Published: Oct 23, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Oct 23, 2012 06:47 PM
Bill Friday, what a wonderful, wonderful man.
I first met him in 1955 at Camp New Hope. Later I told him in jest that he was not the most impressive person that I met then; that it was a banjo player. He laughed and said he remembered that same guy.
He was such a humble man, yet passionate about higher education. He was my older undergraduate fraternity brother, later law school fraternity brothers. I used to goffer for the administration long before there were emails. I took letters, packages, messages and studies to various department, taking South Building steps two at a time.
After South Building, his office was a small two-story brick building beside my fraternity house (at 100 E. Franklin St. ) where I hung out some during my years in law and business schools, still working part time in whatever UNC department needed me. Then I moved about 100 feet on the other side of his Consolidated Offices into (then) Village Apartments. Then I opened my real estate office one and one half blocks west at 106 W. Franklin St. And I can tell you this: He loved downtown Chapel Hill and Franklin Street, as did I. He often strolled Franklin street and stopped and chatted with every shop owner.
I know he much preferred that location, where he could meet town and gown, over his remote new offices on Raleigh Road. But he lived downtown and still walked Franklin street some.
Many years later I saw a photo in the Alumni Review of him sitting in a WWII Jeep in his naval officers uniform. I called him and told him I was restoring the identical jeep. He came out immediately and jumped in that jeep and started playing with it like a small kid. It brought back lots of memories for him obviously. So I said I am going to restore this jeep in your honor; it will be the Bill Friday Jeep. He stayed out there, with Roland Giduz and others, in the hot August sun for a long time telling war stories and talking about his fast jeep during WWII; he enjoyed it tremendously.
Now buried somewhere in your newspaper is a large color photo of Bill (in white shirt and tie) and me in my naval officers uniform since we both had served in the Navy, (Now P.H., dont become a loose cannon on deck.), and we were in the same church for 30 years. I once said to him Bill, you know my political persuasion, but if you will run for governor I will stop whatever I am doing and work for you. So over 50 years I had lots of face time with one of the greatest men I will ever know. I feel this great loss so very deeply.
My intentions were to restore that jeep and put it in the Chapel Hill Museum with that life-size photo of smiling Bill Friday behind the wheel. I figured it would look good with the antique firetruck.
But the museum closed and unfortunately Bill never saw it looking new as it is now; I regret that deeply although I did keep him up to date on what I was doing..
Now wouldnt a Bill Friday exhibit at the Chapel Hill Museum be interesting? I loved the Alex Julian, James Taylor and Luther Hodges exhibits. Maybe its time to bring back the museum to honor Bill and Ida Friday.
I am now asking everyone, how can that jeep become a surviving reminder of this giant of a man?
PS: I have the identical Ford Model T that later famous band leader, Kay Kyser was photographed in so often. And I have a beautiful color advertisement of famous model Georgia Kyser advertising a 1940 Chrysler.
It really is time to bring back that museum.
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