Bill Friday served as senior class president in 1941, using his position to push for a new policy that would allow students to cut classes without penalty and to urge the N.C. General Assembly to increase funding for the university. He would go on, of course, to serve as the longtime president of the University of North Carolina system and then as host of North Carolina People with William Friday on UNC-TV.
But when he was interviewed for the Student Leadership Initiative, an effort by NCSU Libraries to document the efforts of student leaders at NC State through the years and record their memories of their time on campus, Friday talked more about challenging times during his years on campus.
The project features three interview segments with Friday. In one, Friday talks about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, saying “it changed everything” at NC State. “Boy, it [NC State] got right into the war effort up to its neck,” Friday said.
Friday also talked about his days working in cotton mills for 18.5 cents an hour. He said that when Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president, his pay in the mills jumped to 37.5 cents an hour. “And I’ve been a Democrat ever since,” he said with a laugh.
Friday recalled “those glorious days at NC State,” but noted that he came here as a transfer student after initially enrolling at Wake Forest with a $50 scholarship. But given that his father was in the textiles business, Friday decided it was best to transfer to NC State.