site image


Dr. Billy Eugene Frye

June 26, 1933 ~ November 14, 2017 (age 84)

Billy Eugene Frye died peacefully at his Clarkesville home in the presence of his loved ones after a long and happy life.  One of four brothers, he was the son of Ethel Watts Frye and Willard A. Frye of Clarkesville who preceded him in death as well as two brothers Oliver and Allen.  He is survived by his wife of fifty-nine years, Elisa Ann Payne Frye, daughters Elisa Talitha Frye (Joshua M. Peck) of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, Alice Andrea Frye of Lowell, Massachusetts, and granddaughter Chana Rose Perlman of Alachua, Florida in addition to his brother Jack (Mary Cloid) of Clarkesville, nephews and nieces in Georgia, Michigan and California, and beloved cousins in Georgia and Ohio.

Billy attended local schools including Truett-McConnell College, receiving his BS in Biology from Piedmont College in 1952.  In 1956 he received his PhD in biology from Emory University, followed by Postdoctoral Study at Princeton University and Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory. School year 1957-58 Billy spent teaching at Piedmont College where he met his future wife Elisa.  In fall of 1958, he became National Science Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology at The University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  After three years at Virginia, Billy joined the University of Michigan Department of Zoology as an assistant professor where he rose to associate professor and full professor.  In 1973, he became Dean of The College of Literature, Science, and The Arts; then in 1979, was appointed Vice President for Academic Affairs and Michigan’s first Provost.

In 1986, President James T. Laney of Emory offered Billy the opportunity to return “home” as Dean of The Graduate School and Vice President for Research at Emory.  In 1988 he was appointed Vice President for Academic Affairs and also Emory’s first Provost.  During academic year 1993-94, Billy served as Emory’s Interim President while the university searched for a permanent replacement for Dr. Laney who left the university to serve as Ambassador to South Korea.  In 1997 Billy became Emory’s third Chancellor, retiring in 2001. (Both The University of Michigan and Emory awarded Billy honorary doctoral degrees and in 2011 he was the recipient of The Emory Medal.)

An avid camper and fly fisherman when younger, Billy’s retirement years were spent on the property where he had grown up, joyfully planting iris, foxgloves, and wildflowers; creating long borders of azaleas and rhododendrons, and building stacked rock terraces and walls; and trellises covered with clematis and prize David Austin Roses.  Two greenhouses held orchids, some of which he had hybridized himself, a wonderful hobby which satisfied both his continuing interest in science and his love of the natural world. (Several of his orchids in bloom were captured beautifully in oil paintings by Billy.)  During is active years, his travels for work as well as vacation, allowed him the opportunity of seeing far-away places he had never dreamed of visiting as a child, but nothing else ever captured his heart like the beautiful woods and fields of his native Habersham County or the little plot of land where he was raised.

A memorial service for Billy, conducted by The Reverend Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor will be held at Hillside Memorial Chapel and Gardens in Clarkesville on Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 2:00 PM.  The family will receive friends immediately following the service.

Condolences may be sent to the family at

Arrangements by Hillside Memorial Chapel, Clarkesville. 706-754-6256

© 2019 Hillside Memorial Chapel and Gardens. All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS