One for the books

Famous photograph by Hugh Morton made after the 1957 UNC versus Duke football game, as printed in November 25th issue of The Charlotte News.

Famous photograph by Hugh Morton made after the 1957 UNC versus Duke football game, as printed in November 25th issue of The Charlotte News.

The University of North Carolina will meet Duke University on the gridiron for the 103rd time tonight November 10, 2016. The game will be played in Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium and will be featured on ESPN at 7:30 p.m.  Of the 102 previous meetings, Carolina claims 61 wins in the series that dates back to 1888. (Two of those wins, however, have been vacated by a NCAA penalty ruling).  With the rivalry about to play out one more time, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back 59 seasons to one of those UNC victories that Tar Heels like to recall as “one for the books.”

The only way the Tar Heels of 1957 can go is up.

A preseason comment by UNC Head Football Coach Jim Tatum

When the college football preseason magazines hit the newsstands in late summer of 1957, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Duke would be at the top of the ACC standing when bowl season rolled around in early 1958.  Durham Morning Herald Sports Editor Jack Horner (Hugh Morton liked to call him “Little” Jack Horner), writing for the Street and Smith’s Football 1957 Yearbook, said, “The Blue Devils have the potential to finish atop the loop and rank among the nation’s elite.”  Carolina, having finished the 1956 season with 2 wins, 7 losses, and 1 tie, was predicted to finish a distant fourth at best.

Carolina kicked off the season with a 7-0 home loss to North Carolina State, but got things together and won the next three games, one of which was a 13-7 win against sixth-ranked Navy in Chapel Hill on October 5th—a game many Tar Heels call one of Carolina’s greatest. Duke stormed into the season with five straight wins and by week number six they were ranked fourth nationally behind Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Iowa.

Carolina won two of its next four games, while Duke’s season started to slip a bit.  By the time the two teams reached their big rivalry game on November 23rd, the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils didn’t seem very far apart. Carolina had a 5-3 record; Duke was 6-1-2, and their ranking dropped to eleventh.  Duke was still favored to win the game.  In fact, Carolina hadn’t beaten Duke in eight years since its historic 21-20 victory in 1949.

Early on Thursday, November 21st, the Duke Stadium (it’s now named Wallace Wade Stadium) crew put down twelve large squares of plastic to cover and protect the field from the predicted wet weather.  The lead-ups to the Carolina-Duke football games have always been exciting and the ’57 game was no different despite that cold, rainy weather.  On Friday, November 22nd, Tar Heel students staged the “Beat Dook Parade,” while over in Durham students and alumni enjoyed a huge, twenty-foot bonfire and pep rally.

Game day dawned wet and cold as predicted, but by midday the rain had stopped to the delight of the 40,000 fans in attendance; the 40-degree temperatures, however, remained. For the second time in three years, the game was on TV.  The 1955 game received national attention, but the ’57 affair coverage came from Castleman D. Chesley’s newly-formed regional ACC Network.  Just before kickoff, the Duke cheerleaders rolled the Victory Bell across the field and delivered a basket of oranges to the Carolina cheering squad—just a reminder of Duke’s “next?” game: the Orange Bowl in warm Miami.

November 23, 1957 was also a special day for another reason: Tar Heel football legend Charlie Justice and his wife Sarah Alice were celebrating their 14th anniversary.  Coach Tatum had invited Justice to join the team on the sideline that afternoon, and when photographer Hugh Morton spotted his friend on the field, he of course took a picture. The Morton image would become a featured picture in the 1958 biography Choo Choo: The Charlie Justice Story by Bob Quincy and Julian Scheer, and can be found on page 121.

Two Carolina player buses arrived about 1 p.m., and the first person off the second bus was Coach Tatum wearing his big Texas-style hat.  At 2:05 PM it was time for the 44th meeting between the two old rivals.  Duke won referee John Donohue’s coin toss and elected to receive. Fifteen plays later, Duke’s Wray Carlton scored putting the Blue Devils ahead 6 to 0 after 7 minutes of play.  Five minutes later Carlton scored again.  This time he made the extra point and Duke went up 13-0. Then with 3:40 left in the first half, Carolina’s Giles Gaca scored making the halftime score 13-7, Duke.

On its second possession of the second half, Carolina took the lead when Buddy Payne caught quarterback Jack Cummings’ 19-yard pass for a touchdown. Phil Blazer’s PAT made the score 14-13 with 10:10 remaining in the third quarter. (It was the first time Carolina had led Duke since the second quarter of the 1951 game). Smelling victory, Carolina went back to work and six minutes later, Cummings sneaked over to give Carolina an 8-point lead at 21-13. The fourth quarter was scoreless.

The Charlotte News Sideliner column included two Morton spot-game photographs.

The Charlotte News Sideliner column included two Morton spot-game photographs.

Following the final gun, jubilant Tar Heels tore down the goal posts in celebration as Coach Tatum got a ride on the shoulders of his players and fans. Charlie Justice was one of the first to grab Tatum’s hand and Morton photographic contemporary Harold Moore’s Herald-Sun picture of the hand-shake made the front cover of the 1958 UNC Football Media Guide.

Following the traditional coaches handshake, Coach Tatum sought out some of his players for more celebrations. Then, a Tar Heel player who had been forced to watch the game from the sideline reached out to Tatum. First string quarterback Dave Reed, who had been suspended from the team earlier in the season for breaking team rules, embraced the coach in an extremely emotional moment. “I would have given a million dollars to help win this game,” cried Reed.  Said Tatum, “Son, you know it hurt me more than it did you.” Morton’s photograph of the scene is priceless.

In his news conference following the game, Coach Murray said “We were in a commanding position with a two-touchdown lead and we let them get away.”  In the Carolina dressing room, Coach Tatum simply said, “It is certainly my greatest thrill in football. It’s the happiest day I’ve ever known. How about the way those boys came back? Thirteen points down, golly!”  That’s saying a lot about this particular game. Tatum won a national championship at Maryland in 1953.

Overtime by Stephen Fletcher

1957 Press PassKnowing that Hugh Morton had sideline access during the game, I searched through the North Carolina newspapers that typically used Morton’s football photographs, but I never found a published game-action photograph.  Most newspapers published photographs made by their staff photographers.  Of the half-dozen or so newspapers I examined, only The Charlotte News published Morton’s photographs.  There may be game-action photographs from that day hidden in the hundreds of unidentified football negatives in the collection, but thus far none have been located.  Currently there are ten positively identified Morton negatives made either on the sidelines or in the stands during the game, or during the postgame celebration.

Harry Truman and Hugh Morton’s Confederate flag negatives

In our previous post, Jack Hilliard recounted President Harry S. Truman’s participation in the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Winston-Salem campus of Wake Forest College.  We used the photograph below was to illustrate the story, and I mentioned in a parenthetical statement that we would look more closely at the subject in our next post.  On this day with a presidential visit to Chapel Hill, I hereby fulfill my campaign promise.

p0081_ntbs4_000906_02Seven weeks after President Harry S. Truman visited Winston-Salem for the groundbreaking ceremony for Wake Forest College on October 15, 1951, LIFE published a tightly cropped version (see below) of the Hugh Morton photograph shown above in its December 3, 1951 issue.  Morton’s photograph accompanied photographs by other photographers in an article titled, “Warmed Over Again: Politicians turn the Dixie flag into a Sour Gag.”  The brief article paired two other photographs depicting the Confederate flag used in the design of a necktie worn by Alabama Senator Harry Byrd, and as a conductor’s baton in the hand of Atlanta mayor William Hartford directing the city’s symphony playing Dixie.  LIFE published “Warmed Over Again” in a Sequel column as a follow-up to its 15 October article, The Flag, Suh!”

