First, I recently attended a 90th birthday party on July 13, 2010 for W.C. Friday.
The second reason is because I just received a call on July 23rd, 2010 that my aunt Catherine, had passed away. Catherine was my dad’s sister who lived on Cloninger Road in Dallas, N.C., about a mile down the road from W.C. Friday Middle School where W.C. “Bill” Friday grew up as a boy.
You see, a couple of months after I became the women’s basketball coach at UNC in July 1986, I made an appointment to meet with then-President Friday, head of the entire UNC campus system.
I remember it like it was yesterday. His office was on the top floor of the new Kenan-Flagler Business School. Upon my arrival into his office, President Friday- in his southern gentlemen gracious way-greeted me as the new women’s basketball coach and asked what he could do for me.
I pulled out a picture that my aunt Catherine had given me when she learned that I had been hired at Carolina and handed it to him. As he looked at the picture, his eyes got big, his mouth fell open and he said, “Where did you get this?!” I explained that my aunt had given it to me after I got the UNC job and that she told me to give it to him.
You see, the picture was a team picture of the Dallas High School championship basketball team in 1937, and in the picture was Bill Friday with my uncle Ralph, his best friend, standing beside him. Ralph was my Dad and my aunt Catherine’s older brother who was killed in World War II.
As President Friday gazed at the picture, he started to tell me about his connections to Dallas, N.C., and my family. He said as a boy he would visit with my uncle Ralph and my dad’s family, Quincy and Maude Rhyne and their eight boys and two girls. He remembered playing basketball out behind the house and next to the outdoor shed by the barn. He remembered eating meals with the Rhyne family on various occasions and all the fun he had spending time with my family.
We had a very pleasant visit and he thanked me for the picture and for the visit. Ever since that day, President Friday has called me his “home girl from Gaston County.” He always mentions what a good friend my uncle Ralph was to him, how much fun they had playing on a championship basketball team together and how much my grandparents and my family meant to him when he was growing up in Dallas, N.C.
The third reason I wanted to write this was because as I write this I’m in France on a Junior World Championship recruiting trip near where my uncle Ralph died in World War II in the Battle of the Bulge fighting for our country and our freedom.
My aunt Catherine had told me stories about how the older boys (Bill Friday and Ralph), they were eight or nine years older, would play and kid around with her. She would look up to them and think they were so very special. Even back then, Bill Friday was showing his leadership style and his courtesy, treating everyone with respect and treating them the way he would want to be treated.
Bill Friday had a way of making everyone feel special, even if he didn’t agree with them. Every time my team would win an ACC Championship, a NCAA Championship, or I received a coaching award, I always received a phone call and a handwritten note (not an email) from Mr. Friday. He always referred to me as his “home girl from Gaston County”. He always told me that he was proud of me for doing things the RIGHT WAY.
On July 13th, the day of his 90th birthday celebration, it was the last day of our 2010 summer girls’ basketball camp. I had about 600 girls in Carmichael Arena on campus waiting on me to give out end of camp awards. I put them on hold while I ran over to the Carolina Club (Alumni Center) to wish President Friday a happy birthday.
For his birthday, I took him a mini Carolina backboard basketball hoop and ball and a Carolina Women’s Basketball coaches shirt. He graciously hugged my neck and kissed me on the cheek, and turned to his beloved wife Ida and said, “This is our women’s basketball coach, my home girl from Gaston County. Her family is from Dallas, N.C.” Ida looked at me and said I hope you’re a good basketball coach. I said I try hard to make Mr. Friday proud of me. She said, “I know he is.”
On that day (his 90th birthday), it was said that W.C. “Bill” Friday was the most respected person in N.C. I don’t know anyone who would disagree.
This being said, my challenge to the legislature of North Carolina and Governor Bev Perdue is to implement a class in every school in N.C. where the character, qualities, manners and leadership style of W.C. “Bill” Friday be taught to our young people. Our young people are not being taught the same lessons on character and leadership the way W.C. “Bill” Friday was taught. Call it Friday’s Character Building and Leadership. And even if it is only offered every Friday, it would be a Friday well spent.
P.S. – July 30th, 2010
As I just returned from my long recruiting trip to the Junior World Championship in France, I went by the office to check on some things, guess what; I had a note in my campus box from whom else but 90 year old birthday boy, Bill Friday, thanking me for attending his birthday celebration and for the gifts. Even at 90 years of age, he still showed that gracious southern style of respect and leadership that makes him the most respected person in North Carolina.
The world would be a much better place if we had more people like Bill Friday.