North Carolina State University’s Park Scholarships Class of 2022 will present the 23rd annual William C. Friday Award to Julius Tillery. Tillery was selected by the Class of 2022 based on his outstanding advocacy for North Carolina’s agricultural and environmental sectors. He is the founder of Black Cotton, a business that centers and uplifts the Black community closest to the cotton fields in Northampton County.
Tillery is a distinguished figure and leader in environmental, agricultural, and racial justice in North Carolina. As a fifth-generation cotton farmer and native of North Carolina’s Roanoke Valley, Tillery founded BlackCotton in 2016 to honor his roots and promote Black-grown cotton as profitable, beautiful, and empowering.
Tillery has dedicated his career to improving the lives of farmers and farming communities across both North Carolina and the entire United States. In addition to his role as an entrepreneur, Tillery serves as the North Carolina State Coordinator for the Black Family Land Trust, a Southern SARE Administrative Council member, and a North Carolina Forestry Advisory Council member. Tillery is a 2008 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied economics and entrepreneurship.
“The Class of 2022 believes Mr. Julius Tillery is an exceptional leader who supports and empowers his local agricultural community and is a deserving recipient of the William C. Friday Award,” said Shannon Dolan ’22 and Ethan Scheper ’22, co-chairs of the Park Scholarships Class of 2022 Distinguished Speakers Committee.
The William C. Friday Award, established in 2000, is named in honor of the late president of the UNC System. It is presented to individuals who carry on Friday’s dedication to leadership, scholarship, service, and character. The recipient of the William C. Friday Award is selected by the senior class of Park Scholars each year with input from the current UNC System president.
In March, Park Scholars in the Class of 2022 met with UNC System President Peter Hans to nominate Tillery on the basis of his deep commitment to scholarship, leadership, service, and character through his business and advocacy for rural farming.
“Julius Tillery is an exceptional leader dedicated to serving his community,” said President Hans. “Having known President Friday, I can attest to how proud he would be to know Mr. Tillery is the recipient of an award in his honor.”
Past recipients of the William C. Friday Award include NC State Chancellor Emeritus Larry Monteith, General Hugh Shelton, noted historian John Hope Franklin, Special Olympics of North Carolina CEO and President Keith Fishburne, Ambassador James A. Joseph, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, behavioral economist Dan Ariely, CORRAL Riding Academy Founder and President Joy Currey, former UNC System President Tom Ross, and Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Founder and CEO Amy Gage Wright, GrowingChange Founder Noran Sanford, A Place at the Table Founder and Executive Maggie Kane, and activist, filmmaker, and artist Bree Newsome Bass.