LIFE‘s caption for Morton’s photograph reads, “DUCKING HIS FLAG behind his back, bystander waves loyally at Harry Truman when the latter’s car passes him on its way to Winston-Salem, N.C.” The photograph illustrated a one-paragraph story which concluded with the sentence, “But in Winston-Salem, N.C. one flag waver felt suddenly silly enough to hide the rebel banner when his president passed by.”  On face value that is was appears to be happening.  Can Morton’s other negatives made during Truman’s visit provide some additional insight?  First, some background . . .

Hugh Morton's photograph cropped as it appears in LIFE, 3 December, 1951, page 107.

Hugh Morton’s photograph cropped as it appears in LIFE, 3 December, 1951, page 107.

LIFE‘s The Flag, Suh!”—a one-paragraph article with the subtitle “Confederacy’s banner reaches a new popularity”—stated that “the Confederate Flag last week was enjoying a renascence.”  As examples, the magazine published eight photographs depicting the Confederate flag, including

  • members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy pledging their allegiance;
  • Miss Dixie of 1951 wearing three flags combined to make a blouse;
  • a University of Maryland student’s car as wind-blown decorations as it drives along;
  • a southern division of the U. S. Army parading it along with other colors; and
  • as part of the design of a necktie, worn by southern United States senators’s employees.

The article surmised, “Some interpret all this as an anti-Truman gesture, others possibly more intellectual as a revival in states’ rights.  Most people, however, recognized a fad when they saw one.”

News reporters describing the president’s visit to Winston-Salem offered several nuggets of evidence that give credence to LIFE’s anti-Truman interpretation.  Under the headline, “Confederate Flags Furnish Off Note In Truman Visit,” W. C. Burton, staff writer for the Greensboro Daily Record, described the scene along the presidential route from the airport to Reynolda where the presidential luncheon was to be held:

Crowds lined both sides of the cavalcade’s route through Winston-Salem and the people were is such high spirits that some of them cheered the press busses.  Several of the spectators waved small ten-cent-store United States flags.  A small rebellious, but hardly subversive and probably waggish note, was observed in the Confederate flags which not a few of the onlookers waved.  It may or may not be significant that as the procession moved into the residential section of the better heeled the number of Dixie banners increased.  In any case the secret service men made no move and a hawker who was peddling the Confederate flags admitted that business was not exactly booming.

The Associated Press correspondent assigned to cover Truman, Ernest B. Vaccaro, wrote two articles covering Truman’s trip.  In one, Vaccaro observed that, “Many of the school children along the president’s route waved American flags, but here and there were some Confedete flags.”  Other reporters also took note.  Simmons Fentress of Raleigh’s News and Observer‘s wrote, “There were children by the scores and there were little Confederate flags, dozens of them.  One boy, in a high school band uniform, waved his flag vigorously and shouted, as the cars would pass: ‘The South will rise again.'”  Fentress also wrote, “At one point probably a hundred children were collected.  Perhaps 25 of them had little American flags.  Perhaps 35 of them had little Confederate flags.”

Marjorie Hunter of the Winston-Salem Journal, describing the crowd along the road to Reynolda wrote, “Hundreds of persons waved United States flags as the presidential car passed by.  A few jumped up and down with Confederate flags in their hands.”  Bob Barnard, also with the Winston-Salem Journal described many onlookers including “several little girls waving Confederate flags.”  United Press correspondent Merriman Smith mentioned that “Children and adults waved flags at [Truman’s] car—many of them Confederate banners.”

On a similar note, the Statesville Daily Record recounted the efforts of two young boys who wanted to meet Truman despite the “tight cordon about the President’s party, not allowing anyone to get too close.”  One lad, Charlie Wineberry, “dashed up to the president, proudly wearing his Confederate cap and got a nice handshake from the chief executive.  However, he turned down an offer by newsreel cameramen for a picture with Charlie and the Confederate cap.”

Not limited to the parade route, Confederate flags made their way to the dedication ceremony, too.  The Charlotte Observer noted that “Confederate flags as well as the Stars and Stripes were flying around the grandstand from which President Truman made his address.”  Only United States flags, however, can been seen in Morton’s negative depicting an overview scene of the platform (shown in the previous post).  Perhaps Durham Morning Herald reporter Russell Brantley’s picturing the scene explains it better:

The President, stocky and natty in a double-breasted blue suit, had nothing to say about past squabbles with Southern Democrats over civil rights.  And an estimated crowd of 20,000, many of them Baptists and a number of them sporting Confederate flags, responded with enthusiasm.

Additionally, certain versions of an Associated Press article include a sentence that begins, “The president told the crowd, dozens of whom carried Confederate flags, . . .” So perhaps it was in the grandstands were where the crowd sat, not where the president stood, where the Confederate flags flew.

Does Brantley’e description also shed light on why there were so many Confederate flags that day, namely a displeasure with Truman’s efforts to ensure civil rights for all citizens?  Among Truman’s initial undertakings to this end was the establishment, by Executive Order 9808, of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights in 1946.  The committee had a North Carolina touchstone: Frank Porter Graham, the first president of the consolidated University of North Carolina from 1930 until Truman appointed him to be a member of the committee.  In 1949 Governor W. Kerr Scott, a pro-Truman Democrat (pictured in the photograph above seated next to the president), appointed Graham to complete the term of United States Senator J. Melville Broughton after he died in office after serving only a few months.  In the 1950 race for the seat, Graham lost a primary runoff election to anti-Truman Democrat Willis Smith that was tinged with anti-segrationist sentiments from Smith’s supporters.

Returning to the Morton collection, what else did Hugh Morton photograph that day?  In the collection there are four negatives depicting a man holding a Confederate flag behind his back while waving or possibly saluting Truman.  Morton labeled two of these negatives; both include the name “J. D. Fitz” and “Confederate Flag.”  In addition to the motorcade negative shown above, Morton made three exposures at the airport, similarly posed, one of which is below.

A scan from one of Hugh Morton's 4x5 sheet film negatives labeled with the name J. D. Fitz and "Confederate Flag." Harry Truman is just visible, partially obscured by the left shoulder of the man holding the flag, presumably J. D. Fitz.

A scan from one of Hugh Morton’s 4×5 sheet film negatives labeled with the name J. D. Fitz and “Confederate Flag.” Harry Truman is just visible, partially obscured by the left shoulder of the man holding the flag, presumably J. D. Fitz.

Did Morton encounter this scene, too, with the same person at two different locations?  From the news articles we know this man wasn’t the only person carrying a Confederate flag that day.  Considering Morton’s labeling of the negatives, the “flag waver” mentioned in the LIFE caption is likely J. D. Fitz.  The existence of that many negatives suggests that Morton either preplanned these photographs, encountered Fitz during the event and then staged the similar scenes, or followed Fitz to two locations and then photographed Fitz and his antics.

And who is J. D. Fitz?  I have only a few clues thus far, based upon a United States Census search. In the 1940 census, there is a John D. Fitz, age 24, who lived in Shelby, North Carolina with wife Lina or Lena, who stated his occupation was “Sports Editor” for a “Daily Newspaper.”  The census also provides Fitz’s 1935 residence as Reidsville in Rockingham County.  The Shelby city directory for 1939-1940 lists a “Fitz Jos D (Lena T)” as sports editor for the Shelby Daily Star, but he is not listed in the previous or subsequent Shelby directories.  There is a “Fitz Jos D” listed as a clerk at Kroger Grocery & Baking Co. in 1932 Reidsville city directory, and again as a clerk at Piggly Wiggly in Reidsville’s 1935 city directory.  Given Morton’s love of sports and sports photography, did he know Fitz?

