William Brantley Aycock grew up in the small North Carolina towns of Lucama and Selma, but he was ready for the big stage when he became student body president at NC State during his senior year in 1935-36. He didn’t shy away from big issues, taking a tough stance against hazing, cheating and theft. He also backed Frank Porter Graham, president of the university system, when Graham called for the elimination of scholarships for student athletes.
“Each of the proposals is directly concerned with the improvement and establishment of the proper part that inter-collegiate athletics occupies in our student life,” Aycock said at the time, according to 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. “For those reasons I am wholeheartedly in favor of the Graham Plan.”
The project features three interview segments with Aycock, who went on to work as a law professor and chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill. In one of the segments, Aycock talked about growing up in Lucama and Selma. In another, he talked about working as a soda jerk in the campus bookstore, which was located in the basement of a dining hall at the time.
In the third segment, he talked about his years in ROTC at NC State, which eventually led him to the role of company commander following his induction after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“At State, everybody took ROTC – mandatory the first two years – and then you had no further obligation,” Aycock said. ROTC became voluntary after that, but Aycock said he wanted to continue his military training.
“You had to be selected,” he said. “It was no doubt that they were likely to pick the president of the student body as one of the ones to do the third and fourth year of ROTC.”