William C. Friday, a politically deft lawyer who, with scant scholarly qualifications, steered thethrough three decades of tumultuous growth and helped scale back federal desegregation demands, died on Friday at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 92.
Thomas W. Ross, the university’s president, announced the death.
Mr. Friday, who retired as president in 1986, molded the state’s public colleges and universities into a single system, increased its student body more than eightfold and was a force behind the creation of Research Triangle Park, a university-corporate collaboration that fired North Carolina’s economy by attracting high-tech industries to the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.
His biggest challenge was in addressing federal orders to desegregate the system’s 16 universities — five overwhelmingly black and 11 white. He advised moderation rather than the immediate introduction of the large changes demanded by Washington, even if he was portrayed, he said, as a “redneck hero.”