There are two other clues to consider.  In the above photograph, note the reporter-style notebook in the left pocket of the man on the right. Was he also a reporter?  And finally, notice the box at his feet. Could that have been Morton’s camera box?

Are there other possibilities?  What do you think?

Breaking new ground: a transition to Winston-Salem

Prolog
June 5, 1950 was a very special day on the old Wake Forest College campus in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  It was commencement day but it was also the day the College Board of Trustees met and selected Wake’s tenth President.  Near the end of commencement ceremonies, Dean of the College Dr. Daniel Bryan announced that the Board had selected Dr. Harold Wayland Tribble as the new President.  Wake’s college yearbook, Howler, closed its year-end summary for 1950 with these words:

Dr. Tribble enters his new service at the crucial time in both the world and local history. One of his chief jobs during the next few years will be to complete the proposed campus move to Winston-Salem; a move that could presage a new era of Wake Forest service to the South.

Introduction
October 15, 2016 marks the 65th anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Reynolda Campus at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.  The special guest and keynote speaker that day was President Harry S. Truman.  The special ceremony received national media coverage. Like so many important events in North Carolina’s history, Hugh Morton was there with camera in hand to document the proceedings.  On this special anniversary, Morton Collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back to that day in 1951.

President Harry S. Truman giving a speech at a podium at the groundbreaking of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

President Harry S. Truman giving a speech at a podium at the groundbreaking of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

North Carolina’s lead story on March 25, 1946, was that the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem’s  had offered $350,000 a year in perpetuity to Wake Forest College, if it would move from Wake Forest, North Carolina where it had been since its founding in 1834, to a new campus in Winston-Salem. Included as part of the deal was 300 acres of land in the Reynolda area from Charles H. Babcock, a Winston-Salem investment banker.  Also in the package was a $2 million challenge grant from William N. Neal and his niece Nancy Reynolds Babcock to cover building expenses.  The Reynolds Foundation offer and the Babcock land deal would increase substantially by October, 1951.

Although Wake Forest’s medical school had made the move to Winston-Salem in 1941, (now the Bowman Gray School of Medicine,) and set up on the Hawthorne Campus about four miles from the Reynolda site, there was still some opposition to the move.  Over its long history, Wake Forest College always seemed to have the right president in place when crucial events were at hand. That was never truer than on a spring day in 1950 when university leaders selected Dr. Harold W. Tribble to head the Baptist institution.  Dr. Tribble knew how to fuel the challenge-grant drive and quell the opposition.  He was able to do both with extensive travels to address alumni groups, preach sermons, and address gatherings such as Gordon Gray’s inauguration as University of North Carolina system president on October 10, 1950.

The university set a groundbreaking date for October 15, 1951.  Dr. Tribble knew the groundbreaking ceremony had to be special, something that would send a signal that the “move is on.”  He was able to utilize special contacts that Gordon Gray had made during his time as a White House assistant, along with the influence of alumnus Gerald Johnson, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun. Dr. Tribble sent a special invitation to President Harry S. Truman to join in the groundbreaking ceremony.  On the afternoon of October 2, 1951, he received word from Matthew Connelly, one of Truman’s White House aides, that the president had accepted the invitation.

Conservative Baptists weren’t exactly thrilled with the choice of Truman because of his rough language from time to time and his pro-civil rights inclinations.  But the importance of a Truman appearance would bring national media coverage and send that clear signal that Tribble wanted: this move is going to happen.

October 15, 1951 was declared a holiday for the 1,800 students on the old Wake Forest campus.  In the early morning hours, buses were lined up and ready to transport the students to Winston-Salem for the groundbreaking ceremony.  All four of Greensboro’s radio stations were in place to broadcast Truman’s speech, plus there was also a nationwide radio hookup.  And the market’s only TV station at the time, WFMY-TV in Greensboro planned to film the proceedings for later broadcast in their news programs.  By late morning, a threat of rain had disappeared leaving a perfect day for the presidential visit and some serious ceremonial spadework.

A crowd estimated at 4,000 was waiting for the president’s arrival at Smith Reynolds Airport.  The Mineral Springs High School Band entertained the crowd with the march “Our Director” and “The Washington and Lee Swing.”  At 10:13 North Carolina Governor W. Kerr Scott arrived from Raleigh, accompanied by Hugh Morton, member of the state board of Conservation and Development, and Joseph Crawford, former warden at Central Prison.

Two four-engine-planes preceded that of the president: the first carried North Carolina’s congressional delegation while the second carried the Washington press corp.  That second group brought the total number of press members to over 200, including the David Brinkley crew from NBC-TV.  Brinkley, a North Carolina native, had recently joined NBC News in the nation’s capital. Then, at 11:29 AM the president’s plane touched down. At that moment, President Harry S. Truman became the first United States president to visit Winston-Salem since George Washington’s visit during his Southern tour of 1791.  On this day, Truman was aboard a four-engine Air Force transport; his private plane, called the “Independence,” had experienced engine problems and had been left in Washington.

University of North Carolina President Gordon Gray (center) and North Carolina Governor W. Kerr Scott (left) welcoming President Harry Truman at the Winston-Salem airport, as he arrives to attend ground-breaking ceremonies at the new Winston-Salem, N.C. campus of Wake Forest University.

University of North Carolina President Gordon Gray (center) and North Carolina Governor W. Kerr Scott (left) welcoming President Harry Truman at the Winston-Salem airport, as he arrives to attend ground-breaking ceremonies at the new Winston-Salem, N.C. campus of Wake Forest University.

At the foot of the landing platform, Governor Scott, Tribble, Gray, and Winston-Salem Mayor Marshall C. Kurfees greeted Truman, who was accompanied by his aides from each of the military services.  Scott, Tribble, and Truman then made their way across the tarmac where special limousines were waiting.  Crowds lined both sides of the six-mile route to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Babcock, where the president was honored with a special luncheon.  Winston-Salem Police Chief James I. Waller led the motorcade followed by a car of secret service officers.  Along the route, several in the crowd waved small United States flags, and a few others waved the old Confederate flag. In its December 3, 1951 issue Life published a Hugh Morton photograph of a person holding a Confederate flag behind his back as Truman’s automobile passed by. (Our next post will look at that subject in more detail.)  About 240 North Carolina State Highway Patrolmen, assisted by Greensboro and Winston-Salem police officers patrolled the route. The presidential motorcade arrived at Reynolda at noon.

Hugh Morton's photograph cropped as it appears in LIFE, 3 December, 1951, page 107.

Hugh Morton’s photograph cropped as it appears in LIFE, 3 December, 1951, page 107.

At 1:55 PM, the motorcade reformed and headed to the future home of Wake Forest College where a crowd of about 20,000 was already in place. The ceremony began at 2 PM with an invocation by Dr. Ralph W. Herring, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. Dr. Herring was followed by the formal presentation of the land on which the new college would be located, by Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Babcock.  Dr. Casper Warren, Chairman of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention’s fund-raising committee, then presented a one-million-dollar gift for construction of the first campus building, which was to be a chapel.  Accepting both gifts was Judge Hubert E. Olive, President of the Wake Forest College Board of Trustees.  Gordon Gray then delivered greetings from the educational institutions of North Carolina.

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Detail from the image below of Harry S. Truman speaking at the podium.

At approximately 2:30, Tribble introduced the nation’s chief executive.  Truman, a fellow Baptist, then delivered what had been billed as a major policy address.  The president  began with a tribute to the 117-year-history of Wake Forest College.

