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.”

Red tide fear: trouble at sea

Twenty-nine years ago the North Carolina coastal fishing and tourist industries faced a very real problem.  As most often is the case, the Hugh Morton family stepped in to offer help. Morton collection volunteer and blog contributor Jack Hilliard looks back to January, 1988 and a unique gathering of loyal North Carolinians.

First, a little history . . .

In August 1987 off the coast of Naples, Florida, microscopic algae began to reproduce at a rapid rate, thriving and expanding in a matter of days into a large toxic bloom that dominated the Florida coastal environment.  Two months later that same organism, Ptychodiscus brevis, had spread to the North Carolina coast—closing 170 miles of coastal fishing waters and affecting 9,000 commercial fishermen.  North Carolina had never had a toxic algae bloom.  In fact a toxic bloom had never been seen north of Jacksonville, Florida, about 800 miles to the south.

At the time, some scientists described the situation as a spreading global epidemic of toxic and nontoxic algae blooms called “red tides.”  North Carolina’s bloom is believed to have traveled north in the Gulf Stream, bypassing other Southern states. Some of those scientists believed the causes of the red tide epidemic likely included climatic changes, natural growth cycles, and man-made pollution among others.  Other scientists remained unconvinced.  “I wouldn’t want to come down and say pollution is causing red tide expansions,” said Daniel Kamykowski, a professor of oceanography at the University of North Carolina. “I don’t think pollution is that well defined in terms of the cause of red tides.”

At this point it should be pointed out that commercial seafood found in restaurants and grocery stores is safe because it comes from red tide-free-water and is monitored by the U.S. government for safe use.  That being said, in early 1988, North Carolinians were skeptical: they were not eating fish, and that was hurting the coastal fishing and tourist business in at least 600 restaurants, hotels, and seafood markets.  At the time, Hugh Morton, Jr. was the Director of the North Carolina Division of Travel and Tourism, having been in that position since March of 1987.

When there was a North Carolina concern that needed attention, Hugh Morton, Jr., like his father, was always ready to help.  So in early January, 1988, along with the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, Morton and Governor Jim Martin launched a campaign to aid the fishing and tourism industries that were facing the red tide scare.

Governor Jim Martin addressing a crowd of food workers and celebrities including Charlie Justice, Phil Ford, Clyde King, and William Friday. Taken at a North Carolina tourism event coordinated by Hugh Morton, Jr. to address the effects of "red tide" algae.

Governor Jim Martin addressing a crowd of food workers and celebrities including Charlie Justice, Phil Ford, Clyde King, and William Friday. Taken at a North Carolina tourism event coordinated by Hugh Morton, Jr. to address the effects of “red tide” algae.

On January 6, 1988, Governor Martin and Hugh, Jr. staged a seafood feast at the Governor’s mansion in Raleigh. The invited guest list read like a who’s who in the Tar Heel state: Jesse Haddock, Bill Friday, Kay Yow, George Hamilton IV, Captain Frank Conlon, Kyle and Richard Petty, Clyde King, Loonis McGlohon, Charlie Justice, Shirley Caesar, Bones McKinney, Tommy Amaker, Tommy Burleson, Miss North Carolina Seafood Evonne Carawan of Morehead City, Bob Timberlake, Bobby Jones, and Phil Ford, plus a variety of costumed characters from a variety of state travel attractions, like Daniel Boone (portrayed by Glenn Causey.)  In all, more than thirty loyal North Carolinians participated.

They all ate North Carolina seafood, and Hugh, Jr. put to work his advertising agency skills and produced a number of TV public service announcements using this impressive group of North Carolina legends. Hugh Morton, Sr., as would be expected, was there with camera in hand.  In his 2003 book, Hugh Morton’s North Carolina, he called the group “one of the most impressive groups of celebrities ever gathered in the state.”  Some of the celebrities shared their own seafood recipes, like “Richard Petty’s Favorite Crabmeat Casserole,” and “George Hamilton IV’s Favorite Scallops and Shrimp.”  Both of these favorite recipes appeared in the March, 1988 issue of The State (now Our State).

Governor Jim Martin confers with Richard Petty, as Charlie Justice looks on. Duke basketball star Tommy Amaker may be the person on the far left. (Photograph cropped by the editor.)

