The many faces of the past

As Susan Taylor Block notes in her recent essay, the port city of Wilmington, NC is known not only for its mansions, azaleas, and beauty queens, but also for its powerful, enterprising white men including Pembroke Jones and Hugh MacRae, grandfather of Hugh Morton.

A darker, lesser-known, and certainly lesser-discussed chapter of Wilmington’s history is that of the 1898 race riot, the only instance in American history of an elected government being overthrown. Spearheading the violent uprising was a group of elite Wilmingtonians, strong opponents of the “fusionist” coalition, strong believers in the supremacy of the white race . . . and outspoken among them was Hugh Morton’s grandfather, a young Hugh MacRae.

Four years ago this week, the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission (a state-appointed panel tasked with studying the rebellion and recommending reparative actions) released its official report, available in full here.

Back on the occasion of the 1998 centennial, historians David S. Cecelski and Timothy B. Tyson put together a seminal volume about the events entitled Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Its Legacy. While they learned much about MacRae’s role in the uprising, they never put a face to the name — that is, until Hugh Morton’s photographs became available online.

What Cecelski and Tyson discovered when they looked into that face is the topic of our latest Worth 1,000 Words essay, entitled Hugh MacRae at Invershiel.

We hope you’ll take some time to read this thoughtful exploration, and to consider the many layers of meaning that can be hidden in a single portrait. Let us know what discoveries you make.

Food for thought

I noted a recent announcement from Grandfather Mountain that as of next week, they will be closing the “Bear Hut” (where visitors have been able to purchase food to feed the bears in the Mountain’s black bear habitat). Among other reasons cited for no longer allowing the public to feed the bears, staff say that the closure should improve the bears’ health (as they will receive a more consistent diet) as well as their temperament (as they will no longer have to compete with each other for food).

This reminded me of Morton photos I’ve seen from a time when ideas about the diets of bears in captivity were perhaps less enlightened.

It’s a little tough to make out, but in the photo above, the famous Mildred is enjoying a refreshing Orange Crush soda. (I cropped the original to make it easier to see).

Granted, this was a special occasion, but I suspect bears in the wild don’t have much opportunity to feast on birthday cake (except for perhaps the occasional trash-can raid):

And finally, here’s Mildred enjoying a more nutritious snack (again, cropped for full effect):

Here’s to the new plan for happier, healthier and more “natural” bears at Grandfather.

An infamous day…campus prepares for war

Note from Elizabeth: We hope you enjoy another post from JACK HILLIARD, in honor of Sunday’s 68th anniversary of the commissioning of the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School at UNC-Chapel Hill on May 23, 1942. (For more information on this topic, see Janis Holder’s Worth 1,000 Words essay).

Regarding photos of the Pre-Flight School, please see the NCC Photo Archives Pre-Flight School Collection (a few photos from which appear in this post). You’ll note that photographer(s) for this collection are not known. Could one of them have been Hugh Morton? It seems possible, as Pre-Flight School photos in the Morton Collection are scarce, and at least some Pre-Flight photos have been credited to him (e.g., in this pamphlet).

December 7, 1941: many readers across central North Carolina turned directly to the sports pages when their Sunday edition of the Greensboro Daily News arrived on that cold morning. The lead story was the annual high school all-state football team, and leading the team was a 17-year-old junior from Asheville’s Lee Edwards High named Charlie Justice. High school football was huge in North Carolina, but professional football wasn’t, yet. Even so, on the back page of the sports section was a mention of the Washington Redskins playing the Philadelphia Eagles in the final game of the NFL season, and Redskins owner George Preston Marshall would once again stage a spectacular halftime Christmas show.

This Christmas game always filled old Griffith Stadium with families, politicians, and military personnel from the District and northern Virginia. Seated high up in the press box were Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich and Associated Press reporter Pat O’Brien. Shortly before the 2 PM kickoff, O’Brien received a puzzling-three-word telegram from his editor downtown — it said, simply, “Keep It Short.” About that same time, the public address announcer began a series of announcements: “Admiral W.H.P. Bland is asked to report to his office at once.” “Captain R.X. Fenn of the United States Army is asked to report to his office.” The announcements continued . . . Joseph Umglumph of the FBI,  Joaquim Eilzalde, resident commissioner of the Philippines . . . Secretary Stimson and Secretary Knox call the White House. A second telegram arrived at O’Brien’s desk. This one solved the puzzle: “The Japanese have kicked off. War Now!” At 2:26 PM, the Mutual Broadcasting System interrupted the radio broadcast of the game with a bulletin telling of a Pearl Harbor attack. The world would never be the same.

