find time to spend with your family, especially when you were raising your sons?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Yes, that was primarily during the time I was away with the legislature. So what I did generally, first of all, I would leave on Monday afternoon and come to Raleigh and stay generally until Friday. But I would call them every night and talk with them about something. Either at night or sometimes even early in the morning, just sort of stay in contact with them. And then I tried to find time during the weekends to spend with them. As they got a little older, both of them became good bowlers and they were in the bowling leagues and they were also in the little leagues with basketball and they played either softball or baseball, I'm not even sure which one it was now. So we on the weekends, we traveled around North Carolina, and went as far as Washington D.C. and went south to Atlanta and places like that, bowling and various other things. So we had a lot of time with them on the weekends. And so while I didn't spend nearly the time I would like to have spent with them, we did have a lot of quality time together.
AMY E. BOENING:
From what I understand, your wife is very active in the community and in the education profession. Do the two of you get involved in community activities together?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, most of our community activities have been separate. But then we get back together after that's over. Now with the boys and their sports and things of that nature, we were together. So we would maybe go somewhere like on Friday and stay for the weekend for them with their tournaments and things of that nature. So we spent that time together. But in the organizations around Greensboro, generally she would be in one and I would be in another. So we would both take care of that.

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Actually, she's much more active now than she was before I came on the court. Because when I came on the court I gave up a lot of extra-curricular activities and then she has slowly gotten on more and more and more and now I've told her she has too many organizations to look out for. But she's very active in the community and does a lot of good work.
AMY E. BOENING:
Are you the only judge that keeps his roots back in his hometown?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Oh, no, on this court, let's see, Justice Meyer and Justice Webb both live in Wilson and drive in on a daily basis. Justice Whichard lives in Durham and drives in on a daily basis. We were, I guess, the major ones, in fact, the Chief now has even moved his home back to Greensboro. Justice Exum, Chief Justice Exum. So it's not unusual to live in one place and work in another.
AMY E. BOENING:
Why did you settle in Greensboro?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I came to Greensboro to go to A & T. My wife went to A & T and she got a job working there. Now this is before we were married, of course. And we both liked Greensboro. So when we got married, she had a job as a school teacher at that time, working in Greensboro. And we had a nice house where we were living in, we didn't own it, we were renting it. And she wanted to stay there and I liked Greensboro. So we stayed there and I started out commuting to Chapel Hill to go to law school. After I finished, I came back. I still liked it. I started my practice there. I've grown to like Greensboro and she's grown to like it and you couldn't pry either of us away with a shovel.
AMY E. BOENING:
North Carolina is known to be a rather conservative state. That may be an understatement.
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, in a lot of ways, yes, I believe that.
AMY E. BOENING:
Do you feel Greensboro may be more liberal than most North Carolina cities?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I doubt that Greensboro could be accused of being liberal. It's probably more progressive than some parts of North Carolina. Greensboro has a lot of variety and there's no

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dominant industry, no dominant family, no dominant ruler, I guess you would say, but it's a community town. And I think the Quaker influence has helped, does help a lot — has in the past, at least. But it's just a great all-American city. In spite of all of our problems and that type of thing, I don't know of anywhere else I would rather live than Greensboro.
AMY E. BOENING:
What do you envision for the future of North Carolina? Do you see any trends that the state may be becoming a little more progressive in some respects?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, with the right leadership North Carolina should go into the twenty-first century as a more progressive state. I don't see any signs of any great movement right at this time, and by saying great movement, I mean great movement either way, but there's always hope.
AMY E. BOENING:
What would you like to see?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, I would like to see North Carolina live up to its motto, "to be rather than to seem" and to be, I mean, to do a better job of being fair and open in everything from employment in the state government to encounters in the cities and that type of thing, and I would like to see our industries do a better job of being open in terms, again, of employment and not just employment but promotion and that type of thing. I'd like to see us do a lot better job especially with our secondary schools in terms of giving them the kind of support that is needed in those areas and just real leadership both at the local and the state level, and here again, I can't talk too much, because as a judge, I don't want to get into criticisms of any specific people or parties or anything of that nature, and so I'm hoping that things will continue, well, I can't say continue because I'm not sure they are getting any better right now, but I think there is hope. Let's leave it at that.
END OF INTERVIEW