It is a privilege to join my fellow Baptists in rejoicing at the enlargement and rebuilding of one of our great institutions.  It is a privilege to join the people of North Carolina in celebrating their devotion to freedom of the mind and spirit. . . Wake Forest College has given 117 years of distinguished service to education and religion in this state.  Over the years, the college has sent thousands of graduates out through the land to positions of leadership and trust.

Truman then talked about the tense international situation, saying that many Americans oppose the present costly defense efforts, which he insisted were essential for peace.  He  made an offer to work out a plan of atomic weapons control with Russia adding, “I cannot guarantee that we will reach our goal. The result does not depend entirely on our own efforts. The rulers of the Kremlin can plunge the world into carnage if they desire to do so. . . . The only way they’ll respect and live up to any agreement is because they know someone is strong enough to carry it out.”  This statement brought many in the crowd to their feet.  Truman closed with this: “Armed with faith and hope that made this college and this country great, you may declare in the words of King David, ‘through God we shall do valiantly.'”

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Following the Presidential address, a dedicatory prayer was given by Dr. George D. Heaton, pastor of Myers Park Baptist Church of Charlotte.  Then it was groundbreaking time. The President was handed a decorated shovel and then yelled to the assembled photographers, “All y’all ready?” He then turned the first shovel full of dirt, followed by Judge Olive, then O. M. Mull, chairman of the college building committee.  President Tribble then turned that final shovel full, thus making it official: the construction of the Reynolda Campus of Wake Forest College in Winston-Salem was underway.

The President headed back to the airport for his return to the Nation’s Capital.  He would be home by 4:47 PM.  It would be almost five years before the completion of the first fourteen buildings, in time for the first students who arrived on the Winston-Salem campus in the fall of 1956.

Epilog:

Dr. Harold W. Tribble led Wake Forest College until his retirement on June 6, 1967.  In his seventeen-year term as president of the school, assets increased from about $10.5 million to more than $91 million and the number of students grew from 1,800 to 3.000.
When Dr. Tribble took office in May of 1950 he had two dreams for the school.  One of those dreams was fulfilled in the fall of 1956 when the first students arrived on the Winston-Salem campus. The second was to see Wake Forest College achieve University status, which it achieved on June 18, 1967—twelve days before Dr. Tribble retired.

Wake Forest’s finest golfer: Arnold Palmer (1929–2016)

Arnold Palmer (center) shakes hands with Howie Johnson after the 1958 Azalea Open Golf Tournament at the Cape Fear Country Club, Wilmington, NC. Azalea Festival Queen Ester Williams smiles between the two good friends. Photograph by Hugh Morton, cropped by the author.

Arnold Palmer (center) shakes hands with Howie Johnson after the 1958 Azalea Open Golf Tournament at the Cape Fear Country Club, Wilmington, NC. Azalea Festival Queen Ester Williams smiles between the two good friends. Photograph by Hugh Morton, cropped by the author.

If I were to write a short story about this afternoon, I would title it “A Tale of Two Sweaters.”

Arnold Palmer, Wake Forest’s finest golfer who also was one of the game’s greatest players, course designers, and ambassadors, died yesterday.  Earlier today, the Wilson Library reference staff received a request from a Wilmington media outlet for two images from the online collection of images of Palmer at the Azalea Open.  Both images had dates of 31 March 1957; one scan came from a negative (cropped by the author) . . .

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the other (below) from a print with no identifying information on its back.

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I quickly noticed that Palmer was not wearing the same sweater in both images, and that the women were also wearing different clothes.  A bit of digging in newspapers on microfilm and online, plus a check with other Morton negatives that are not online (including the scan at the beginning of this post) led to the discovery that the first of these two images was correctly identified.  It depicts the check presentation from Azalea Festival Queen Kathryn Grayson to Palmer after he won the 1957 open, but Morton made the latter after the 1958 tournament.

Here’s is the short storyline for the 1958 Azalea Open finale: Arnold Palmer was the defending champion, but finished second to Howie Johnson after losing a playoff round by one stroke. Palmer and Johnson were reportedly very good friends at the the time.  The following week, Palmer won his first Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Ironically, Palmer and Johnson died almost exactly one year apart: Howie Johnson died September 21, 2015.

 

 

The “Heels” and the “Dawgs:” a storied rivalry

UNC will kick off the 2016 football season in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on September 3rd at 5:30 PM (Eastern) on ESPN.  It’s the “Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game” between Carolina’s Tar Heels and Georgia’s Bulldogs. The game will mark the thirty-first meeting between the two old rivals in a series that dates back to 1895. Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look back at this historic series.

Cover of the official program for the 1956 UNC Homecoming football game against the University of Georgia. Handlebar mustaches would have been more popular in the late 1890s, so perhaps the cover design was a throwback to the early days of the UNC–Georgia series. The 1956 contest marked the silver anniversary between the football squads of what the cover story declared to be the "two oldest state institutions" in the South. Those in the know know which school was the first to open its door and admit students!

Cover of the official program for the 1956 UNC Homecoming football game against the University of Georgia. Handlebar mustaches would have been more popular in the late 1890s, so perhaps the cover design was a throwback to the early days of the UNC–Georgia series. The 1956 contest marked the silver anniversary between the football squads of what the cover story declared to be the “two oldest state institutions” in the South. Those in the know know which school was the first to open its door and admit students!

When Carolina and Georgia square off in the “Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game” on September 3rd, it will mark the 7th time the two teams have played in Atlanta.  Of the first three games in the series played there, Carolina won two games in 1895 and Georgia won the third game, 24 to 16, on October 31, 1896.  In 1898 the two teams played in Macon, Georgia before returning to Atlanta in 1899.  In 1900 these foes met in Raleigh, where Carolina won in a rout 55 to 0. Then in 1901 it was back to Atlanta where Carolina shut out the Dogs for a second straight year, this time 27 to 0.

Twelve seasons passed before the two teams met again. The 1913 game was a 19 to 6 Georgia victory at Sanford Field in Athens, Georgia. The sixth and most recent game (until 2016) in Atlanta was played on October 17, 1914—a game the Tar Heels won 41 to 6. There were no games between the two between the years 1915 and 1928.

The teams renewed their series on October 19, 1929 when Georgia visited Chapel Hill for the first time.  The game played in Kenan Memorial Stadium turned out to be a tough 19-to-12 loss for the Heels.  During the next five seasons, the two teams rotated home and away with Georgia winning in 1930, 1931, and 1933, while Carolina could win only in 1934. The game in 1932 ended in a 6–6 tie.

Once again, twelve seasons played out before the two teams met next, and this was a big one: the 1947 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.  Photographer Hugh Morton planned to attend, but had a last-minute-in-flight change of plans.  “I missed the 1947 Sugar Bowl against Georgia,” Morton explained in a 1992 game-day program, because bad flying weather diverted some other Tar Heel rooters and me to St. Petersburg instead of New Orleans.”

Most long-time Tar Heels know the 1947 Sugar Bowl story: Carolina’s first bowl game . . . battle of the “Charlies,” Justice and Trippi . . . controversial call . . . a Georgia victory, 20 to 10.  (You can read a longer version of the story via the link.)

