The birth of Gorges State Park

North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt signing the "Gorges Bill" on July 8, 1997. The second (fully visible) person from the left is R. Michael Leonard, recognized from another Morton image in the online collection and confirmed by a quote in the Asheville Times. At the time Leonard was an attorney with the firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge, and Rice. The others in the photograph are unidentified.

North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt signing the “Gorges Bill” on July 8, 1997. The second (fully visible) person from the left is R. Michael Leonard, recognized from another Morton image in the online collection and confirmed by a quote in the Asheville Citizen-Times. At the time Leonard was an attorney with the firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge, and Rice. The others in the photograph are unidentified.

This past Saturday, July 8th, marked the twentieth anniversary of North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt signing “An Act to Authorize the Addition to the State Parks System of Certain Lands Located in Transylvania County Adjacent to Jocassee Lake”—or, as Hugh Morton labeled his negatives, the “Gorges Bill.”  The act had been Senate Bill 537, then became Chapter 276 in Session Laws and Resolutions Passed by the 1997 General Assembly . . . [shortened title].  The legislators behind the bill were State Senator Tommy Jenkins, Democrat (possibly the person on the far right in the photograph above) and Representative William Ives, Republican from Transylvania County.

July 8, 1997 was a busy day for Governor Hunt.  Earlier in the day, he attended the memorial service for Charles Kuralt.  Morton’s negatives for both events are on the same roll of film.  Hunt wears the same tie in all of the photographs, and that was the tip off that both events occurred on the same day.  According to Session Laws and Resolutions it became law “upon approval of the Governor at 4:50 p.m. on the 8th day of July, 1997.”

Curiosity and thoroughness sent me back to the collection finding aid to see what else Hugh Morton may have photographed related to the Gorges.  I found another roll of film dated April 1997 with Gov. Hunt, Bill Grigg, and Gorges Park among the names written on the envelope.  Grigg was Chairman of Duke Power Company, which owned the land.  Inside the envelope are nineteen negatives and six prints including the two images below.

Chairman of Duke Power Company, Bill Grigg, and Governor Jim Hunt during a flyover to view the land that would become Gorges State Park, April 1997. (Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the author.)

Chairman of Duke Power Company, Bill Grigg, and Governor Jim Hunt during a flyover to view the land that would become Gorges State Park, April 1997. (Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the author.)

An Asheville Citizens-Times news article titled, “Hunt signs deal allowing Jocassee purchase” published on July 9, 1997 that reported the news story included a quote from Hunt saying, “I have flown over it.  This is wonderful property and the state ought to have it.”  The article mentioned that the bill contained no appropriation to acquire the land.  It simply permitted the state parks system to “pursue the purchase.”  The article also stated that “Hunt gave a pep talk to area lawmakers, including Sen. Robert Carpenter, R-Macon, state agency officials and environmentalists assembled for a photo op.”  Hunt “strongly suggested” that the state would “raise the money through a combination of publicly held grants, private sources and maybe a legislative appropriation.”  The article concluded with a statement that R. Michael Leonard of the law firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice (seen in the group portrait above) had received a commitment of $1.25 million from two anonymous private donors.  The state purchased the land and officially dedicated Gorges State Park in 1999.

Hugh Morton's bird's-eye-view of the many waterfalls on the Toxaway River.

Hugh Morton’s bird’s-eye-view of the many waterfalls on the Toxaway River.

 

A memorial tribute, twenty years ago

Early on the morning of Friday, July 4, 1997 we heard the sad news from New York that Tar Heel Charles Bishop Kuralt had died of heart disease and complications from lupus, an inflammatory disease that can affect the skin, joints, kidneys and nervous system.  Four days later, a memorial service was held in Chapel Hill. On this, the twentieth anniversary of Kuralt’s passing, Hugh Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard recalls that day when a group of North Carolina’s finest gathered to celebrate the life of “CBS’ poet of small-town America.”

"Chas Kuralt died"—Hugh Morton's entry for July 4, in his 1997 Executive Planner.

“Chas Kuralt died”—Hugh Morton’s entry for July 4, in his 1997 Executive Planner.

Charles really had the common touch.  He was so genuine and sincere.  I really believe he was the most loved, respected and trusted news personality in television.  —Hugh Morton

Shortly before noon on Tuesday, July 8, 1997 the old bell in South Building on the UNC campus rang for one minute. The bell is seldom used, reserved for marking such rare occasions as the installment of a new chancellor.  Earlier that morning Charles Kuralt was laid to rest in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, the place where he wanted to be buried on the campus he loved.  On July 2, two days before he died, Kuralt had sent his friend Dr. William Friday a note seeking help in securing the spot.

“I seem to be recovering nicely; but this experience has given me intimations of mortality.  I know you have better things to worry about, but I thought I would ask if you have any way of finding out if there are a couple of burial plots in Chapel Hill . . . I should have thought of this forty years ago!  Sorry to ask you to look into such a bizarre question.”

Charles Kuralt's last letter, written to Bill Friday, in the Charles Kuralt Collection #4882, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Charles Kuralt’s last letter, written to Bill Friday, in the Charles Kuralt Collection #4882, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Before Friday got the note, he got a phone call.  It was 6:00 a.m. on July 4th.  Kuralt’s assistant Karen Beckers was on the line.

“I’ve called you because I must tell you that Charles is gone.”

Beckers told Friday about the note he would be getting.  Friday and Chapel Hill Town Manager Cal Horton met at the cemetery with a map and determined that Chapel Hill resident George Hogan had several plots.  Friday then called Hogan and explained his situation.  Hogan’s reply: “No, I won’t sell them, but I’ll give Charles two.”  Turns out Hogan had worked for the Educational Foundation at UNC when Kuralt was editor of The Daily Tar Heel.

Kuralt now rests in peace near the center of the old cemetery near the gravesites of former UNC President Francis Venable and botany professor William Coker.  Not far away lie the graves of others who made Tar Heel history: former UNC System President Frank Porter Graham, playwright Paul Green, and UNC Institute of Government founder Albert Coates.

Said Friday, “He’s where I felt, and the others felt, he would like to be.”  Friday then added, “While he’s here with former presidents, he’s also here with the home folks of Chapel Hill.”  Charles’ brother Wallace said: “This is home for him.”

Dan Rather. Photograph by Hugh Morton, as cropped by the editor.

Dan Rather. Photograph by Hugh Morton, as cropped by the editor.