Back in Chapel Hill, UNC Sophomore Hugh Morton, who had recently won the “Carolina Intercampus Council” award, stood ready to document a campus preparing for war (however, his formal education would be interrupted a year later when he joined the Army).

Even before the Pearl Harbor attack, UNC President Frank Porter Graham had offered the University’s help in the event of war. In 1940 Graham said the University would offer “all its resources to the nation for the defense of the freedom and democracy it was founded to serve.”

Graham’s first priority was to lobby for a Navy Pre-Flight Training School on the Chapel Hill campus. It would be one of four such schools nationwide that prepared future pilots for aerial combat. With the help of alumnus, newspaper editor, and former Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, UNC became one of the four. The Navy announcement came in February, 1942 and on May 23, 1942 the official commissioning was held in Kenan Stadium with Daniels delivering the keynote address — 68 years ago this Sunday.

The University renovated ten dorms, expanded Woollen Gym, and built a new infirmary, recreation center and athletic field. Alexander Hall became administrative headquarters. The Pre-Flight School had its own weekly newspaper called “The Cloud Buster,” and Orville Campbell was the associate editor.

On May 28th, the first group of 242 cadets arrived on campus. Every two weeks, 300 more would arrive until a quota of 1,875 was reached. The cadets ranged in age from 18 to 27 and each cadet received $75 per month. The training day was from 5:30 AM until 6:15 PM 6 days a week, and consisted of two hours of strenuous physical activity, two hours of classroom work in Caldwell Hall, and athletic training in swimming, basketball, football and boxing.

There was some free time, and entertainers like Ronald Reagan, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra with Helen O’Connell, and Kate Smith came to the campus to entertain.

The athletic talent at the Pre-Flight School was outstanding. The baseball team featured the legendary Ted Williams, and defeated Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees in July 1943.

Kenan Stadium became home to the Pre-Flight Cloudbusters football team. In April 1942, there was a young Ensign physical fitness instructor named Gerald R. Ford. Thirty two years later he would become the 38th President of the United States. Another future President came through the program as well. His name: George H.W Bush.

On November 5, 1944 The Cloudbusters hosted The Commodores from Bainbridge (Maryland) Naval Training Station. Coaching on the sideline that day for the Cloudbusters was a young Lieutenant named Paul W. Bryant. He would lead the University of Alabama to six national titles during the 1960s and 1970s, and would be known as “Bear” Bryant. Leading the Cloudbusters at quarterback was Otto Graham who would lead the Cleveland Browns to 7 pro championships in the 1940s and 1950s, and leading the Commodores was a 20-year-old from Asheville, NC. Two years later he would return to Kenan and during the years 1946 to 1949 would rewrite the UNC record books. His name: Charlie Justice.

When the War ended, the campus returned to normal. The US Navy Pre-Flight School at Chapel Hill was decommissioned on October 15, 1945. Some of those Pre-Flight buildings still stand and remind passersby that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill adapted to serve the country during its “most critical crisis.”

–Jack Hilliard

The Mountain: before, during, and after Morton

As I hope you noted in my last post, the almost 71,000 Hugh Morton images from the Grandfather Mountain Series are now part of the collection’s online finding aid and are open for research. These images date from the late 1930s through the early 2000s, and thoroughly document Morton’s intimate, life-long connections to the Mountain.

In the latest essay in our Worth 1,000 Words series, scholar DREW A. SWANSON explores this relationship and also reminds us that the Mountain was there long, long before the man, and will exist long, long after. How did tourism and development affect the Mountain’s ecosystems before Morton inherited it? What impacts did his actions, in the areas of both development and conservation, have? What can we expect in its future as a state park?

Read Drew’s essay, entitled Grandfather Mountain: Commerce and Tourism in the Appalachian Environment, and let us know your thoughts about these issues.

New series available, plus a semi-fun photo-related activity

Imagine my excitement when I went to the homepage a few weeks ago and saw an article entitled “Connecting the past to the present tougher than it looks.” This is a story from CNN’s iReport feature, where they “outsource” their reporting to regular folks — CNN assigned their iReporters to try their hand at a neat, low-tech photography technique that involves lining up historic photos with the same current-day scene. (There’s a great Flickr group devoted to this practice, called “Looking Into the Past” — however, some of these people are obviously cheating with Photoshop).

Let me back up for a minute to make two BIG behind-the-scenes announcements: 1) the Grandfather Mountain and UNC-Chapel Hill series (Series 4 and 5) of the Morton collection are now available online and open for research; and 2) the digital collection has reached (and rocketed past) 5,000 items.