Governor Jim Martin confers with Richard Petty, as Charlie Justice looks on. Duke basketball star Tommy Amaker may be the person on the far left. (Photograph cropped by the editor.)

According to the Saturday, January 9 Wilmington Morning Star, the campaign was to begin on Monday.  I recall vividly the day the reel of two-inch videotape announcements arrived at the WFMY-TV studio in Greensboro.  One of my duties at the time was to pre-screen all incoming video material.  The spots were magnificent.  We were pleased to air them in the Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem television market.  A letter enclosed with the videotape from Wade Hargrove, Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters explained the purpose for the TV project:

These announcements come at a time when the seafood industry (which is very important to the state’s economic health) has been hit hard by the “red tide” along the coast. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of everyone, there seems to be a widespread misconception that the red tide has had an adverse effect on the state’s fish and shrimp industry—which is not the case. . . These PSAs are designed to clear up that misconception in a positive, upbeat way.

I also recall that catchy phrase that ended each spot: “North Carolina . . . first in freedom . . . first in flight . . . and first in fish.”

Artist Bob Timberlake (left) and basketball player and coaching legend Horace "Bones" McKinney (right) pose with plentiful edible seafood. The woman is unidentified, perhaps a member of an N.C. outdoor drama. With Glenn Causey, as Daniel Boone, in attendance, she might be from the cast of "Horn in the West." Other possible identifications for this photograph: Kay Yow just over Timberlake's shoulder, and Shirley Caesar second from the right background. Miss N.C. Seafood is in the background (far right).

Artist Bob Timberlake (left) and basketball player and coaching legend Horace “Bones” McKinney (right) pose with plentiful edible seafood. The woman is unidentified, perhaps a member of an N.C. outdoor drama. With Glenn Causey, as Daniel Boone, in attendance, she might be from the cast of “Horn in the West.” Other possible identifications for this photograph: Kay Yow just over Timberlake’s shoulder, and Shirley Caesar second from the right background. Miss N.C. Seafood is in the background (far right).

In the weeks and months that followed, seafood consumption began the long road to recovery.  Jesse Jackson visited Wilmington for four hours on January 27 during his presidential campaign, “focusing on the economic plight of shell fishermen,” according to Janet Olsen, staff writer for the Wilmington Morning Star.  On February 2 Governor Martin launched “Operation Red Tide,” a $120,000 relief fund for those fishermen who suffered losses during the epidemic. She reported that the red tide “put almost 11,000 commercial fishermen out of work in North Carolina.”  On February 12 Bryson Jenkins, Public Information Spokeswoman with the North Carolina Division of Environmental Management, announced that algae counts were at 5,000 cells per liter, down from “hundreds of thousands.”

Meadow George Lemon III, 1932–2015

Booklet, His Home Town's Tribute, with inscription on cover from Hugh Morton to Sam Ragan. Copy in the North Carolina Collection.

His Home Town’s Tribute, with inscription on cover from Hugh Morton to Sam Ragan. Copy in the North Carolina Collection.

The moon is not ready for us yet, so we must live together here on earth . . .

I woke up this morning to the news that Meadowlark Lemon passed away yesterday.  I logged into A View to Hugh to create a blog post.  Jack Hilliard had already left a comment about Lemon’s passing in Susan Block’s essay, “Wilmington: Faded Glory to Fresh Achievement” and he mentioned the above booklet.  I retrieved it from the stacks first thing after arriving in my office.  Leafing through its pages alludes to why the city conveyed the honor to Lemon when it did—but it never even mentions the exact date, only “on a day in March 1971.”  Lemon’s visit to Wilmington lasted forty-eight hours (maybe more) and took place only six weeks after the February 6th firebombing of Mike’s Grocery and the rioting that followed, and the arrest of suspects that became known as The Wilmington Ten.  Lemon’s autobiography, Meadowlark (1987) tells part of the story, too, a story that extends beyond an honorific day.

