Q. I saw that Dean Smith is to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. How many North Carolina citizens have ever received this highest civilian honor? I know Andy Griffith did as I actually saw his medal and talked with him about it.
A. Dean Smith, recognized for his work coaching the University of North Carolina basketball team, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. Smith, born in Emporia, Kansas, is among a few North Carolina citizens to receive the award. He retired from coaching in 1997 with 879 wins and a 96 percent graduation rate among his players.
Other prominent Tar Heels who have won the Presidential Medal of Freedom include:
- Richard Lee Petty of Level Cross, who was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President George Bush in 1992. The NASCAR star was the first motorsports athlete ever to be honored with this award.
- Andy Griffith from Mount Airy was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush on November 9, 2005. The actor and North Carolina icon filmed some seasons of the TV series “Matlock” in Wilmington.
- Evangelist Billy Graham was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. Thanks to “Tam,” a reader who alerted us to the honor accorded the Charlotte native.
Know of any other North Carolinians who have received this award? Let us know in the Comments section below.
Date posted: August 14, 2013
User-contributed question by:
Gary E. Trawick