Like a lot of student leaders at NC State through the years, Eddie Knox says he sort of stumbled into the job when he became student body president in 1959. But it was a stumble that began soon after he arrived at NC State.
“Well, politics sort of begets politics,” Knox said 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. “You know, if you run for something, first thing you know somebody’s going to ask you to run for something else, and your ego starts running away from you and the first thing you know you’re running for everything.”
Knox said he never thought about getting involved in politics until another student, who was running for president of the freshman class, asked Knox to run for vice president. He won that election and then was elected the next year to serve as president of the sophomore class. That led to his election as vice president of the student body and, then, student body president from 1959-60.
Knox’s tenure as president coincided with the development of the fraternity and sorority system at NC State, including the construction of Fraternity Row. Sigma Kappa was organized as the the first sorority on NC State’s campus in 1960.
“I had a wonderful relationship with the fraternities,” Knox said. “I was never in a fraternity, but they invited me to all of their parties. [They] made fun of the white socks that I wore with a suit, but I took it in stride. At least I got to eat free. From there I just went on to law school and became president of the student bar association.”
Knox discussed eating — and difficult living arrangements — in another interview about his days at NC State. When he first arrived in Raleigh, Knox lived in an attic apartment with a friend from high school. “It didn’t have a refrigerator or anything, so we built a basket and put it outside the window to keep the squirrels from eating what my mama would make on the weekends when I’d come home, and that was our refrigerator.”
Knox said he later helped dig out a basement to make a new apartment where he and his wife could live until they moved into the Vetville Barracks, “which was about the toughest living conditions I’ve ever lived in. But the rent was cheap, and that’s what I needed.”
Knox stayed in politics long after he graduated from NC State, serving in the North Carolina State Senate and two terms as the mayor of Charlotte.