Born Meadow George Lemon III on April 25, 1932 in Wilmington, North Carolina (though some sources state he was born in South Carolina and his family moved to Wilmington when he was about six years old).  When Lemon was eleven years old he saw a newsreel at The Ritz movie theater about the Harlem Globetrotters.  Lemon’s heart raced as he watched the players handle a basketball, passing it around their “Magic Circle” with faking and mugging while dancing to the music of “Sweet Georgia Brown.”  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “In a flash,” he wrote in Meadowlark, “I knew I wanted to be on that team, the Harlem Globetrotters.”  As soon as the newsreel ended, Lemon ran out of the theater, skipping the feature films, to his father’s house.  He had had a life-changing experience and he had to tell his dad—but he wasn’t home.  Rummaging around he found a nearly empty onion sack and threaded it onto a wire hanger, which he nailed the crudely made hoop to a neighbor’s tree.  He went back to his dad’s house and found a Carnation Evaporated Milk, which he scrunched for his ball.  He played basketball this way for hours until his father came home.

Meadowlark Lemon’s story of his basketball origins proceed through Wilmington’s Community Boy’s Club where he played his first organized basketball just after finishing sixth grade and continued learning the game there into his freshman year at Williston Industrial High School, the city’s only black high school.  During his first basketball game as a freshman he played as a substitute center for an injured teammate against Laurinburg Industrial with their star forward and guard Sam Jones—a future Boson Celtic and NBA Hall of Fame inductee.  Lemon was green and outplayed by the Laurinburg center; the next year, however, Lemon was named all-state and continued to be a star player throughout high school.  He graduated from Williston in 1952

After graduation Lemon was indecisive about going to college despite dozens of scholarship offers.  His father decided for him and sent off Meadow by train to Florida A&M.  Lemon thought he had also earned a football scholarship there but he had not.  Unhappy and unwilling to wait until basketball season, after just a few weeks he returned to Wilmington, prepared to serve in the U. S. Army having received his draft notice while away.

Upon Lemon’s return from Tallahassee his high school coach told him the Globetrotters would be playing in Raleigh in two weeks.  His coach had previously written a letter requesting a tryout on behalf of Lemon to his friend Abe Saperstein, owner of the Globetrotters, but had never heard back.  Lemon asked his coach to call Saperstein and secure a tryout for the Globetrotters while they were playing in Raleigh.  His call was successful: all Lemon had to do was get to the arena in Raleigh and ask for Marques Haynes.  Much to Lemon’s surprise, he tried out by suiting up for the game.  Haynes was nursing an injured knee and decided Lemon could show him what he had on the court during the game.  As he enter the gym wearing the colors he had only seen as black-and-white in a newsreel, the announcer read from a slip of paper: “For the first time in a Globetrotter uniform, the Trotters present Meadow Lemon, from our own Wilmington, North Carolina.”

Full frame scan of Hugh Morton's negative used for the cover of the souvenir program His Home Town's Tribute.

Full frame scan of Hugh Morton’s negative used for the cover of the souvenir program His Home Town’s Tribute.

There’s plenty more to Lemon’s story, which indeed took him around the world as a Harlem Globetrotter.  In 1971, however, Wilmington needed Lemon back home.

According to the booklet His Home Town’s Tribute, talk of having a Meadowlark Lemon Day dated as far back as 1965.  So in late 1970 when the Wilmington Jaycees scheduled the Globetrotters for a date at Brogden Hall for March 1971, the Chamber of Commerce was quickly able to form a special committee that included city and county government officials, and educational and civic leaders.  Shedding more light on those developments, Hugh Morton wrote in his profile of Meadowlark Lemon in Making a Difference in North Carolina (1988):

Tom Jervay, editor and publisher of the black-oriented Wilmington Journal refers to [Lemon] not as the “Clown Prince of Basketball” but as the “Clown Apostle of Interracial Good Will.”  Jervay, whose newspaper office was one of several places bombed or burned in the spring of 1971 during a period of racial violence, remembers that his son, Tom Jervay, Jr. and former Wilmington Jaycee Ed Godwin telephoned from the Journal office to Lemon, whose Globetrotters were playing in Charleston, S. C. at the time, to invite the basketball star to help Wilmington.  Goodwin arranged for a private plane to bring Lemon to the trouble city.

Editor Jervay says, “Meadowlark really cooled things down here when we needed him.”  Looking back on the strife in Wilmington which he helped defuse, Meadowlark says he would do it again, but that he will never have to, because things like that happen due to ignorance on the part of both whites and blacks, and “all of us have grown.”

