Peace and Justice Plaza Ceremony set for Oct. 11

Post Date:09/29/2015 4:50 PM
Chapel Hill Peace and Justice Plaza

The Town of Chapel Hill will recognize unique individuals who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to furthering the causes of social justice at a Peace and Justice Celebration scheduled 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, at Peace and Justice Plaza in front of the Post Office-Courthouse, 179 E. Franklin St.

The names of two local leaders – former Chapel Hill Town Council member Bill Thorpe and legendary Tar Heel coach Dean Smith and – will be added to a granite marker that pays tribute to their contributions.

The granite marker currently bears the names of 13 leaders, all deceased, who are honored for their efforts to improve equal rights for all. They are Yonni Chapman, Rebecca Clark, Rev. Charles M. Jones, Dan Pollitt, Charlotte Adams, Hank Anderson, James Brittian, Joe Herzenberg, Mildred Ringwalt, Hubert Robinson, Joe Straley, Lucy Straley and Gloria Williams.

Sunday’s ceremony will be opened by Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. Remarks about the late honorees will be made by family, friends, and others who knew and respected them, including William Thorpe, son of Bill Thorpe and promoter of the UNC Walk for Health; Bobby Gersten, UNC's oldest living basketball alum at age 95; Scott Smith, son of Dean Smith; and civil rights attorney Al McSurely. A reception is scheduled to follow the ceremony inside the lobby of the Post Office-Courthouse.

Recommended public parking – free on Sunday – includes the Wallace Parking Deck at 150 E. Rosemary St. and the municipal lot on the corner of Rosemary and Columbia streets. Visitor parking on campus includes the Morehead Planetarium, and the Swain Lot off Cameron Avenue. For information and a map for parking downtown, go to

For more information about the Oct. 11 event, please contact Catherine Lazorko, communications manager for the Town of Chapel Hill, at or 919-969-5055.


Chapel Hill Peace and Justice Leaders to be honored are as follows:

Bill Thorpe
Bill Thorpe was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council three times and served a total of 11 years from 1977 to 2008. In 1984, Thorpe initiated the policy to establish an official Town holiday to observe the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., becoming the first municipality in the nation to do so. As Mayor Pro-Tem in the mid-1980s, Thorpe led efforts to divest Town funds from companies doing business with the apartheid regime of South Africa. In 2003-2004, as a private citizen, Thorpe introduced the idea of renaming Airport Road to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Thorpe was active in the National Black Caucus of Elected Officials and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP. In 2006, Thorpe created the Town’s first paid undergraduate internship program. The Bill Thorpe Undergraduate Internship Program exposes college students to career opportunities in a municipal setting.


Dean Smith was head coach of the University of North Carolina basketball team from 1961 to 1997.  In those 36 years, he earned two national championships, was named National Coach of the Year multiple times, and retired as the winningest men’s college basketball coach in history.  Ninety-six percent of his lettermen graduated from college.  Smith also remained a dedicated civil rights advocate throughout his career.  In 1966, he recruited Charles Scott to be the first African-American scholarship athlete at UNC-Chapel Hill. Smith also worked to desegregate downtown Chapel Hill businesses. One way he did so was to hold his team meals at The Pines restaurant, which was reluctant to let black people through its doors until Smith was standing beside them. On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama presented Smith with the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian honor.


Download high-resolution photos:
Peace and Justice Plaza
Bill Thorpe
Dean Smith

Return to full list >>
View Full Site