Morton Among the Movers and Shakers

Note from Elizabeth: I’m pleased to present the very first essay from Worth 1,000 Words project, written by journalist Rob Christensen. Rob has been writing about N.C. politics as a reporter and a columnist for 36 years for The News and Observer and The Charlotte Observer; his book The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics won the N.C. Literary and Historical Association’s Ragan Old North State Award for the best work of nonfiction in 2008.

Update 2/9/10: This post has now been converted into its own “page” under the Essays section of A View to Hugh.

2 thoughts on “Morton Among the Movers and Shakers

  1. Yesterday, Memorial Day 2010, was a time when we publicly honor and remember our military heroes…those who paid the supreme sacrifice and those who returned home to continue their service in their own way. Hugh Morton was a member of that second group. He returned from World War II in 1945 and for the next 61 years he served his country and his state.

    Later this evening will mark the 4th anniversary of Hugh’s death…another opportunity to honor and remember.

  2. Thank you for that kind note, Jack. Hugh really did believe deeply in his country and its flag. Being given the flag that had flown over the USSNC at his memorial service was extraordinarily special to me, more, I think, than anyone realized.
    The Role of Honor on the Ship was Hugh’s personal labor of love. I remember sitting at our dining room table working with the largest map of North Carolina that was available, helping to prepare lists for the Role of Honor. The Navy and Marines had identified their dead by home towns and we were preparing a list by counties. I would call out a town and he would tell me what county it was in. Now and then he would say, “I didn’t know he was dead.” or “His father sent us $100.00 to save the Ship,” He could only work on it a few hours at a time before having to put it aside for a while. When the same last name came up over and over from some small community it hurt us both. It seemed as though the smaller a community was the closer to home the identificatiin was; Charlotte was always Charlotte but we found “Two Mile” from which Hugh deduced Newland and was proved to be right. “Brooklyn” was a challenge, though Wilmington had a neighborhood called that. The question was whether the man’s dog tags had said “N.C.” or “N.Y.” and had been readable.
    The ground rule for identifying a man’s home was that his wife’s choice superceeded his mother’s if there were two places listed. The newspapers published the lists from their area and the public was asked to make corrections to them. I recall that there was one man who actually had not died. Then when the first lists went up in the Battleship corrections were asked for. I myself found a friend’s name spelled wrong, for example.
    Many people wanted to give memorabelia to the Ship’s museum. The decision was made to accept only the flags which had been given to the families, as far as I recall.
    North Carolina lost over 10,000 men and women in WW II. I hope the Battleship will always mark their sacrifices.

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