Meadowlark Lemon Day was Friday, March 19, 1971.  The previous day’s editorial column in the Wilmington Star News began with the headline, “The trouble here must stop now!” Earlier that week racial tensions erupted into riots at Williston Junior High School (Lemon’s former high school, then recently integrated), Hoggard Junior High School, and New Hanover High School.  The school district closed the three schools for Thursday and Friday.

According to a photograph’s caption the tribute booklet, Wayne Jackson interviewed Lemon on television Thursday evening.  On set with Lemon was Earl Jackson and Walter Bess of the Community Boys Club, and Hugh Morton as a member of the Chamber of Commerce committee. (For context, in December 1971 Morton would begin his short-lived Democratic Party gubernatorial race.)  On Friday Lemon appeared for a press conference, followed by a luncheon with city and county officials at the Timme Plaza ballroom.  He then visited schools, including Williston, and the Community Boys Club.  Lemon stressed the need to work together to get the schools open.  In Meadowlark, Lemon says he told students, “Get the education. Stay in school.  Let’s get things together and get this trouble over.”

The tribute booklet includes a letter from Lemon in which he acknowledges the importance of the Community Boys Club in his life.  He noted that in two to three years the club’s outdated facility would fall inside the Urban Renewal area and would be torn down.  He added,

At that time a new and better home for the Club must be built.  I am grateful to Tom Jervay, Jr. and Hugh Morton for contributing, without cost, the pictures and text of this book, and to the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce for publishing it.  All profits from the sale of this souvenir book of the greatest day of my lifetime will go to begin the capital account that has been established in the Wachovia Bank in Wilmington to help build a new Community Boys Club.

There is so much good to be done in the world, I know I cannot do it all, but in the part of it I can do I want Community Boy’s Club to be included.  The moon is not ready for us yet, so we must live together here on earth, and the Boy’s Club makes life mean more to a lot of young boys. . . .

Meadowlark Lemon at the foul line during the Harlem Globetrotters game at Brogden Hall in Wilmington, North Carolina on March 19, 1971.

Meadowlark Lemon at the foul line during the Harlem Globetrotters game at Brogden Hall in Wilmington, North Carolina on March 19, 1971.

In Meadowlark, Lemon devoted about three pages to his account of events and circumstances surrounding Meadow Lark Lemon Day.  He recalled being flown into Wilmington five straight days before the game.  Despite concerns that violence may break out during the game, none occurred.  Lemon wrote in his autobiography, “No threats, no staring down.  Blacks and whites sat together, laughed together, sang together.  I felt it was one of the best things I ever accomplished.”

Closing Note: Were you living in Wilmington during this time?  Do you have recollections about Meadowlark Lemon’s visit?  If so, what level of importance do you place on his role at that crucial time?  Please share your experience by leaving a comment.  I believe there’s more to be learned about this topic!

Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith (1921–2014)

Arthur Smith passed away one year ago today.  At the time, I hurriedly started a V2H blog post to mark the occasion.  As I worked on it I kept finding more and more interesting material . . . and April 3rd slipped farther and farther into the distance before I just could wrap it up. It’s been sitting in the unpublished drafts section of the blog ever since.  Then a week or so ago, volunteer Jack Hilliard sent me post about Arthur Smith for use today.  After I finished working on Jack’s piece I dusted off this post, cleaned it up, and published it today even though it could use some more work.  The result? A twin bill!  This post is mine; the “special connection” post is Jack’s.  We hope you enjoy today’s double feature.

For many, if not most, Arthur Smith may not be a household name.  Have you seen Deliverance—or played an “air banjo” version of the well-known version called “Dueling Banjos” from the memorable scene in that 1972 movie?  If so, then you have a piece of Arthur Smith in the fiber of your being because Smith is the original writer of that song, which he played and recorded with Don Reno as “Fuedin’ Banjos” in 1955.

Arthur Smith and the Cracker-Jacks, probably 1952.

Arthur Smith (front, with guitar) and the Cracker-Jacks, including Ralph Smith (rear left, with accordion), Tommy Faile (rear, second from right), and Sonny Smith (rear, right) posing in front of a brick wall. A detail of Smith’s face appears in an advertisement for the Fifth Annual Azalea Festival in March 22, 1952 issue of THE STATE magazine. Arthur Smith and the Cracker-Jacks performed during the festival on March 29th.