Following the private ceremony at the gravesite, people filed past the site all day.  Piles of flowers filled the spot where a future marker would be placed.  A teary-eyed Dan Rather, then anchor of the CBS Evening News, left the burial site emotionally shaken.  “I’m here in sympathy and support of his family.  He gave himself to America, and he gave it everything he had.”

Interior of Memorial Hall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, during memorial service for Charles Kuralt. Photograph by Hugh Morton.

Interior of Memorial Hall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, during memorial service for Charles Kuralt. Photograph by Hugh Morton.

Shortly after the service at Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, more than 1,600 people packed Memorial Hall for a celebration of Kuralt’s life, with UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker presiding.  WUNC-TV’s cameras were there to send the signal out across the Tar Heel state. Television personality Charlie Rose and WUNC-TV’s Audrey Kates Bailey anchored the broadcast.

The Memorial Hall stage was filled with an illustrious group of North Carolinians who came to share their friendships with Charles.  The group included UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker, North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, Kuralt’s special friend Hugh Morton, former UNC presidents William Friday and C.D. Spangler Jr, and Kuralt’s friend, composer Loonis McGlohon.  The North Carolina Symphony’s Brass Ensemble was also on hand to perform segments from North Carolina is My Home, which Kuralt wrote and performed with McGlohon.  McGlohon performed “The Farmer” segment that he called his favorite.

William C. Friday during the memorial service for Charles Kuralt. Photograph by Hugh Morton, as cropped by the editor.

William C. Friday during the memorial service for Charles Kuralt. Photograph by Hugh Morton, as cropped by the editor.

“The world knew Charles as one of the most respected and trusted newsmen of this generation, a master storyteller and a tour guide to the back roads of our nation,” said Chancellor Hooker.  “The university knew him as a stalwart alumnus who never forgot his roots—whether it meant talking to our budding journalists or giving his time and effort on behalf of the School of Social Work to help promote his late father’s profession.  He was a kind and generous man who never hesitated to lend his alma mater a hand however and whenever possible.  He will be greatly missed.”

Morton told the standing-room only crowd at Memorial Hall, “I begged him to cancel everything and come to the mountains and sleep all day or fish all day, whatever it would take to restore his health.”  Kuralt said he had too much to do.

Left to right: James G. (Jim) Babb, then Executive Vice President at Bahakel Communications, with Loonis McGlohon, and Charles Kuralt at Belmont Abbey College, May 10, 1997. Babb is a class of 1959 alumnus of Belmont Abbey College.

Left to right: James G. (Jim) Babb, then Executive Vice President at Bahakel Communications, with Loonis McGlohon, and Charles Kuralt at Belmont Abbey College, May 10, 1997. Babb is a class of 1959 alumnus of Belmont Abbey College.

Morton wasn’t surprised when he got a call telling him that Kuralt had died.  Less than two months earlier on May 10, Hugh Morton met with Kuralt at Belmont Abbey College.  It was probably their last time together.  Kuralt was the commencement speaker and received an honorary degree.  McGlohon also received an honorary degree that day, along with Catholic theologian and author, the Reverend Terrence Kardong, and the Reverend David Thompson, Bishop of the Charleston diocese.  Kuralt had been diagnosed with lupus and his treatment regimen had taken a severe toll.

"Belmont Abbey / Loonis & Charles"—Hugh Morton's entry in his executive planner for May 10, 1997.

“Belmont Abbey / Loonis & Charles”—Hugh Morton’s entry in his executive planner for May 10, 1997.

Through his world travels, Charles Kuralt never forgot his North Carolina roots.  Governor Jim Hunt called Kuralt North Carolina’s storytelling ambassador, then added, “He was born on the coast, grew up in the Piedmont, loved the mountains, but he belonged to America. He was a fine reporter.  But when he started telling us America’s stories, we smiled and sometimes cried when we saw the goodness.”

In July 1997, television personality Charlie Rose was hosting an interview program on Public Broadcasting (PBS), so it was a natural for the North Carolina native to co-anchor the TV coverage of the Charles Kuralt memorial broadcast on the University’s Public Broadcasting station WUNC-TV.  Rose called Kuralt “a genuine American hero.”

“There was almost no one who didn’t know him. People would say ‘I was always wondering when you would show up.’” Then with a smile Rose added. “There was one exception, a woman Kuralt walked up to interview asked him to leave two quarts of milk, thinking he was the milkman.”

“All of us, when we heard the story (of Kuralt’s death) wanted to say ‘Stop—one more story, one more conversation. Introduce me to one more person that reflects America. Give me one more gentle reminder of who we are and what the great fabric of this nation is about.’ ”

Former UNC System President Dr. William Friday said, “No matter where he was in the world, he would call Chapel Hill and ask whether the dogs were still chasing the squirrels across campus and the flowers still blooming.”

When UNC System President C.D. Spangler, Jr. got to the podium to add his remarks, he opened with these words: “To Charles and all his family here, I say welcome back to Chapel Hill.”

Supplement

William C. Friday’s papers in the Southern Historical Collection contain the following letters between Friday and Hugh Morton, written soon after the Kuralt memorial service.

Epilog

On October 12, 2012 (University Day on the UNC campus), former UNC System President Dr. William Clyde Friday passed away.  He, too, is at peace in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.

Correction: A caption to a photograph in the original version of the story stated that the unidentified person on the left of the group portrait with McGlohon and Kuralt was thought to be Reverend David Thompson.  A reader’s comment identified the man as James G. Babb (7 July 2017).

Look at America: The South

Hugh Morton's photograph published in Look at America: The South.

Hugh Morton’s photograph published in Look at America: The South.

Some recent searching for “Hugh Morton” on newspapers.com led to a book review titled “Look Looks at The South in Pictures” by Bob Sain in the 19 October 1947 issue of The Daily Tar Heel. The very last paragraph parenthetically reads:

(Incidentally, North Carolina came off badly in space allotment; tobacco process shots took most of our space while Chapel Hill was ignored.  There was one picture of the Duke campus.  However, we recognized one photograph by Carolina man Hugh Morton: a misty Smoky Mountain shot.)

Of course I needed to know which Hugh Morton photograph, so I looked for the book in the University Libraries catalog.  Surprisingly UNC does not hold that book, so I submitted an interlibrary loan request and it arrived late last week.  Titled The South, the book is part of a series with nine volumes titled “Look at America” that was compiled by editors from the magazine Look with each book “written in collaboration with” various authors.   David L. Cohn is the author for The South.  [UNC does, after all, have the book; see the clarification below, which I added after I published this post.]

