Dr. William Brantley Aycock, chancellor emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a Johnston County native who earned a bachelor’s degree in education from North Carolina State University in 1936 and a master’s degree in history from UNC-Chapel Hill the following year.
His career was interrupted by World War II and service in the U.S. Army. Aycock received a Bronze Star, Silver Star and the Legion of Merit for action in the European Theater of Operations as battalion commander in the 87th Infantry Division. Later he served as a Reserve officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
After the war, he resumed his education in law school at UNC-Chapel Hill, and joined the law faculty in 1948 a semester before graduating first in his class. He was named acting dean of the School of Law in 1956.
As chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill from 1957 to 1964, Aycock led the university through a period of rapid growth. Following his term as chancellor, he resumed teaching in the law school; was named Kenan Professor of Law in 1966; was a five-time winner of the McCall Teaching Award; and was the first faculty member to be named to the UNC-Chapel Hill General Alumni Association board of directors. He retired as a full-time faculty member in 1985, but continued to teach and publish.
Over the years, Aycock earned a reputation for his personal and professional stand on issues such as disadvantaged youth and the rights of women. He co-authored “The Military Law Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice” with Seymour Wurfel in 1955.
Aycock also played a role in international affairs as personal assistant to Frank Porter Graham, the United Nations representative during critical peacemaking negotiations in 1951 between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
His achievements have earned him numerous awards including the Thomas Jefferson Award; the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the UNC-Chapel Hill Law Alumni Association; the William Richardson Davie Award from the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees; the Liberty Bell Award from the N.C. Bar Association; the Distinguished Service Medal from the UNC-Chapel Hill General Alumni Association; and the University Award from The University of North Carolina Board of Governors.