In honor of these developments (particularly the availability of the UNC-CH photos), Sam and I decided to try our hand at the “lining-up” trick, right here on campus: we printed out a few of Hugh Morton’s photos from when he was a student here (1939-1942), and went out with the digital camera. As you can see from the results below, it is indeed “tougher than it looks”! (Especially when it’s windy outside).

Here we are attempting to situate a Morton photo of a group of unidentified gentlemen (UNC faculty?) standing on the front steps of Wilson Library (view the original here). Close, but no cigar. . . finding the exact right spot and angle to successfully line up the print with the real world is quite difficult, and you also look and feel ridiculous as you fumble around for that perfect perspective.

Equally poorly-aligned is this portrait of a wild group of hooligans posing on the steps of South Building. If anyone knows what’s going on here, please fill us in… the original can be viewed in much greater detail here. (I assume this gathering is World War II-related, because one of said hooligans is holding a button that reads “To Hell with Hitler”).

We did a little better, but not much, with this Morton portrait of 1941-1942 UNC senior Frances Bonkemeyer, publicity chair for the YWCA and member of the UNC Coed Senate (see the original here).

So to sum up, let me first reiterate that Series 4 (Grandfather Mountain) and Series 5 (UNC-Chapel Hill) are now included in the online finding aid and available for research! And, the Hugh Morton digital collection contains more than 5,400 items!

We hope our little exercise inspires you to try “linking the past with the present” using historic photos. Send us your results if you do.

“Recognition and Esteem”

Three cheers for this year’s NC Sports Hall of Fame inductees, and for another blog post by JACK HILLARD! I should note that although (as Jack says below) Mr. Morton probably did attend most of the induction ceremonies, the Morton collection seems only to contain images of ceremonies from 1971 and later (see the collection finding aid, sub-series 2.8, under “Other Events.”) Wish we knew what happened to those earlier ones…

It was early spring 1988 when Bob Wills, Executive Director of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, called and asked if I would once again help with the inductee profile videos. I was pleased to do so for a third year. As payment, Wills sent me two tickets to the 25th Hall of Fame induction banquet, held at the North Raleigh Hilton. He explained that since we were not officially representing a media outlet and since we weren’t invited guests of any of the inductees, we would be seated where ever there was a table with vacant seats. Much to my surprise, Marla and I were seated at a table with Hugh and Julia Morton. I remember vividly Julia describing that first Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Charlotte in April of 1963. She remembered how excited the crowd of about 500 was to see Jim Beatty run again the first sub four minute mile indoors . . . a replay of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” shown on the big screen at the Queen Charlotte Hotel. Jim McKay‘s call of the race has become a classic.

Hugh Morton’s association with the Hall goes back to its beginnings in 1962.  He was on the first board of directors, was Hall president in 1976, and he attended most of the induction ceremonies over the years. In the early days the induction ceremonies were held in cities across North Carolina. Usually a city was selected based on the fact that an inductee was from that area: Wilmington in 1971 for Sonny Jurgensen and Roman Gabriel; Greensboro in 1974 for Art Weiner; Durham in 1976 for Dr. Leroy Walker; Asheboro in 1977 for Lee Stone. 1970 inductee Bones McKinney jokingly would say that he carried the museum around in the truck of his car for many of those early years.

Whatever city was selected, Hugh Morton went, and his camera went also. His photographs of 1981 inductee Dean Smith (see below) and 1987 inductee Francis Rogallo have been widely published.

In a 2003 interview, Hugh described that first board of directors meeting in February of ’63. The meeting lasted four hours and the 18 board members had to cut the list of 10 candidates to 5. “We took in five people that (first) year,” said Morton. “On the first ballot, Charlie (Justice) got more votes that all the others put together. We all knew how good he was.”

So Charlie Justice became the first member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. I recall in 1980 when longtime Sports Editor of the Greensboro Daily News, Smith Barrier, was inducted, WFMY-TV sports reporter Johnny Phelps interviewed Barrier and asked him to list his favorite sports moments. Said Barrier, “I’d have to put Frank McGuire and the 1957 national champion Tar Heels near the top. And of course David Thompson leading NC State to a NCAA Championship in the Greensboro Coliseum in 1974 . . . and Billy Joe Patton at the Masters in 1954.”  At that point Barrier paused for several seconds. Then he added, “and every time Charlie Justice handled the ball for Carolina was a genuine thrill.”

As Hugh said, “we all knew how good he was.”

“The purpose of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame is to honor those persons who by excellence of their activities in or connected with the world of sports have brought recognition and esteem to themselves and to the State of North Carolina.”