The photograph above shows Hugh Morton’s photograph on page 81.  I immediately recognized it because I seriously considered printing a scan made from the negative for inclusion in the Hugh Morton retrospective exhibition (currently at the North Carolina Museum of History).  As much as I liked the image, it just didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the exhibition.

A scan of the same negative as the photograph published in Look at America: The South. Or is it?

A scan of the same negative as the photograph published in Look at America: The South. Or is it?

Upon closer inspection, the photograph in the book does not seem to be the exact same image as the negative.  You can see in the scan above that many of the leafs are moving. Morton may have made an additional negative at that location, but there’s not another similar negative in the collection, at least that I could find.

The comparison between the printed page in the book and the negative scan is a good example of two challenges we faced when printing the exhibition: cropping and representation.  Should we crop an image or print it fully?  We usually printed the negatives as fully as we could, but sometimes minor cropping enhanced the image.  I would turn to published photographs when known, but many times publishers crop photographs despite what photographers submit—often to fit the format the book or the allocated space for a page spread in a magazine or newspaper.  Had I seen this book before designed the exhibition I may have printed it that way, but with the “uncommon” theme I may have printed the full negative for its wider view.  The other consideration, representation of the negative as a print, usually concerns the print’s tonality.  For example, should a print have more or less contrast?  Likewise, should an image printed be darker or lighter?  Notice the difference between the darker printed page in the book and the lighter version we created.  When working on the image, we tried to stay “true” to the negative.  We also tried to recreate the foggy atmosphere of the forest by contrasting it to the silhouette of the foreground tree.  The book’s version has a darker mid and foreground, conveying a sense of the woods’ denseness in comparison to the sky’s lightness.

Which leads to another possibility for the question “Or is it?”: that it is the same negative, from which Morton printed a darker interpretation with a bit more contrast to mask the mirroring effected created by the leaf movement.  In the book, you cannot differentiate the branches from the leafs where they overlap; in the negative, however, you can clearly distinguish the lighter leafs from the tree. Combined with the printing technique for the book which makes the leafs and branches essentially black, the leaf movement may have just disappeared.

As in so many instances, we may never know which is the case—but now you know some of the considerations archivists and curators make when we create a exhibition of modern day prints from historical negatives.

Clarification:

As I was returning the book to Interlibrary Loan, I discovered that UNC has the book after all.  One UNC catalog record is for the “Look at America” series that states there are nine volumes but with no mention of the book titles for each of nine volumes.  After some exploration in WorldCat, where I found four different base catalog records for the book, I went back to the UNC catalog and discovered the North Carolina Collection does indeed have the book.

I updated the story soon after its initial publication to reflect the book’s proper short title as “The South” and not “Look at America: The South,” which is what is printed on the very first printed page after the flyleaf.  The full title of the book is likely The South: A Handbook in Pictures, Maps and Text for the Vacationist, the Traveler and the Stay-at-home.  Here’s a photograph of the title page from the NCC’s copy, showing the long title and confusing title page:

Final revision: June 12, 2017 at 14:35 p.m.

Always on call for his alma mater

May 13, 1989 groundbreaking ceremony for the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (L to R): Ralph Strayhorn, fund raising chairman; George Watts Hill; Doug Dibbert, General Alumni Association Executive Director; Robert C. Eubanks, UNC Board of Trustees chairman; Tom Lambeth, chairman of the area campaigns; Chancellor Emeritus Christopher C. Fordham III; and Chancellor Paul Hardin.

May 13, 1989 groundbreaking ceremony for the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (L to R): Ralph Strayhorn, fund raising chairman; George Watts Hill; Doug Dibbert, General Alumni Association Executive Director; Robert C. Eubanks, UNC Board of Trustees chairman; Tom Lambeth, chairman of the area campaigns; Chancellor Emeritus Christopher C. Fordham III; and Chancellor Paul Hardin.

On Tuesday, June 7, 2016—one year ago today—a special memorial service was held at the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery on Raleigh Road. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had lost one of its strongest supporters. Three days before, Ralph Strayhorn Jr. had passed away in Winston-Salem. He was 93-years-old.  On this anniversary, Morton Collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back at Strayhorn’s amazing list of accomplishments.

Ralph Nichols Strayhorn Jr. at one time or another served his university as

  • cocaptain of the varsity football team;
  • member of UNC Board of Trustees;
  • President of the General Alumni Association;
  • General Counsel for the Rams Club;
  • chairman of the search committee charged in 1987 with finding a replacement for Head Football Coach Dick Drum (he and his committee found Mack Brown);
  • President and General Counsel of the Educational Foundation, Inc.; and
  • Fund Raising Chairman for the George Watts Hill Alumni Center building project.

As you will see later in this post, this list will continue.

A native of Durham, Strayhorn was recruited by UNC assistant football coach Jim Tatum and played three seasons with the Tar Heels before he entered the United States Navy and served in the Pacific theater from 1943 until 1946, completing his active service as a sub-chaser commanding officer.  He served twenty years in the U. S. Naval Reserve, retiring in 1962 as a lieutenant commander.

He returned to Chapel Hill in time for the 1946 football season where he was a cocaptain along with Chan Highsmith.  In a 2010 interview, Strayhorn described his returned: “It was a delightful time to be in Chapel Hill.  Everyone was glad to be home from the war, back in school where they belonged.”

The 1946 Tar Heels under Head Coach Carl Snavely won eight games during the regular season while losing only to Tennessee and tying VPI (formally Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known today as Virginia Tech).  That record was good enough to earn a Southern Conference championship and Carolina’s first bowl game, the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1947. Strayhorn’s trip to New Orleans was not a joyous occasion as it should have been. His father had suffered a heart attack back in Durham and was unconscious.

“My mind wasn’t focused on the game, needless to say.  I thought about not going.  My first cousin was a doctor and was very close to our family.  He said my father would want me to go and play in that game.  I stayed behind when the team left and then caught the last train to New Orleans. . . I was on the first train back out of town.  I returned to my father’s bedside but he never recovered.”

Strayhorn could have played one more season with the Tar Heels.  The 1943 season didn’t count against his eligibility because he had gone off to World War II; he chose, however, to graduate with the class of 1947 with a degree in commerce and enter law school.  He got his law degree in 1950 and joined the firm of Newsom, Graham, Strayhorn, Hedrick, Murray, Bryson and Kennon as a senior partner.  He held that position until 1978 when he assumed the executive position of general counsel of the Wachovia Corporation and the Wachovia Bank and Trust Company.  Strayhorn retired from that position in his 1988 retirement.  He then joined the law firm Petree Stockton & Robinson.