Arthur Smith was born in Clinton, South Carolina in 1921.  The 1930 United States Census enumerated his family in Flat Creek Township in Lancaster County on April 4th, just a few days after Arthur’s 9th birthday.  He is the son of Clayton S. Smith and his wife Viola Fields, both North Carolinians by birth.  In the 1930 census Arthur had two older and two younger siblings: Ethel, age 13; Oscar, 9; Ruby, 7; and Ralph, 6.  Clayton’s occupation is listed as a weaver in a cotton mill.

The most likely matching “Arthur Smith” in the 1940 census shows Arthur as one of three lodgers at home of what looks like Dixon G. and Sybil Stewart (the census taker’s handwriting is difficult to read) at 442 Kennedy Street in Spartanburg, S.C.  Stewart and the lodgers all have their occupation listed as “Advertise” and written (again hard to decipher) in the Industry column is “Radio” and what looks like “Vine Herb.”  This is a nugget for a future researcher to resolve.

*****

Arthur Smith was already an accomplished musician well before “Fuedin’ Banjos.”  When Smith was in eighth grade, he and brothers Ralph and Sonny formed a Dixieland jazz band called The Arthur Smith Quartet.  At the beginning their financial prospects were bleak.  Smith said during an interview with Don Rhodes for his article “Arthur Smith: a Wide & Varied Musical Career” in the July 1977 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited,

We nearly starved to death until one day we changed our style.  We had been doing a daily radio show in Spartanburg, South Carolina, as the “Arthur Smith Quartet.”  One Friday morning we threw down our trumpet, clarinet, and trombone and picked up the fiddle, accordion, and guitar.  The next Monday we came back on the radio program as “Arthur Smith and the Carolina Crackerjacks.”  My brother, Sonny, came up with the name.  The Carolina was because we were from South Carolina, and the Crackerjack part came when Sonny found that the word according to the dictionary meant one who is tops in his field.

This would probably be as good a place as any in this story to state that there is no definitive biography Arthur Smith, and much of what is on the Internet or in print is anecdotal, sketchy or brief, and with a fair amount of rehashing of what someone else had already written.  Pulling this post together has been a bit of a challenge, so please leave a comment with corrections or clarifications.

When Arthur Smith was in tenth grade, the group made their first recording during a field recording session for RCA Victor in 1938.  According to one discography, the recording date was 26 September 1938 at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Rock Hill, S. C.  Smith recalled in the booklet The Charlotte Country Music Story, that their best song from that session was “Going Back to Old Carolina” (Bluebird Records recording B-8304).

Smith must have paid attention to the school books, too, because he was the class’s valedictorian.  Smith had an opportunity to attend the United States Naval Academy after graduation, but he declined because he knew he wanted to be a musician.

*****

The band’s success grew and at some point in time, possibly 1941, Smith moved to Charlotte when he and the Crackerjacks became regularly featured on WBT’s country music radio programs, among them probably Carolina Barndance.

As with most born in this era, however, WWII brought disruption and the Crackerjacks disbanded.  All three brothers served in the military, Arthur Smith in the Navy.  He played in his military band, and it was there that he wrote “Guitar Boogie,” his breakthrough recording that sold more than a million copies in 1945.  After the war, the Smith revived the Crackerjacks.

*****

I’ve not found mention of how Hugh Morton and Arthur Smith met, but I hope those that might know will comment below.  Morton photographed Smith with and without the Cracker-Jacks (that variant spelling, with and without a hyphen, was often used) on several occasions over many years.  Both were born in 1921, and both served in the military during World War II; Morton as a photographer and cameraman in the United States Army 161st Signal Corps, Smith in the United States Navy.  The photograph at the top of this post dates from 1952, used to promote the Azelea Festival in WIlmington that year.

Smith and Morton may have met earlier, however, at Singing at the Mountain in 1950.  In his book with Edward Rankin, Making a Difference in North Carolina, published in 1988, Hugh Morton recalled that it was around 1950 that Singing on the Mountain had a “big boost” in attendance.  Singing’s co-founder Joe L. Hartley soon thereafter gave Smith the designation “Music Master” for the annual event because Smith “played a major role in inviting other outstanding musical groups.”  Singing on the Mountain was already growing crowds prior to 1950.  A brief article about the 1949 “Singing” published in the Watauga Democrat noted that 25,000 people had attended, the largest crowd to date.  The following year, an article in the 29 June 1950 issue of the Wautaga Democrat about that year’s singing described the previous Sunday’s event: “One of the musical highlights during the beautiful summer day was provided by Hillbilly Headliner Arthur Smith and his Crackerjacks from Columbia Broadcasting System and Radio Station WBT, Charlotte. . . . Highway patrolmen reported that during one period around noon, the highways leading to this convention were crowded by cars bumper to bumper, stretching four miles in one direction and three in the other.”