On opening day, September 27, 1947, Georgia head coach Wally Butts brought his Bulldogs into Chapel Hill before 43,000 fans for the “rematch” of the Sugar Bowl.  I don’t believe the national attention this game brought to Chapel Hill as ever been equaled. Fifty-five reporters filled the press box; photographers, including Hugh Morton, lined the sidelines.  Present were all five movie newsreel services (MGM, Warner Bros–Pathe, Fox Movietone, Universal, and Paramount) and five radio networks (ABC, CBS, Atlantic, Tobacco Sports, and the Georgia Sports Network). The networks transmitted the play-by-play via 600 stations. Nationally known sportscasters Harry Wismer from ABC and Red Barber from CBS were on hand. Two Walt Pupa touchdown passes, one to Bob Cox and one to Art Weiner, sealed the 14 to 7 Carolina victory.  Hugh Morton’s picture of Weiner from the ’47 Georgia game is a classic and has been reproduced many times over the years. It was Georgia’s first loss in eighteen games over three seasons.

Art Weiner catching pass versus Georgia.

UNC left end Art Weiner catches pass during game against Georgia at Kenan Stadium, September 27, 1947. UNC tailback Charlie Justice (left) looks on from a distance while Georgia’s Dan Edwards (#55) watches from a few yards away.

When Carolina returned to Athens for the 1948 game, Charlie Justice had his best day ever, gaining 304 total yards in a 21 to 14 Tar Heel win.

It was another Art Weiner day in Chapel Hill on October 1, 1949, as the All America end caught two touchdown passes to lead Carolina to a third straight seven-point victory over Georgia—again 21 to 14 to the delight of 44,000 fans in Kenan.  In a 1992 interview, Art Weiner described his 33-yard 4th quarter touchdown as one of his proudest moments during his time in Chapel Hill.

On October 7, 1950, it was back to Athens for the 20th meeting between Carolina and Georgia. I have some special memories from this game as I sat at home in Asheboro, North Carolina listening to the play-by-play on the Tobacco Sports Network. Normally the play-by-play announcer would be Ray Reeve, but on this day he was not able to be behind the microphone and my future dear friend and sports anchor at WFMY-TV in Greensboro, Charlie Harville did the broadcast. In the end it was a 0 to 0 tie…the second time for a tie game in the long history of the series.

Festivities for the 1951 Carolina – Georgia game got off to an unusual start. On Friday night, September 28th, a torchlight parade through downtown Chapel Hill and across campus was followed by a pep rally in Memorial Hall that featured both head coaches, Carl Snavely from Carolina and Wally Butts from Georgia. The 1951 Tar Heel football team, led by Captain Joe Dudeck, made a dramatic entrance down the center aisle and onto the stage. In addition to the speeches from the head coaches, Kay Kyser, UNC’s All-Time Cheerleader, led the packed-house in a rousing cheer.

But on Saturday, in Kenan Stadium, it was all Bulldogs, 28 to 16.

The 1952 meeting between Carolina and Georgia was scheduled for October 4th, but two days before, UNC was forced to cancel the game because of a polio outbreak on campus. Georgia Head Coach Wally Butts said, “We are very disappointed that our traditional game with North Carolina can’t be played. We feel they were right to cancel the game under the circumstances.”

Starting with the 1953 game in Athens, the Dogs went on a 4 game winning streak ending with a 26 to 12 win to spoil homecoming in Chapel Hill on October 13, 1956 in front of only 19,000 fans. That ’56 game was the silver anniversary game in the series.

Hugh Morton's action photograph of the 1956 UNC versus Georgia game, as published in the October 15, 1956 issue of The Charlotte News. The caption identifies the ball carrier as George Whitton, but the game day program does not include his name and lists #32 as Ed Burkhalter.

Hugh Morton’s action photograph of the 1956 UNC versus Georgia game, as published in the October 15, 1956 issue of The Charlotte News. The caption identifies the ball carrier as George Whitton, but the game day program does not include his name and lists #32 as Ed Burkhalter.

Hugh Morton's negative of the above scene, without cropping.

Hugh Morton’s negative of the above scene, without cropping.

The teams would not meet again until the 1963 season. Going into that season’s game in Chapel Hill on November 2nd, the series stood at twelve wins for Georgia, eleven wins for Carolina, and two ties.  After Carolina’s 28 to 7 win the series was tied at twelve.  As it turned out, that UNC victory would be its last win over Georgia.  The Tar Heels subsequently lost in 1964, ’65, and ’66 as well as the last time these two teams met in the 1971 Gator Bowl—a game that was billed as the “Battle of the Brothers” between Vince Dooley of Georgia and Bill Dooley of Carolina.

That 1971 New Year’s Eve battle in Jacksonville, Florida was UNC’s sixth bowl game appearance going back to the 1947 Sugar Bowl game against Georgia.  After a scoreless first half, Carolina took a 3 to 0 lead in the 3rd quarter on a 35-yard field goal by Ken Craven, but Georgia came back later in the third with a 25-yard Jimmy Poulos TD run. Following the point-after, that was all the scoring that day. Georgia won the defensive battle 7 to 3.  (Hugh Morton was otherwise preoccupied and did not travel to photograph the bowl game.)  Carolina has not played Georgia since that day.  Tomorrow’s 2016 season opener will renew the storied rivalry.

World Photography Day, 2016

Scene photographed by Hugh Morton during a Grandfather Mountain Camera Clinic sometime in the early 1950s as attendees practice their portraiture technique. The photographers' models are (left to right) an unknown woman in Indian headdress, Osley Bird Saunooke, Chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians from 1951-1955, and golfer Billy Joe Patton. Grandfather Mountain still runs the clinic, which was held there last weekend. (Photograph cropped by editor.)

Scene photographed by Hugh Morton during a Grandfather Mountain Camera Clinic sometime in the early 1950s as attendees practice their portraiture technique. The photographers’ models are (left to right) an unknown woman in Indian headdress, Osley Bird Saunooke, Chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians from 1951-1955, and golfer Billy Joe Patton. Grandfather Mountain still runs the clinic, which was held there last weekend. (Photograph cropped by editor.)

Today is the sixth annual World Photography Day, established to honor the French government’s declaration on August 19, 1839 that made the daguerreotype process “free to the world.”  The French government acquired the rights to the process from Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in exchange for a lifelong pension.

There are many ways to celebrate World Photography Day, and what better way while you are here at A View to Hugh than to read (or reread) some of the 368 previously published blog posts available from the home page either by clicking on one of the categories listed in the right column or entering a search in the search box near the top of the page.  You may also explore more than 7,500 photographs in the online digital collection, or search for your favorite topics in the finding aid that represents the approximately 250,000 items in the Hugh Morton collection.

And what if you find yourself in Raleigh today?  Then be sure to visit the exhibition Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective at the North Carolina Museum of History.

And by all means make a photograph today!

 

Picture Day 1946: When Hugh met Charlie

The summer hiatus here at A View to Hugh is winding down as students begin appearing on campus this weekend.  Hot August days have returned to Chapel Hill and football practice is underway for the 2016 season.  Expectations are high for the Tar Heels just as it was seventy seasons ago.  Today, on this anniversary of the birth of a very special friendship, Hugh Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back to August 17, 1946.

Charlie Justice standing with Hugh Morton. Justice is wearing the #22 jersey recovered in November 1948 by UNC President C. D. Spangler during a UNC-Virginia football game. This photograph dates from the late 1990s to early 2000s.

Charlie Justice standing with Hugh Morton. Justice is wearing the #22 jersey recovered in November 1948 by UNC President C. D. Spangler during a UNC-Virginia football game. This photograph dates from the late 1990s to early 2000s.

It was early August, 1946, and it was hot. The annual preseason football magazines had just hit the stands and judging from those traditional predictors, Carolina was going to be something special. Sportswriter Jack Troy wrote in the 1946 issue of Street & Smith Football Pictorial Yearbook:

. . . the Tar Heels are about ready to step back into the picture as a national football power.  During the winter the Tar Heels snatched Charlie Justice from under the noses of South Carolina coaches, and Justice is supposed to be one of the best ball carriers in the business.

