Greensboro's African American Community Newspaper since 1967

Distinguished couple honored with a statue unveiling at Center City Park

Shirley and Henry Frye surrounded by grand-and great-grandchildren. (L-R) Grandson in-law Brandon L. Hairston, granddaughter Jordan C. Frye Hairston, great-grandchildren Brandon and Avery Hairston, granddaughters Endya L. Frye and Whitney C. Frye. Photo by Ivan Saul Cutler/Carolina Peacemaker.

Civic leaders, Shirley and Henry Frye, were recently honored on Tuesday, Feb. 20, with the unveiling of a bronze statue rendering their likeness at Center City Park in downtown Greensboro. Throughout their respective professional careers and 67-year marriage, this distinguished couple has accomplished many firsts over the decades.

Henry and Shirley Frye stand in front of a statue created in their likeness honoring their decades of public service and civil rights leadership. Photo by Ivan Saul Cutler/Carolina Peacemaker.
A grateful community cheered with them at the official unveiling of a towering, three-ton statue of the “dynamic duo,” as N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper declared, calling them “superheroes,” with other leaders, reciting the Fryes’ countless achievements. The bronze sculpture of The Fryes, holding hands atop a triangular gray-granite base rises nearly 10 feet and sits on a grassy area along the Southern side of Center City Park near Friendly Avenue. Renowned sculptor Maria J. Kirby-Smith depicted the Fryes more formally, with Henry in his pathfinding role, robed as the first Black person and Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Kirby-Smith depicted Shirley Frye in a business suit with a butterfly broach alighted on her left shoulder.

During the late morning unveiling, Jim Melvin, a former Greensboro Mayor and president of the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation, served as master of ceremonies. There were expressions of gratitude for all the firsts of the Fryes from Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr., Providence Baptist Church pastor Rev. Dr. Darryl Aaron and former City Councilmember Justin Outling, who was the lead statue project organizer.

Under a bright sunlit sky, the Fryes’ grandchildren pulled golden corded ropes to release navy blue velvet shrouds to unveil the statue, igniting thunderous applause from approximately 250 people who rose in acknowledgement. Individually, the Fryes expressed gratitude, saying they were unable to articulate with adequate words their overwhelming joy and disbelief that they would be recognized with a statue.

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper (at the podium) gestures to Henry and Shirley Frye, emphasizing their many accomplishments. Seated with the Fryes are Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan (far left). On the right from the governor is Jim Melvin, a former Greensboro Mayor and president of the Joseph Bryan Foundation; Dr. Harold. L. Martin Sr., chancellor of N.C. A&T State U.; Justin Outling, an attorney and former Greensboro City Councilmember; and Rev. Dr. Darryl Aaron, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Greensboro.
Photo by Ivan Saul Cutler/Carolina Peacemaker.

The Fryes have served the Greensboro community and the State of North Carolina in a host of capacities and have called Greensboro home for more than 70 years.

Shirley Frye is a graduate of N.C. A&T College (N.C. A&T State University) with high honors and Syracuse University. She has worked in various education and community positions for more than five decades, including service on many local boards such as chairperson of the Board of the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation. In the 1960s, she worked to integrate the local YWCA, which is now named the Shirley T. Frye YWCA; giving her the distinction of being one of the few women in the state to have a building named in her honor. Frye has chaired the steering committee for Action Greensboro, served on the Greensboro City Schools Board of Education, as chairperson of the United Way of Greater Greensboro, chairperson to the N.C. School of Science and Math Board. She chaired the N.C. A&T Real Estate Foundation Board and is currently serving on the High Point University Board of Trustees. Additionally, she served as vice president of community relations for WFMY News 2.

Henry Frye is a graduate of N.C. A&T College (N.C. A&T State University) with highest honors and UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law. He served his country as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, then became the first African American elected to the N.C. General Assembly in the 20th century. Frye was also the first African American to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court and to serve as chief justice respectively. Justice Frye retired from Brook Pierce Law Firm where he was “Of Counsel.”

The inspiration for the statue of the Fryes arose from a January 2021 column by News & Record Editorial Director, Allen Johson, who advocated that honoring leading citizens while they are living needed to be done. Johnson’s column ignited the interest of then City Councilmember Justin Outling and his colleagues at Brooks Pierce Law Firm along with Ted Oliver, a local financial analyst. Outling and Oliver approached Melvin with the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation, which served as the major benefactor of the project along with Brooks Pierce attorneys and other private donors from the community. Melvin took a lead role in making sure that the statue was completed and placed at Center City Park. He (Melvin) emphatically stated, “There is no Henry without Shirley.”

Thus, the statue was created.