Morton wrote in Sixty Years with a Camera,

Arthur Smith is one of my dear friends, and for thirty consecutive years he was the singing master for “Singing on the Mountain” at Grandfather.  He of course wrote the Number 1 banjo song in the world, “Duelling Banjos,” [sic] and the Number 1 guitar piece “Guitar Boogie.”  He is also a very religious man, and he plugged the daylights out of the “Singing” and brought big crowds.  Mr. Joe Hartley, the founder and chairman of the annual event, thought that his homemade sign out on the highway attracted the people.  He never did understand that Arthur Smith’s promotion of the program on television was the reason for the huge crowds.

The next two photographs below may not have been published before this post.

Arthur Smith playing his guitar at Sining on the Mountain, date unknown.

Arthur Smith playing his guitar with the Cracker-Jacks at Singing on the Mountain, at MacRae Meadows near Linville, N. C. The date for this negative, one of four extent made at this performance, is unknown. Arthur Smith and the Cracker-Jacks first performed at the 1950 Singing.

 *****

Unidentified group portrait of Arthur Smith with other musicians circa 1960s.

There’s no identifying information about this group portrait of Arthur Smith and the Cracker-Jacks. The colors, clothes, and art styles all seem to be singing 1960s. Can anybody identify people, place, time, or event? Was this photographed on the television set at WBTV for either “Carolina Calling” or “The Arthur Smith Show?”  Groovy points will be awarded for proper identification of this photograph.

Hugh Morton photographed Smith on numerous occasions, including many made for record album dust jackets.  Notice the photography credit for Hugh Morton on back of the following album’s cover . . .

Arthur Smith Great Country and Western Hits_album cover

An Arthur Smith recording from 1965, from the Southern Folklife Collection in Wilson Library.

Verso of Arthur Smith Great Country & Western Hits

Verso of the album Arthur Smith Great Country & Western Hits showing credit to Hugh Morton for the cover photograph.

Hugh Morton may be the photographer for Smith’s LP album The Guitars of “Guitar Boogie” Smith published by Starday Records in 1968.  There is a 4″ x 5″ color transparency in the Morton collection that is an extremely similar pose to that on the album.  Smith moved his hands slightly but his facial expression looks to be identical.  I prefer the hand positioning in the one not used on the cover because his right hand is concealed.

Arthur Smith posing for album cover portrait for "The Guitars of Arthur 'Guitar Boogie' Smith", circa 1968.

Arthur Smith posing for album cover portrait for “The Guitars of Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith”, circa 1968.

Interestingly, CMT used a tightly cropped pose from this sitting in its obituary of Smith.  The image source is Getty Images.

There’s a lot more Arthur Smith images to parse through in the Morton Collection, more than can be featured in this post.  Needless to say, when someone writes the definitive biography of Arthur Smith. the Hugh Morton collection is a “go to” collection for visual research.

*****

ANY RELATION? The 1940 United States Census enumerated a James Arthur Smith, age ten months, living with his family on Florida Street in Clinton, Laurens County, South Carolina.  James Arthur was the second son of Broadus E. and Annie Mae Smith.  He had an older brother Edward, age 4 years old.  The census taker’s handwriting for his father’s name is hard to decipher, but a Google search revealed a Broadus E. Smith who wrote four church hymns.  Is this is likely connection.  Broadus’s occupation is listed as a carpenter in the building construction industry.

 

 

Another special connection with another legend named Smith

In February we shared a blog-post about the special connection that Hugh Morton had with Legendary UNC Basketball Coach Dean Smith.  Today, April 3, 2015, on the one-year anniversary of the death of another legend named Smith, Morton Collection volunteer Jack Hilliard shares the special connection Hugh Morton had with Music Legend Arthur Smith.  In case you landed here first, be sure to check out today’s other post on Arthur Smith by Stephen Fletcher, the second half of today’s doubleheader.