On August 17, 1946, Head Coach Carl Snavely greeted 104 Tar Heel candidates along with Kay Kyser, headline radio star and considered Carolina’s greatest all-time cheerleader. Also present was University President Dr. Frank Porter Graham. Of the 104, only 18 were returning lettermen, but Snavely said he expected about 10 additional lettermen by August 26th. By the time editor Jake Wade got the ’46 Football Media Guide published, the lettermen count was 31.

One of the most welcomed lettermen returning was Hosea Rodgers, a 200-pound fullback who led Carolina to a 9 to 6 victory over Pennsylvania back in 1943. Many of the freshmen were returning World War II veterans in their 20s—like freshman Charlie Justice, sometimes called the “Bainbridge Flash.” Justice was the one player who was going to make a good Carolina team great.

With the stage set, practice got underway.  Although classes had not officially begun, there were many students already on campus.  It wasn’t unusual for two or three hundred students to show up for Carolina’s practices.  One of the early official team functions was called picture day, when the players dress out in their game day uniforms and talk with the media and pose for photographs. Of course one of those photographers present was Hugh Morton.  Here’s how Justice described the scene that day for biographer Bob Terrell in a 1995 interview:

The first time I saw Hugh Morton was in August of 1946. The weather was hot and we were practicing twice a day. Sunday was an off day and Snavely and his staff decided that was the day they’d have the press come in and take pictures, get interviews, and so forth. . . We started at two o’clock, and it seemed that everybody in the country was there to shoot pictures. I noticed Hugh Morton on the sidelines, paying no attention to me at all, taking pictures of everybody else.

After about two and a half hours, Snavely said “that’s it guys,” and told the players they could go inside out of the heat.  As the Tar Heels were leaving the field, UNC Publicity Director Robert Madry’s Assistant Jake Wade came over to Justice and said: “Charlie, I’d like for you to meet Hugh Morton. He’s a great friend of the University. He’d like to take a few more shots.”  According to Justice, “We stayed there another two hours, hot as it was, and everything had to be just perfect.”

Finally Morton finished up and as the August sun was setting behind the west end zone, Charlie began the long walk to the Kenan Field House dressing room at the other end of Kenan Stadium. “I didn’t say anything at the time,” Justice said, ”but when I got in the dressing room, everybody had already left. I said, ‘I hope I never see him again.'”

Charlie Justice photograph of Charlie Justice in a posed portrait while punting, circa 1946-1947.

Charlie Justice photograph of Charlie Justice in a posed portrait while punting, circa 1946-1947.

But Charlie did see Hugh again . . . often . . . at practice and on the Kenan sideline almost every Saturday afternoon. They would often carry on extended conversations, and in the end they became friends, a friendship that lasted 57 years. Justice often participated with Hugh at the Azalea Festival in Wilmington and at the Highland Games and other events at Grandfather Mountain. When Hugh Morton announced his candidacy for governor on December 1, 1971 Charlie Justice was with him in front of the Capitol in Raleigh.

“He supported me wholeheartedly,” said Justice, “not just at Carolina, either. When I got to the Redskins, I turned around on the field and there was Hugh shooting pictures. Because of him, I suppose my football career was preserved on film as well as anybody’s ever was. . . . When I went into the [College Football] Hall of Fame, he got Governor Luther Hodges’s plane and flew Sarah, me, and his wife Julia to New York—when we got there we discovered that the girls couldn’t got to the banquet. So Sarah and Julia went over to Broadway and saw My Fair Lady that night. Then we flew back to Raleigh.”

Justice treasured men like Hugh Morton as his friends, and the honor was returned. “We didn’t have ESPN or the Internet back then,” Justice said. “But we didn’t need ’em. We had Hugh Morton. What a great friend he was to our team and to Carolina.”

Hugh Morton photograph of UNC fullback Hosea Rodgers (#70) and left end Bob Cox (#49), late 1940s.

Hugh Morton photograph of UNC fullback Hosea Rodgers (#70) and left end Bob Cox (#49), late 1940s.

“I can close my eyes and still see him with that camera around his neck,” said Bob Cox, an end and place-kicker from the 1946 Tar Heels, “Hugh was always around the team, around the program. He gave meaning to what we were doing. If anyone ever stood for the Carolina tradition, it was Hugh Morton. He helped build the pride and spirit and love for Carolina as much as anyone on the team.”

On a day in late May of 2001, Hugh Morton, along with several Tar Heel friends visited Charlie and Sarah Justice at their home in Cherryville. Of course Hugh was taking pictures, but at one point he stopped and said, “Charlie Justice inspired more loyalty at a key time following the war that was reflected in a huge amount of support for every facet of the University, not just athletics. It would be impossible to put a value on his contributions to the University—it would be in the real big millions.”

On Monday, October 20, 2003, my wife Marla and I, along with 200 plus others, attended the memorial service for Charlie Justice at The Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville. We were seated on the right side of the church where we could see many of the special guests from the Tar Heel Nation seated in the center. Among that group was Hugh Morton. He, like all of us, was obviously emotionally shaken. I think it was the first and possibly the only time I ever saw him at a Charlie Justice event without his camera.

Morton “Uncommon Retrospective” opens in Raleigh

NCMH_flyer_PhotographsByHughMorton

Today is the official opening of Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, North Carolina—the sixth venue for the exhibition since its debut in August 2013 at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University in Boone.  The exhibition will be at the museum for more than a year!  Admission is free.  If you are looking for ways to beat triple-digit heat index temperatures this weekend, a visit to the North Carolina Museum of History may be just the ticket.  The exhibition looks terrific!  The museum’s staff designed the exhibition to flow chronologically and several images sport new descriptive labels, so if you’ve seen the exhibition once before it is worth seeing it again.

There will be several programs related to the exhibition in the coming months, including “Hugh Morton, More Than Bridges and Bears” with Hugh Morton’s grandson Jack Morton and me in early December.  I will post more about that event as the date draws near.

The Games and Gatherings in the Meadows at Grandfather: The Beginning

"Scottish Clans 1956" by Hugh Morton (cropped by the editor).

“Scottish Clans 1956” by Hugh Morton (cropped by the editor).

The 61st annual “Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans” takes place in Linville’s MacRae Meadows from July 7th through July 10th, 2016. This spectacular happening has become one of the most popular and colorful events of its type in all of North America. As we celebrate once again this mountain event, Morton Collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks at the first “gathering and games” back in 1956.

. . . there is the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of the Scottish Clans, which must be seen to be believed.  Powerful men wearing skirts compete in tossing telephone poles about.  Who can explain such a thing? It is Scottish.
—CBS News legend and Hugh Morton’s friend, Charles Kuralt, June 7, 1996

Sunday, August 19, 1956 was a special day at MacRae Meadows in the shadows of Grandfather Mountain. On that day, the first Highland Games ever held in the South were staged to the delight of about 10,000 spectators according to The Asheville Citizen issue of August 20th.

Many months of planning and preparation had gone into the event and according to the 1976 Souvenir Programme and Review booklet, the idea for a gathering began to take shape when Mrs. J. W. Morton (Agnes MacRae) read an article about Scottish gatherings in other areas and began talking about the idea for a gathering at Grandfather Mountain. One of the people she contacted, in 1955, was Donald F. McDonald of Charlotte.

Donald MacDonald dancing the Highland Fling while an unidentified woman plays accordion at the first Highland Games in 1956 near Grandfather Mountain, N. C. (Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the editor.)