Throughout his professional career, Ralph Strayhorn remained active in the life of his alma mater, especially its athletic programs and his beloved football Tar Heels. From 1973 until 1981 he was a member of the UNC Board of Trustees, serving as chairman in 1979 and 1980.  Additionally, he served on the Central Selection Committee of the Morehead Foundation, the Board of Visitors, and the NC Institute of Medicine.  In 1989 the UNC Board of Trustees awarded Strayhorn the William Richardson Davie Award.

Over the years, Strayhorn kept in touch with Coach Jim Tatum and in 1955 he wrote Tatum a four-page letter asking him to return to Chapel Hill to take over the football program.  “The football situation at Chapel Hill seems to have reached an all-time low,” Strayhorn wrote. The following year Tatum returned and led the program until his untimely death in July of 1959.  Ironically, in 1957 Strayhorn had prepared Tatum’s will and delivered the document to him the week before the Tar Heel were to meet Maryland for the first time since Tatum left—the famous “Queen Elizabeth” game. As the coach was signing the document, he asked Strayhorn if he was going to the game on Saturday.

“I told him I didn’t have tickets, transportation, a room or a baby-sitter.  He said, ‘Well, find yourself a baby-sitter.  I’ll take care of the rest. You be at the airport Friday at 2 o’clock.’ We got to the airport and everything was arranged for us.”

FOUR TAR HEELS—Ralph Strayhorn Jr., Charlie Justice, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan, and Charlie Carr gathered on the sidelines before the 1997 Sugar Bowl. At that time Carr was the associate director of athletics at Florida State, which played against Florida in the bowl game.

FOUR TAR HEELS—Ralph Strayhorn Jr., Charlie Justice, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan, and Charlie Carr gathered on the sidelines before the 1997 Sugar Bowl. At that time Carr was the associate director of athletics at Florida State, which played against Florida in the bowl game.

In December 1996 Carolina’s 1947 football team celebrated the 50th anniversary of their ’47 Sugar Bowl game with a train trip to New Orleans for the 1997 Sugar Bowl game.  An on-the-field pre-game ceremony included Charlie Justice and Ralph Strayhorn along with Charlie Trippi of Georgia.  Hugh Morton was a special invited guest at the ceremony.

Joe Neikirk, Georgia's legendary Bulldog Bill Hartman, Ralph Strayhorn Jr., Charlie Justice, Crowell Little, and Georgia All-American Charley Trippi.

Joe Neikirk, Georgia’s legendary Bulldog Bill Hartman, Ralph Strayhorn Jr., Charlie Justice, Crowell Little, and Georgia All-American Charley Trippi.

Seven years later, on November 5, 2004, Ralph Strayhorn and Hugh Morton were featured speakers at the dedication of Johnpaul Harris’ magnificent Charlie Justice statue which now stands just outside of Kenan Stadium.

The next time you visit the “Charlie Justice Hall of Honor” in the Kenan Football Center, notice the Harold Styers’ portrait of the 1947 Sugar Bowl coin toss featuring UNC’s Cocaptain Ralph Stayhorn #62, and Georgia’s Captain Charlie Trippi, also #62.

And oh yes . . . that list.  Ralph Strayhorn Jr. was President of the North Carolina Bar Association in 1971-72, and a member of the

  • Legal Advisory Committee of the New York Stock Exchange;
  • American College of Trial Lawyers;
  • American Bar Association;
  • International Association of Defense Counsel;
  • Newcomen Society of the United States; and the
  • Board of Visitors of the Wake Forest School of Law.

He also argued a case before the Supreme Court of the United States and served in the North Carolina General Assembly in 1959.

Ralph Nichols Strayhorn Jr., a Tar Heel treasure like no other.

UPDATE: caption for second photograph revised to reflect identification received in a comment on June 12.  Previously the caption began with “THREE TAR HEELS.”

UPDATE: On June 13, the caption was once again update with the discovery of more recent information about Charlie Carr.  Mr. Carr was a member of the UNC Class of 1968 and he received a master’s degree from there in 1970.  In 1971 he became a UNC assistant football coach.  He also served in various roles at East Carolina, Mississippi State before joining Florida State  in 1995. Carr left Florida State on October 1, 2007, when he became the athletic director at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.  On May 17, 2017 Mr. Carr entered phased retirement from MSU, and he will officially retire on August 31.  Also updated was the caption for the final photograph with the identification of Bill Hartman, the Georgia Bulldog’s team captain in 1937.  (Thanks, Jack Hilliard, for new info on Charlie Carr and the identification of Bill Hartman!)

A Benny Goodman score

"WHEN BUDDHA SMILES"—This is a marquee poster for a Benny Goodman Orchestra performance attended by Hugh Morton. The date for this performance was unknown, but no longer. Buddha smiles again. (Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the author.)

“WHEN BUDDHA SMILES”—This is a marquee poster for a Benny Goodman Orchestra performance attended by Hugh Morton. The date for this performance was unknown, but no longer. Buddha smiles again. (Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the author.)

I am a jazz fan, so Hugh Morton’s negatives of jazz musicians have interested me from the first time I saw them.  Morton began photographing jazz musicians when he was in high school and he continued throughout his life.  Clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman was his favorite musician.  In 1988 Morton wrote in Making a Difference in North Carolina:

Illustrative of my loyalty to Benny Goodman, I saw him and his band in the ’30s and 40’s in Washington, D. C., Baltimore, Detroit, New York, and Raleigh, and in 1979 in Greensboro and 1983 in Wilmington.  Each time I took pictures, and I deeply regret the cameras and film in the early days did not measure up.  It was virtually impossible to snap candid shots that are up to today’s standards.

It may be better to contextualize that statement with a bit of clarification.  I believe the camera technology was available, but perhaps not to a teenager.  In 1937, Leica 35mm cameras had been available since 1925, so I don’t think that cameras were the issue.  Morton photographed during this time with a camera that used the 127 film format, which is larger than the 135 format and its film cartridge that came to market in 1934.  Black-and-white negative films during that time, however, did not have sufficient light sensitivity (film speed) to capture an image without blurring caused by shaking a hand-held camera set with the slower shutter speeds needed to get a proper exposure.  Below is one of Morton’s negatives made at that Washington, D.C. concert . . .

