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CHAPEL HILL, NC (WBTV) -
Former University of North Carolina President Bill Friday has died. He was 92.
Friday's personal assistant Virginia Taylor said Friday that the giant in North Carolina education died in his sleep at his Chapel Hill home.
"Bill Friday was a leader, a visionary, a role model, and a friend. Brooke and I were deeply saddened to hear of his passing, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to all North Carolinians whose lives he touched," said Senator Richard Burr.'
"Despite never running for public office, Bill was one of the brightest political minds I have ever known. I enjoyed the time I spent with him both on and off camera, and his legacy in politics and education will endure for generations."
Friday stepped down as UNC president in 1986 after serving 30 years. He remained active in public life, hosting the show "North Carolina People" on public television.
UNC-TV management, staff and boards expressed their sympathy to Ida Friday and the entire Friday family.
"It goes without saying that Mr. Friday was a giant in public education as the leader of the University of North Carolina from 1956 to 1986, overseeing the development of the consolidated 17-campus system in place today," a statement from UNC-TV read on Friday. "More than that, he was an exemplary leader for North Carolina in a period of great transition into the dynamic and progressive state it is today."
Friday interviewed hundreds of North Carolinians from all walks of life during his 41 years of weekly programs with grace, wisdom, and gentle humor, the statement continued.
"We are saddened by his passing, but we are grateful for his countless contributions to the state he loved and for his commitment to UNC-TV and public television. We will miss him terribly."
He suffered a heart attack in 2008 and was hospitalized again in May, but Taylor said he had not been ill prior to his death.
"Bill Friday was truly a renaissance man, a phenomenal educational and human service leader, a marvelous husband and daddy, and my friend," said North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue. "Bob and I are very sad to learn of his passing. His dedication and service to North Carolina and monumental impact on our state cannot be overstated."
"There has been no person in North Carolina's history who more fully exemplified how one individual can, year after year, make a tremendous difference," Perdue continued. "It's only fitting that today, University Day at UNC, that the Carolina angels called him home. We loved him so much and will miss him dearly."
As UNC president, Friday helped build the 16-campus system in an academic powerhouse. He led the school through integration and after his retirement he kept pushing to keep college affordable in North Carolina.
Gov. Perdue ordered state flags to be lowered immediately to half-staff on all state facilities in honor of Friday.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Copyright 2012 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.