Donald MacDonald dancing the Highland Fling while an unidentified woman plays accordion at the first Highland Games in 1956 near Grandfather Mountain, N. C. (Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the editor.)

McDonald had attended Scotland’s famous Braemar Gathering in 1954 and suggested that highland games would attract more visitors than just a reunion of individual clans.  Morton and McDonald planned for a one-day event, based on the Braemar Gathering with performances of Scottish songs and dances along with athletic events including foot races, wresting, the high jump, and the shot put.  Even today, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans is often called “America’s Braemar.”

The festivities started that morning in 1956 at 11 o’clock with a church service conducted by Mr. MacDonald.  Honored guests were introduced next.  Two bands were present: the Washington, D. C., St. Andrew’s Society Pipe Band under the direction of Pipe Major Gene Castleberry, and “The Fighting Scots” Brass from Scotland County High School in Laurinburg, N. C.

The highland dance competition was held on a large platform as was the piping competition.  Major Castleberry won the professional bag piping competition, and William Firestone of Cumberland, Virginia took home the novice piping honors.

The field activities took place in both the East and the West Meadows.  A racing path was marked off in the same area where an oval track would be built in 1958.  The track and field competition included a 60-yard and a 100-yard dash, a 2-mile cross-country race, pole vaulting, and a tug o’ war.

Man tossing caber with spectators in background at the first annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in 1956. Notice the caber tosser is in stocking feet and that the judge is barefooted. Photograph by Hugh Morton.

Man tossing caber with spectators in background at the first annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in 1956. Notice the caber tosser is in stocking feet and that the judge is barefooted. Photograph by Hugh Morton.

One of the highlights of the day was the caber toss (sometimes called “turning the caber,” which requires the athlete to flip a telephone pole-sized tree trunk end-over-end for distance and accuracy). Ronald Patterson, a student from Appalachian State Teachers College (today’s Appalachian State University), won the competition.  He tossed the 200-hundred pound caber 36 feet, 10 inches.  Patterson also won the shot put contest. Other track-and-field winners included Leslie Taylor of Charlotte, high-jump; Clyde Autin of Boone, cross-country; Paul Arrington of Charlotte, broad-jump; and Vance Houston of Charlotte, 60-yard dash.

Girl in Scottish attire dancing on a wooden platform, with crowd watching and Grandfather Mountain in the background, during the 1956 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Photograph by Hugh Morton.

Girl in Scottish attire dancing on a wooden platform, with crowd watching and Grandfather Mountain in the background, during the 1956 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Photograph by Hugh Morton.

The Asheville newspaper described the Highland dance competition winner as “an Asheville lassie, little red-haired Margaret Fletcher.”  She also received the trophy as the best all around dancer.  (An interesting side note here: little Margaret Fletcher’s older sister, Maria, was crowned Miss North Carolina in the summer of 1961 and went on to become North Carolina’s only Miss America that September).

Lads, Lassies Twirl Tartans, Roll R’s —The Greensboro Daily News, August 20, 1956

The continuing success of the highland games at Grandfather is due in large measure to the beautiful setting.  Agnes MacRae Morton’s father, Hugh MacRae, developed the town of Linville at the foot of Grandfather Mountain in Avery County. The rugged terrain is similar to the landscape of some areas of Scotland. Morton volunteered the use of MacRae Meadows and the Morton family has continued to support the gathering and games for over sixty years with Agnes Morton’s son, Hugh MacRae Morton, taking a significant role in the promotion of the events with his magnificent photographic and public relations skills prior to his death a little more than one month before the 2006 games. For the 1956 event, Morton was able to land a magazine cover image for The State showing Donald MacDonald, Chieftain of the ’56 games, beside Angus MacKinnon MacBryde of the Isle of Mull, Scotland.  The August 11th issue promoted the upcoming games on the 19th.

The gathering and games, now held annually the second full weekend in July, regularly attract more than 30,000 and have made not just the event, but the entire region synonymous with Scottish heritage.  Hugh Morton, in his 2003 book, Hugh Morton’s North Carolina, says “the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games are considered one of the best Scottish-heritage events in the world . . .”  And Harris Prevost, who as News Director for the 1984 games, proclaimed in a news release: “Some people may attend highland games but the people who come to Grandfather live them!”

A climb to the bridge

During Memorial Day weekend 2016, two great auto racing events took time to remember and honor troops: the Indianapolis 500 at Speedway, Indiana, which ran its 100th race, and the Coca-Cola 600 at Concord, North Carolina, which ran its 57th race.  The latter, held at Charlotte Motor Speedway ran its first event on June 19, 1960 and was called “The World 600.”  Fifteen days before that first run, on June 4th, another racing event in North Carolina ran its 8th annual event at Grandfather Mountain.

Usually when one thinks of events at Grandfather Mountain, the Highland Games and Singing on the Mountain immediately come to mind.  But during the 1950s and early 1960s, there was another event that drew considerable attention.  Today, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look back at the Grandfather Mountain Sports Car Hill Climb.

Car #22 racing to the top during the 1957 Grandfather Mountain Sports Car Hill Climb. (Photograph cropped by the editor.)

Car #22 racing to the top during the 1957 Grandfather Mountain Sports Car Hill Climb. (Photograph cropped by the editor.)

On a June day in 1953, nine months after Hugh Morton and his team at Grandfather Mountain dedicated the Mile High Swinging Bridge, a small group of sports car enthusiasts from the Greensboro-Burlington-Winston chapter of the Sports Car Club of North Carolina gathered on the road at the foot of the historic mountain.  They, along with Morton, wanted to see how fast they could climb the winding two-and-a half-mile road with an elevation increase of 1,000 feet during a race to the top against the clock.  An average tourist driver would take about ten minutes to maneuver the 28-turn trip to the Swinging Bridge, but these sports cars, with their tremendous horsepower, could do it much faster.  On that June day a Jaguar made the run in 4 minutes, 55 seconds—and the idea for a “hill climb” caught on.  A new event would be added to the Grandfather Mountain summer calendar.

In late May, 1954, Hugh Morton sent out the following press release:

Two events you’re likely to enjoy take place at Grandfather Mountain the weekend of June 5-6. . . The mile-high kite flying contest was the idea of Fox-Movietone News and has met with such enthusiasm that now it promises to be a show of great proportions . . . .  A sports car race is something that was tried with great success last year at Grandfather on a relatively small scale . . . this year the Greensboro-Burlington-Winston chapter of the Sports Car Club of North Carolina will be joined by MG and Jaguar fanciers from the Charlotte area and all over for a really big affair.  The Grandfather Mountain road gains elevation in a hurry and has one or two curves, so it’s a natural for the sports car folks.  Mystery-thriller writer Mickey Spillane, who sells by the millions those books your wife won’t let you read, is scheduled for pace-setter in the race.

On Saturday night, June 5, 1954, Spillane made the 400-mile trip from Myrtle Beach in time for the first run up the mountain, scheduled for 10 o’clock on Sunday morning.  Thirty-four drivers competed, and a crowd estimated at 1,000 cheered them on.  At the end of the day Maurice Poole, Jr., from Greensboro, was the overall winner driving a Riley touring car in a record time of 3 minutes, 55 seconds.

Hugh Morton labeled this negative "Sports Car Hill Climb" but he did not provide the date. After examining a high resolution scan of the negative, the third line of inscription on the trophy on the left appears to end in "1954." If so, the overall winner that year was Maurice Poole, Jr. of Greensboro, North Carolina. The Class A competition winner was Tony Haigh of Hampton, Virginia. Maurice Poole, Jr. was the Class B winner, and the Class C winner was John Belk of Hickory, North Carolina. Do those names match up with these faces? And is the person on the left Mickey Spillane? That's a mighty low part on the right side of the awards presenter's head and might be a good feature for comparing against known portraits of the famed detective novelist. (Photograph cropped by the editor.)