. . . and here’s a cropped portion of the negative that illustrates softness from camera movement. (Look at the “G” on the music stand.)

Until very recently, the location and date Morton made the marquee poster negative was unknown.  A project I’m working on brought his jazz negatives to my attention, so I began to sort the Benny Goodman negatives into groups based upon the stage settings.  Luckily the marquee poster exposure is on a negative strip that also has an interior view of Goodman performing inside the theatre, so that group of images with the stage seen above formed the Washington batch.

Next I spent some quality evening and weekend time digging around for clues that might lead to more information.  For historical information I checked out the Music Library’s copy of Ross Firestone’s biography Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life and Times of Benny Goodman. (It was also a good excuse to borrow the 2-CD set Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall, 1938 to listen to while researching!)  But the definitive answer came from the University Libraries’ online catalog access to historical issues of The Washington Post.  A search through that newspaper revealed where and when Morton made that group of negatives.

The Washington Post column “Nelson B. Bell About The Show Shops” for June 5, 1937 covered Goodman’s gig in an article with a long title that begins, “‘Kid Galahad’ and Benny Goodman Score at the Earle.”  A bit more searching through other issues of the newspaper pinpointed that Goodmen and orchestra opened a one-week engagement at the Earle Theatre on June 3, 1937.  Bell listed in his review the performers’ names in the exact order they are printed on the marquee poster.  His list also revealed the proper spelling of the name Peg LaCentra (not Gentra, as in the poster).  Bell also noted that he believed it was Goodman’s “first visit to a Washington stage,” which is very similar to the wording on the poster.

Bell reported, “On the stage at the Earle this week, Benny Goodman and his orchestra are winning an ovation at every performance—and they are being put on so often they must think it is a continuous act they are doing. The Goodman band goes in largely for ‘swing’ rhythms and plays them with a zest that knocked the audience right out of their pews yesterday afternoon.”  The performance Bell attended suffered from a loudspeaker failure that prevented him from hearing the performers names as Goodman’s voice only carried to the sixth row and he sat farther back in around the twentieth.  The music, however, must have been loud and clear.

Firestone’s biography does not mention the Washington venue; it only states that the band left New York in the beginning of June destined for its third engagement at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles at the end of the month.  He noted that “aside from a few theater dates” the month was almost entirely one-nighters spread through Pennsylvania and several midwestern states.  Firestone’s book does, however, provide some prior context.  On March 3, just three months before the Earle Theatre performances, Goodman’s orchestra started a two-week engagement at the Paramount Theater on Times Square in New York City.

A sold-out crowd saw that opening night’s first performance “and the audience of restless youngsters was in unusually high spirits.”  They greeted the orchestra, Firestone recounted, “with an ear-shattering roar of clapping and whistling and stomping and yelling that sounded, Benny remembered, ‘like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.’  ‘It was exciting, [Goodman] recalled, ‘but also a little frightening—scary.'”

Firestone vividly described the band’s performance, then wrote,

It was apparent to everyone . . . that something truly momentous had just taken place, that the Goodman orchestra’s brief forty-three-minute sojourn on the Paramount stage was some kind of breakthrough that topped, and was different from, all its previous successes.  What started out as just another stage show had turned into a kind of celebration of the spirit, a love feast of communal frenzy that was, as Variety observed, “tradition-shattering in its spontaneity, its unanimity, its sincerity, its volume, in the childlike violence of its manifestations.”

Firestone then accounts for what he believed was the performance’s “stunningly obvious” cause.  “The school kids were among Benny’s most zealous fans, and this was the first chance they had to hear him in person,” he wrote.  Goodman’s usual New York venue was The Hotel Pennsylvania, which was “completely beyond the reach of the legions of ordinary youngsters who, up to now, could only listen to Benny on the radio or spring for an occasional record.”  A multitude of kids had lined up starting before seven in the morning to buy a twenty-five cent ticket.  By the end of the day, the Paramount has sold 21,000 admissions.

The orchestra’s next theater date was at the Metropolitan Theater in Boston in May, and they encountered there the same high-octane enthusiasm as inside the Paramount.  The Boston Morning Globe wrote that it seemed like the Metropolitan Theater held “every boy and girl in Greater Boston who could beg a school ‘absent’ excuse from a tolerant parent.  Benny Goodman, King of Swing, is in town, which means that the youngsters of the city are in their seventh heaven of rapture. What shrieks of joy as he played ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ in his own swingy rhythms!  What yells and whistles and stampings followed Gene Krupa’s drumming exhibitions!”

And so it must have been in the pews of Washington’s Earle Theatre during the first week of June.  Nelson Bell concluded his Washington Post review with, “Don’t miss this one.”  Sixteen-year-old Hugh Morton did not.

John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday anniversary

John F. Kennedy at North Carolina Caucus, 1956 Democratic National Convention

John F. Kennedy at North Carolina Caucus, 1956 Democratic National Convention

If John F. Kennedy were alive today, he would be celebrating his 100th birthday.  Hugh Morton, who was less than four years younger than JFK, photographed him on several occasions.  The above photograph is Morton’s earliest.

During the nearly ten years that A View to Hugh has been in existence, John Kennedy has been featured, represented, or mentioned in more that thirty blog posts  To mark this day, I encourage you to search the blog for Kennedy’s name and read an entry or two . . . or click on the link above to access nearly sixty images available of Kennedy in the online collection, including a dozen images from his 1961 University Day speech in Kenan Memorial Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Back at the track

Lining up for the start of the 1983 Mello Yello 300.

Lining up for the start of the 1983 Mello Yello 300.

NASCAR’s longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600, will be run at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 28, 2017.  This year’s event will mark the 58th running of the race that started back in 1960 when it was called the World 600.  That name continued until the 1985 race when Coca-Cola became a major sponsor.

In 1978 NASCAR held a supporting race, a Late Model Sportsman Series 100-mile race the day before the 600 miler. The following year NASCAR held the Sun Drop 300, and beginning in 1980 the Mello Yello 300.  In 1982 the 300-mile race became part of the Busch Series, with another sponsorship name change to the Winston 300 in 1985.  Today the race is called the Hitense 4K TV 300.