Next Thursday night, May 13, at the North Raleigh Hilton, seven new North Carolina sports legends will join the other 260 at the 47th North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet.  In the Class of 2010 will be a Hugh Morton favorite photo subject, Don McCauley, often photographed by Morton with longtime friend Charlie Justice.

–Jack Hilliard

Laugh, think, cry

We’ve been looking through a LOT of basketball photos recently, and I couldn’t help but notice some fantastic Morton shots of the great Jim Valvano, who died of bone cancer 17 years ago this week. In addition to being an extremely talented, entertaining, and exuberant college basketball coach (most notably at North Carolina State University), in his battle with cancer, Valvano gave us a wonderful model of courage, dignity and humor and the face of tragedy. Probably his best-known quote, below, was delivered at the ESPY awards shortly before his death — I challenge you to watch the video of the speech and not do all three things!

To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

Words to live by. (An interesting and related side note is this article I just happened to see on today about technology and changing cultural attitudes towards end-of-life).

Here’s Jimmy V making “Bones” McKinney laugh:

Morton took the image below at the January 4, 1986 UNC victory over NC State, the “last game in Carmichael.” After the game, Valvano grabbed the ball and shot a layup so he could jokingly claim to have made the “last basket in Carmichael.” (Of course, as Thad Williamson reports, the Heels played in Carmichael again just last month in the NIT).

Happy Birthday, Parkway

In case you haven’t heard (perhaps you’ve been hibernating), 2010 marks the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Numerous events throughout the year will help mark this occasion, including a symposium next week at Appalachian State University, at which UNC Libraries’ Natasha Smith, Elise Moore, and faculty advisor Anne Mitchell Whisnant will unveil the exciting Driving Through Time digital project! (More on that after it’s launched).

Luckily, we were able to steal Dr. Whisnant (author of the 2006 book Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History) away long enough to write an essay for our Worth 1,000 Words project. It’s now available, and is entitled Roads Taken and Not Taken: Images and the Story of the Blue Ridge Parkway ‘Missing Link.’

It’s no secret that determining the route for the last leg of the Parkway was a protracted, complicated, and divisive process, but one that ultimately resulted in the much-celebrated (and photographed) Linn Cove Viaduct (shown from the air at left). In her essay, Whisnant uses some of Morton’s own images to shed new light on this conflict. She also provides a crucial backdrop for some of Morton’s later environmental work, which will be examined in future Worth 1,000 Words essays.

We look forward to receiving your thoughts and comments!

Picturing the Port City

With the 63rd Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival kicking off next week, it seems an appropriate time to highlight the festival’s home turf: Wilmington, NC. Not only was Hugh Morton was born and raised in Wilmington, but he and his family played a major role in shaping the tourism industry and infrastructure of the charming, historic Port City.

Here to help us is another Wilmington native, author, and purveyor of all things Wilmington history-related, Susan Taylor Block. Susan is the author of a whole bunch of books and articles (including photographic histories) on Wilmington’s past, culture, and some of its residents. She’s also behind the latest entry in our Worth 1,000 Words series, entitled Wilmington: Faded Glory to Fresh Achievement.

We hope you’re enjoying the growing variety of the essay offerings, and the opportunity they offer to delve a bit deeper into the riches of the Morton collection.

Daniel Boone was a man. Yes, a big man!

The entertainment community is mourning yesterday’s passing of actor Fess Parker (1924-2010), best known for his portrayals of manly pioneers Davy Crockett and (most relevant to the Morton collection) Daniel Boone. According to Entertainment Weekly‘s Ken Tucker,

In his prime, Parker was a big, rangy man who grew up in a small farm in Texas; his voice retained a warm Texas twang. He shot to a singular pop-culture fame in 1954, when Walt Disney’s Disneyland series broadcast “Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter.” With his buckskin jacket, long rifle, slow drawl, and his coonskin cap, Parker was an immediate sensation. Kids could not get enough of his unique mixture of warmth, toughness, humor, and taciturn wisdom.

After his Crockett years, Parker went on to embody the role of Daniel Boone from 1964 to 1970. When I saw Turner’s article, I couldn’t help but steal the embedded YouTube video he included, of the opening credits of “Daniel Boone”:

In July or August of 1966, Parker paid a visit to Boone, NC’s own “Horn in the West” outdoor drama, and of COURSE, Hugh Morton was present with his camera. (Parker is shown below with Horn actor Glenn Causey; more images of his visit can be viewed here).


Parker and the Horn crew apparently took a trip up Grandfather Mountain during this same visit (more images can be viewed here). You may also recall from a previous post that Parker’s TV son “Israel” (Darby Hinton) also visited Grandfather — whether it was at the same time as Parker, I can’t say.



If anyone knows additional details from these events, please share!