Hugh Morton labeled this negative “Sports Car Hill Climb” but he did not provide the date. After examining a high resolution scan of the negative, the third line of inscription on the trophy on the left appears to end in “1954.” If so, the overall winner that year was Maurice Poole, Jr. of Greensboro, North Carolina. The Class A competition winner was Tony Haigh of Hampton, Virginia. Maurice Poole, Jr. was the Class B winner, and the Class C winner was John Belk of Hickory, North Carolina. Do those names match up with these faces? And is the person on the left Mickey Spillane? That’s a mighty low part on the right side of the awards presenter’s head and might be a good feature for comparing against known portraits of the famed detective novelist. (Photograph cropped by the editor.)

A year later, the third annual Grandfather Mountain Hill Climb was staged on June 3rd and 4th, 1955—third annual if you count that unofficial run in 1953.  This time sixty drivers were on hand with more than twenty-five of them driving Jaguars.  ’54 winner Maurice Poole was the man to beat on this day, but he had changed his winning Riley for a ’55 modified Jag.  When the dust had settled on Sunday afternoon, a Chevrolet-powered V8 MG driven by Jimmy Kaperoms had set a new record of 3 minutes, 33 seconds.

In the June ’56 hill climb, Winston-Salem’s Ed Welch, driving a Mercury-powered Bob Davis Special set yet another record over the crushed-gravel course, climbing the hill with a time of 3:25.3.  Welch, having won three class races at Grandfather over the years, was awarded the Dennis Strong Memorial Trophy, which was named for one of the founders of the Grandfather Mountain race.  Strong was killed in 1953 during a sports car race in Greensboro.

Almost 100 drivers registered for the 1957 hill climb, and Hugh Morton brought in his old friend from Morganton, golfer Billy Joe Patton to make the trophy presentations.  Helping Patton was “Queen of the Hill Climb” Betty Jean Goodwin from Spartanburg, South Carolina, a Wake Forest coed. The ’57 winner was once again Ed Welch and again he set a record of 3:23.1 to the delight of the more than 3,000 spectators.

Spectators watching woman kissing man on cheek who is receiving trophy, probably for winning the Sports Car Hill Climb event at Grandfather Mountain, N. C. Golfer Billy Joe Patton at left. From a negative labeled "Sports Cars '57" by Hugh Morton.

Spectators watching woman kissing man on cheek who is receiving trophy, probably for winning the Sports Car Hill Climb event at Grandfather Mountain, N. C. Golfer Billy Joe Patton at left. From a negative labeled “Sports Cars ’57” by Hugh Morton.

A unique situation occurred at the 1958 hill climb: the new winning driver drove the defending champion’s old car.  When Billy Joe Patton, along with 1958 Queen Judy Kincaid, presented the winning trophy to Phil Styles of Burnsville, he stood beside that same Mercury-powered Davis Special that Ed Welch had driven in ’57.  Styles continued the tradition by setting a record run of 3:19.9.

The first weekend in June of 1959 proved to be a busy time at Grandfather Mountain.  The Carolina Golf Writers Association held a tournament at the Linville Country Club and that was followed by a second tournament sponsored by the Carolinas Golf Association pros—and fifty drivers ran the Grandfather Mountain Hill Climb, now in its sixth year.  The late arrival of the radio car delayed the start of the race, and overcast skies and windy conditions prevented a record run, but 5,000 spectators saw Phil Styles of Burnsville power his Davis Special to a winning time of 3:28 to receive the Julian Morton Cup by Queen Norma Jean McMillan.

The 1960 race was interrupted by showers, but the 4,000 spectators didn’t seem to mind as they cheered Austin-Healey driver J. T. Putney from Asheville as the overall winner.  Hill Climb Queen Jane Joyner from Raleigh, and UNC football legend Charlie Justice presented the Julian Morton Cup to Putney.

The Grandfather Mountain Hill Climb became the oldest sports car event in the south with the 1961 event as drivers from six states competed.  The estimated crowd of 6,000 saw a whopping 17.8 seconds clipped off Phil Styles’s 1958 record.  Orlando, Florida driver Bill Stuckworth set the new mark of 3:02.1 driving a Siata-Corvette.

The 1962 Grandfather Mountain Hill Climb was originally scheduled for June 9-10, but on May, 11, 1962, Hugh Morton made an important announcement.  “We have been pleased with the sponsorship of the sports car hill climb at Grandfather Mountain for the past eight years, and are quite relieved that in those years we have not had an accident in which either driver or spectator was seriously injured.  We have decided to quit the event while we are ahead.

Spectators watching the Grandfather Mountain Sports Car Hill Climb circa the early 1960s. (Photograph cropped by the editor.)

Spectators watching the Grandfather Mountain Sports Car Hill Climb circa the early 1960s. (Photograph cropped by the editor.)

“As the Grandfather Mountain climb became more popular, it became increasingly difficult to run it without having spectators too close to the road while the sports cars were racing against the clock at high speeds and spectators were climbing to precarious places to watch the event. . . . Our principal concern has always been that a thoughtless spectator could be seriously hurt, since we could not control spectator behavior along the two and a half mile road leading to the parking area near the Mile High Swinging Bridge.”

In early June, the Sports Car Club of America announced the scheduling of a four-hour endurance race for June 10, 1962 in Columbia, South Carolina to replace the Grandfather Mountain event.

Twenty four years later, in the spring of 1985, Morton was approached by a group of sports car drivers from the Chimney Rock Hill Climb, wanting him to revisit the climb at Grandfather.  Although he knew it would be a challenge, Morton wanted to help the guys so he set up a modified course and scheduled an early June race date. The new course would be one-mile in length from the parking lot at the habitat area to the parking lot at the Mile High Swinging Bridge. It would have a vertical rise of 600 feet, and feature thirteen turns that sports writer John Davidson described as ranging from fast sweepers to first gear ‘creepers.’

Race day dawned wet and foggy, but Mike Green, driving a “Chap-Mazda Special” was able to post a winning time of 1:13.982 on the short course.  As Morton suspected, the day was far from a success.  Grandfather Mountain’s Harris Prevost, Vice President of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, described that race day situation:

“Obviously, we could not have anyone else on the summit road when they were racing. Thus, everywhere there was a chance a car could pull out on the road, we had to have someone there to keep them where they were . . . people at the two picnic areas, Black Rock Parking Lot, Nature Museum and Top, all had to stay in place until all the cars made their run. This did not sit well with our guests, to say the least. . . . Being told to wait 30-45 minutes did not work.”

Before the race day ended, discussions were already underway about the future of the race. It was agreed to move the 1986 event to a September time when normal Grandfather traffic would be less. The September time was a goodwill gesture but it didn’t work much better, plus the number of spectators had dwindled to just a few friends of drivers.  So, the event was once again discontinued and those Chimney Rock drivers moved to Beech Mountain where they started a new event.

In 2014, Arcadia Publishers of Charleston, South Carolina published a Grandfather Mountain book as part of their “Images of America” series.  On the front cover, the editors chose an action photograph of the Bob Davis Special at one of the 1950s climb to the top. (The image was taken by Hugh Morton photographic contemporary Sebastian Sommer).

The Morton collection finding aid lists more than 300 photographs of the Grandfather Mountain Sports Car Hill Climb, 17 of which are viewable online.