Back on May 7, 2010, Jack Hilliard wrote a post about the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, and Hugh Morton’s wife Julia added this comment: “I remember how anxious Hugh was to have Stock Car Racing ‘declared a sport.’”  Four years later, Jack wrote a post about the 1971 National 500 at Charlotte’s famous mile-and-a-half oval.  He wrote in the article that while High Morton is famous for his sports photography, there aren’t many NASCAR events represented in his portfolio.

Fast forward to earlier this year, when Jack noted in the Morton collection finding aid the following entry:

  • Slide Lot 008864: “World 600, Viaduct,” (NASCAR), June 1983 #P0081, Subseries: “Other events, 1940s-early 2000s”

With the 2017 Coca-Cola 600 approaching, Jack wrote an article looking back thirty-four years to the then World 600 of May 29, 1983.  This morning, as I was assembling the image scans and writing captions for the World 600 posting, all was well . . .

Neil Bonnett in car number 75 (front left) and car number 7, which in the World 600 would have been Kyle Petty, lead a pack of fourteen cars, with car number 32 separated from the pack ahead.

Neil Bonnett in car number 75 (front left) and car number 7, which in the World 600 would have been Kyle Petty, lead a pack of fourteen cars, with car number 32 separated from the pack ahead.

I dropped in another image . . .

. . . and moved on to the next.

In the World 600, Hueytown, Alabama’s Neil Bonnett edged out Richard Petty by 0.8 seconds for the victory.  Could this image be the two dueling as they came out of the last turn?  Alas, no because the car is yellow and Jack’s article had a quote by Bonnett from after the race:

Richard was dictating how fast I had to run.  I knew I had to pick up the pace because every time I looked in my rear view mirror I saw that red-and-blue car and I knew that man meant business.

This slide, #17, shows a yellow "Wrangler" car (number not visible) with a slight edge on Neil Bonnett in car #75, the white car on the left.

This slide, #17, shows a yellow “Wrangler” car (number not visible) with a slight edge on Neil Bonnett in car #75, the white car on the left.

The next slide, #18, shows the yellow Wrangler car with a wider lead on Neil Bonnett.  The following cars are number 7, 28, and 17.

The next slide, #18, shows the yellow Wrangler car with a wider lead on Neil Bonnett.  The following cars are number 7, 28, and 17.

Then I placed the following photograph, Morton’s slide #19, and something was awry . . .

Slide number #19 depicts a pack exiting turn four lead by car 23, followed by cars 34, 76, and 5.

Slide number #19 depicts a pack exiting turn four lead by car 23, followed by cars 34, 76, and 5.

The above photograph, Morton’s 35mm color slide #19, depicts a pack of cars exiting turn four with car 23 in front of cars 34, 76, and 5.  To write a caption, I looked up on the Internet and found the race results with a list of the drivers’ names and car numbers.  That’s when I discovered that none of those car numbers raced in the World 600.  Digging a bit more, I learned about the Mello Yello 300 and found a list of drivers and car numbers for that race, then emailed the news and webpage links to Jack.  He found footage of the entire race on YouTube, and by comparing the beginning minutes of the film footage to Morton’s wide angle photograph shown at the top of this post, we confirmed that Morton’s photographs are of the Mello Yello 300 and not the World 600.  The race broadcaster mentions (at 4:20 on the video), “Dale Earnhardt in the Wrangler car, number 15.”  As the results webpage shows, Dale Earnhardt defeated Neil Bonnett to win the Mello Yello 300.

There’s still a little “Morton Mystery” left, though: some of the car numbers seen in slide 19 are unknown.  According to the list on the website Ultimate Racing History, the driver for car number 23 was Davey Allison while Joe Kelly drove the following car, number 34.  The next car, 76, is not listed . . . nor is car 47.  In between those two cars is car 5 driven by John Anderson.  Dale Jarrett is next in car 32, followed by Slick Johnson in car 46.  With two car numbers unaccounted for, is it possible that Hugh Morton attended the qualifying race the day before?  That’s not likely because car number 7 in the second photograph above is probably pole sitter Morgan Shephard. Or, more likely, is the list of drivers on the Internet list incomplete or contain some errors?

That’s what I could piece together this morning before today’s 1:00 starting time.  Any race fans out there who can add more to the story?

Addendum: May 28, 2017

Jack found a website, Racing-Reference.info, with the results of the 1983 Mello Yello 300 that include cars 76 and 47 driven, respectively, by Butch Lindley and Randy Tissot.

Another “Morton Mystery” (that we didn’t know we had) has been solved!

Another known unknown: Frank Lloyd Wright’s “The Research Tower”

North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges and several unidentified men pose in front of the globe on the grounds of S. C. Johnson and Sons Company in early May 1958. Frank Lloyd Wright was the architect for The Research Tower, opened in 1950, seen in the background. Photograph by Hugh Morton, May 1 or 2, 1958.

North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges and several unidentified men pose in front of the globe on the grounds of S. C. Johnson and Sons Company in early May 1958. Frank Lloyd Wright was the architect for The Research Tower, opened in 1950, seen in the background. Photograph by Hugh Morton, May 1 or 2, 1958.

Another serendipitous discovery unveiled itself last Friday afternoon, and so another Morton Mystery has been solved.  (Well at least partially, and not all by itself; I had to do some digging.)  Yesterday and today just so happen to be the fifty-ninth anniversary of the event depicted, so I’m afraid there’s not time for me to do an extensive story.  So I present the images “as is” with a bit of background.  We can all contribute to the story and possible identifications in the comments for this post.

Last Friday while I was examining 120 format negatives in the Morton collection, I saw an envelope labeled “Gov. Hodges — Racine, Wisc. (factory visit)” with a date of May 2, 1958.  As I looked through the negatives I immediately recognized one of the images as being very similar to a color slide (below), which happens to be in the online collection.

Until now, the description of this photograph was "NC Governor Luther H. Hodges being greeted by men, probably at a hotel. Taken on "industry hunting" trip with Hodges administration, circa 1960, possibly to Chicago or New York." There are twenty-two slides in the collection with similar captions, now known to be erroneous.

Until now, the description of this photograph was “NC Governor Luther H. Hodges being greeted by men, probably at a hotel. Taken on “industry hunting” trip with Hodges administration, circa 1960, possibly to Chicago or New York.” There are twenty-two slides in the collection with similar captions, now known to be erroneous.

