After serving for over a decade in the North Carolina General Assembly, he ascended to the position of Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. He became the first African-American in his state's history to serve as both associate and chief justice.
Following his graduation from North Carolina A&T State University, Frye served in the United States Air Force. Upon his return from Korea, he earned his J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In 2013, he began chairing the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership.
His marriage to Shirley Taylor resulted in several children, including a son, Henry Frye, Jr., who also entered the legal profession. Frye's nephew, Channing Frye, became an NBA forward.
He and Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Sears both overcame racial prejudice and social barriers (and, in Sears' case, gender barriers) to attain their high-ranking legal positions.