After looking at all the color slides in that group, a bit of sleuthing led to the discovery that the event was a trip taken by Governor Luther Hodges and several North Carolina businessmen to Chicago with a side trip to Racine, Wisconsin.  Morton made the slide immediately above at the S. C. Johnson and Sons headquarters, probably inside The Administrative Building (built 1936 through 1939) or possibly The Research Tower (built 1944 through 1950).  The buildings are on the list of United States National Historic Landmarks and the United States Register of Historic Places.  Can anyone determine which building interior this?  Any Frank Lloyd Wright experts out there who can help us identify the rest of these images with more specificity? I’m a Frank Lloyd Wright fan (but by no means an expert!) and it’s killing me that I cannot spend more time researching them.

There are twenty-two slides in the lot, and you may examine nine of the “Industry Mission” slides online.  (The slide above is not in the online collection.)  The slides also include scenes of the emissaries’ visit to the Case Corporation factory, also in Racine, where the company made Case-o-matic tractors.  Below is a slide depicting some of travelers along with Governor Hodges, probably at Case.  This image currently is not in the online collection.

Luther Hodges and group, probably during its tour in Racine, Wisconsin. As slide 21 of 22, it's likely at the Case Corporation plant, but the entirety of their tour has not yet been researched. Slide 22 has a hand-written label "Industry Hunting."

Luther Hodges and group, probably during its tour in Racine, Wisconsin. As slide 21 of 22, it’s likely at the Case Corporation plant, but the entirety of their tour has not yet been researched. Slide 22 has a hand-written label “Industry Hunting.”

The following links are to PDF’s of news articles and announcements found thus far:

The_Racine_Journal_Times_Sunday_Bulletin_Sun__Apr_13__1958_

The_Racine_Journal_Times_Sunday_Bulletin_Sun__Apr_27__1958_

The_Gastonia_Gazette_Fri__May_2__1958_

Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday

Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Orchestra, at the Howard Theatre in Washington, DC.

Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Orchestra, at the Howard Theatre in Washington, DC.

Today marks the 100 anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth.  In his book Making a Difference in North Carolina, Hugh Morton included a similar photograph to the one above with the caption,

Ella Fitzgerald, at age 18, sings A Ticket, A Tasket with Chick Webb’s Orchestra.  They played in North Carolina, but this photo is in the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Hm . . .

Fitzgerald would have been eighteen in 1935 to 1936.  According to Stuart Nicholson’s Ella Fitzgerald: The Complete Biography (2004) and Ella Fitzgerald: The Chick Webb Years & Beyond by Ron Fritts & Ken Vail (2003), Fitzgerald recorded that song for the first time on May 2, 1938 at Decca studios in New York.  Fitzgerald and the Chick Webb Orchestra first performed at the Howard Theatre for one-week engagement that opened on November 22, 1935.  Hugh Morton would have been fourteen years old.  Perhaps this photograph is from a later date?

Another Morton Mystery is at hand.  I learned late in the day that today was Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday, so this will need some follow up.  Can any readers of A View to Hugh fill in some of the story?

Addendum

According to Fritts and Vail, Ella Fitzgerald and the Chick Webb Orchestra also played a one-week engagement at the Howard Theatre from March 26 through April 1, 1937.  Fitzgerald would have been nineteen, just shy of her twentieth birthday., while Hugh Morton would have been sixteen.  It was billed as an “Easter Swing Session” and a “Gay Holiday Revue” with Bardue Ali, Charles Linton, and Taft Jordan.  Fitzgerald and the orchestra returned to the Howard Theatre for another one-week stand from January 28 through February 3, 1938.  The following week, the entourage began a five-week stint in Boston at the Flamingo Room at Levaggi’s Restaurant.  According to Nicholson, Fitzgerald “worked out the outline of ‘A-Ticket, A-Tasket'” at Levaggi’s.”

Fitzgerald and the orchestra’s next one-week stop at the Howard Theatre came on March 31, ending on April 6.  An advertisement for the engagement portrays her as “First Lady of Swing ‘Ella A-Tisket A-Takset Fitzgerald.'”  Webb, however, did not perform; he entered John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for a back operation.  He left the hospital the following week. Webb would died on June 16, 1939, but Fitzgerald continued to play with his orchestra—which playbills began to list as “her Chick Webb Orchestra” or other such variations. At some point soon there after the design and the initials on the front of the music stands changed to EF.

The next appearance by Fitzgerald at the Howard, according to Fritts and Vail is a one-week gig from March 7 to 13, 1941. This performance seems to be an unlikely candidate for Morton’s negatives. He attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia before enrolling at UNC in the autumn of 1939, so his proximity to Washington, D.C. coupled with the release date of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” favors a twenty-one, soon to be twenty-two, year-old Fitzgerald. If so, then Morton’s negatives capture Fitzgerald on the cusp of an important turning point in her a career.

Taking “A Tisket A Tasket” to Task

In a 1981 interview by Ron Wellburn, Teddy MacRae spoke about the origins of “A-Tisket A-Takset.”  He said, “That was Ella own thing.  It was her own idea. That was her thing that she would sing up in Yonkers. . . . ”  Fitzgerald, born in Newport News, Virginia, was raised in Yonkers from the age of three until her mother died suddenly of a heart attack in 1932.  The lyrics are based up a very old nursery rhyme.  MacRae continued, “We [the orchestra] had nothing to do with that. We called Van [Alexander] to put it down on paper for her, and Van made the arrangements.”

Biographer Robertson, quoting liner notes from the 1986 Swingtime LP Ella Fitzgerald Forever Young, volume 2 (ST 1007) quoted Alexander as saying “I was terribly busy at the time so I did nothing about the tune. But Ella approached me again after about a month, and I went home and put the melody and her lyrics together, copying all the parts myself, and took it to Webb.  He rehearsed the song for about an hour in the afternoon and that very night, from the Savoy, he broadcast it. And that’s how ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket” was born and popularized.”

For a version of the story from her at the time, we turn to The Ella Fitzgerald Companion (1998) that includes a 1938 New York Post article by Earl Wilson in which Fitzgerald said, “we was playing’ Boston in April, and I says to Al Feldman [the birth name of Van Alexander], our arranger, ‘Look here, I got something terrific! They’re swing’ everything else—why not nursery rhymes?’  I had most of the words wrote out, so we sat down and jammed around till we got the tune, and that’s the way it was.”  Well, that’s Ella’s version of the story.  Up next for yet a different take . . .  the biography First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald for the Record by Geoffrey Fidelman (1994).

In that his biography Fidelman notes that the band had nightly broadcasts of their performances at the Levaggi.  His spin on the story is that Feldman said he was so busy because of the constant need for new material for the radio broadcasts.  “I turned her down flat,” said Feldman recalling when Fitzgerald approached him because of his workload.  Fidelman then notes that Ella again approached Feldman a few days later [not a month as Teddy MacRae recalled.]  Fidelman states Click Webb “put ‘Tasket’ on the air almost immediately and the band played it nightly for almost a month before the May 2 recording date for Decca, and this version has the song’s debut at Levaggi’s not the Savoy.

And of course there’s yet another version of the story that Fidelman refutes with his research.  I cannot sort out all the stories here, but in each of these accounts, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” comes together after the February 1938 engagement at the Howard Theatre. If Hugh Morton photographed Fitzgerald then, she wasn’t singing the song that burst her into stardom.  Either that, or there was another performance by Ella and the Webb band not recorded in the extensive chronicle constructed by Fritts and Vail.

We may never know . . .

Note: The final two sections added on 26 April

THE Voice of the Tar Heels

Tar Heel Sports Network play-by-play announcer Woody Durham (right) with son Wes Durham (play-by-play announcer for Georgia Tech) after receiving Marvin "Skeeter" Francis Award at 2002 ACC basketball tournament, Charlotte, NC.

Tar Heel Sports Network play-by-play announcer Woody Durham (right) with son Wes Durham (play-by-play announcer for Georgia Tech) after receiving Marvin “Skeeter” Francis Award at 2002 ACC basketball tournament, Charlotte, NC.

Today, April 22, 2017, Carolina’s Woody Durham will receive the Lindsey Nelson Broadcasting Award at the University of Tennessee Orange and White spring football game in Knoxville. This will be just the latest in a long line of awards that fill his trophy case. Woody’s son Wes will be on hand to accept the award for his dad.  On this special day, Morton volunteer contributor, Jack Hilliard, reminisces about his long-time friend and UNC classmate.

Many of the recent reports in the media of Woody Durham’s health issues have described him as “The Voice of the Tar Heels for 40 Years.” While that is true, there is far more to it than that. Woody Durham was, is, and forever will be The Voice of the North Carolina Tar Heels, period. Others will broadcast the play-by-play of the Tar Heel games and will do it well, but none will ever come close to what Woody Durham was able to accomplish . . . the bar is just too high.

I came to work for WFMY-TV in Greensboro on February 6, 1963 and worked until July 24th, when I left for a short tour of active duty with the US Army. When I returned in January, 1964, WFMY’s long-time sports director Charlie Harville had left for the new station in High Point and taking his place was Woody Durham, a classmate from UNC. While at Carolina, I had often watched Woody and news anchors Ray Williams and Dave Wegerek from the WUNC-TV control room in Swain Hall as director Wayne Upchurch directed the evening news. I decided then that I wanted to direct a show like that someday.  But I never imagined that my path would cross with Woody’s and Dave’s down the road.

Woody Durham and Ray Williams on news set, April 19, 1961. (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection Photographer: Bill Prouty.)

Woody Durham and Ray Williams on news set, April 19, 1961. (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection Photographer: Bill Prouty.)

When I returned to WFMY in ’64, I got a promotion from the floor crew to a control room job—audio and technical director, then assistant director.  And in early November of 1966, I got to direct my first newscast and for me it was magical.  As had been the case back at WUNC-TV, Dave Wegerek anchored the news and Woody Durham anchored the sports.  I had the honor and privilege of working with Dave for four years, and with Woody for almost fourteen, until August of 1977.  During that time with Woody, I saw a master at work.  From a ten-second promotional announcement to a one-hour documentary it was always the same: carefully research, then script it and deliver it with dignity, class, and style. That’s the way Woody has lived his life, with perhaps a bit less emphasis on the scripting part.  And that’s the way he’s approaching his current health struggles.

As most of the Tar Heel Nation will recall, Woody delivered a letter to his many friends and fans on June 1, 2016.  In it he explained his current health condition with primary progressive aphasia, a neurocognitive disorder that affects language expression:

I can still enjoy the company of friends and traveling with my wife, Jean, but I am not able to address groups as I did in the past,” Durham said. “While learning of this diagnosis was a bit of a shock for Jean and me, and yes, quite an ironic one at that, it also brought a sense of relief to us in terms of understanding what was happening to me and how best to deal with it.

Goodness knows, Tar Heel fans have heard him often over the years telling the Tar Heel story for the Athletic Department, the General Alumni Association, the Tar Heel Sports Network, and you name it, Woody has been there. And as you would likely guess, Woody is using his health issue to help people become aware of aphasia and how it affects individuals and families.

As in the past, I will continue to attend Carolina functions and sporting events as my schedule permits, and be part of civic and other charitable endeavors throughout the state. As part of these events, we want to make people more aware of primary progressive aphasia, and the impact that these neurocognitive disorders can have on individuals, families and friends.

Along with raising awareness, we hope to encourage financial support for continued research and treatment in our state, as well as nationally.

Over the years, Woody has urged us to “go where you go, and do what you do” when a close game was on the line.  As Woody’s friend for more than 50 years, I would urge all to take Woody’s game advice because he is involved in yet another difficult struggle. And in the end, when he wins this battle, (and I choose to believe he will), he can say, as he often has said following a big Tar Heel victory: “Act like you’ve been there before.”

Woody Durham interviews King Rice following win over Duke in the 1991 ACC Tournament. Also in the frame is #32 Pete Chilcutt, and Rick Fox (right). Jim Heavner, Tar Heel Sports Network and CEO of The Village Companies of Chapel Hill can be partially seen in extreme left of the frame.

Woody Durham interviews King Rice following win over Duke in the 1991 ACC Tournament. Also in the frame is #32 Pete Chilcutt, and Rick Fox (right). Jim Heavner, Tar Heel Sports Network and CEO of The Village Companies of Chapel Hill can be partially seen in extreme left of the frame.

I think it’s appropriate that we update Woody’s progress on the web site which is everything Hugh Morton. Woody was a Hugh Morton photo subject often and during the 2005-2006 UNC basketball season, Woody gave us periodic reports on Hugh’s condition.

On October 5, 2013, there was a very special event at the Turchin Center on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone. I was honored to be a panelist along with Betty McCain, Robert Anthony, and Woody Durham.  Our topic: “Hugh Morton and His Photography.”  It was a magical afternoon . . . one to forever remember.

So on this special day I say: “Best wishes, dear friend, our thoughts and prayers are with you, Jean, and family.”