Arthur Smith and band "The Crackerjacks" performing on an outdoor stage at "Singing on the Mountain" gospel festival, Grandfather Mountain, Linville, NC. L to R: Ralph Smith, Sonny Smith, Don Lear, Arthur Smith. Photograph illustrates article about Smith, "Another Tar Heel Booster," in September 2, 1950 issue of THE STATE magazine, with caption that says Smith is "singing his original composition, 'Foolish Questions.'"

Arthur Smith and band “The Crackerjacks” performing on an outdoor stage at “Singing on the Mountain” gospel festival, Grandfather Mountain, Linville, NC. L to R: Ralph Smith, Sonny Smith, Don Lear, Arthur Smith. Photograph illustrates article about Smith, “Another Tar Heel Booster,” in September 2, 1950 issue of THE STATE magazine, with caption that says Smith is “singing his original composition, ‘Foolish Questions.'”

When the folks at Grandfather Mountain staged their 90th Singing on the Mountain festival on June 22, 2014, they dedicated the event to Arthur Smith. Smith had passed away a little over two months before on April 3rd, just two days after his 93rd birthday.

Smith and his “Crackerjacks” had served as Music Masters of the event from about 1950 through the early 1980s.  I think it’s safe to say that Smith had a standing invitation from his dear friend Hugh Morton to be a part of every Singing on the Mountain.  During the 1960s and ‘70s, Smith was responsible for inviting his friends Johnny and June Carter Cash in 1974 and Rev. Billy Graham in 1962, plus many other famous names.  Smith was the featured speaker at the 1991 event.

The 2014 speaker was noted evangelist Leighton Ford who had been the main speaker at the event in 1969 and 1989.  Ford built his ‘14 message around the words of some of the gospel songs Smith had written over the years. In an interview before the event, Ford said, “I do plan to include some of Arthur’s songs and thoughts in this, because our faith is a singing faith.”  Legendary Charlotte television broadcaster Doug Mayes introduced Rev. Ford.  Mayes had helped Clyde McLean serve as the chief announcer on The Arthur Smith Show, which was taped at WBTV, Channel 3 in the Queen City.  Mayes also shared some of his memories of Smith and the “Crackerjacks.”

The 2014 musical lineup included a noon tribute to Smith by his son, Clay, and “Brother Ralph” Smith’s sons, Tim and Roddy, playing instrumentals with David Moody of The Moody Brothers.  Vocalist Keith Dudley offered several of Smith’s most well-known hymns, and George Hamilton IV, who performed with Smith for years, came in from Nashville and his job as backstage host of the Grand Ole Opry to sing Smith’s most famous hymn, “Acres of Diamonds.”  The Cockman Family of Sherrills Ford, NC added several of Smith’s secular hits including “Feudin’ Banjos” and “Guitar Boogie.”

*****

Arthur Smith (center, with banjo), posing with his band "The Crackerjacks." Back Row (L to R): Tommy Faile, Wayne Haas, Kaye Murray; Front Row (L to R): Ralph Smith, Carl Hunt, Arthur Smith, Carlene "Sam" Howell, Jim Buchanan. Possibly taken on the deck of the USS North Carolina in Wilmington, N.C.

Arthur Smith (center, with banjo), posing with his band “The Crackerjacks.” Back Row (L to R): Tommy Faile, Wayne Haas, Kaye Murray; Front Row (L to R): Ralph Smith, Carl Hunt, Arthur Smith, Carlene “Sam” Howell, Jim Buchanan. Possibly taken on the deck of the USS North Carolina in Wilmington, N.C.

Arthur Smith and Hugh Morton go back a long way.  There are pictures in the Morton Online Collection of Smith and his “Crackerjacks” at the 1952 Azalea Festival in Wilmington and a decade or so later on the deck of the Battleship USS North Carolina.  But it was in 1962 that the Morton–Smith “team” set out on its most famous project.

In the mid-1950s, the National Park Service was preparing for the final 7.7 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the state planned to gain, by its power of eminent domain, a portion of Grandfather Mountain in order to build a road higher on the Mountain than Morton wanted.  Here’s how Morton described the situation in his 1988 book, Making a Difference in North Carolina:

To accommodate the requested “high route,” the state condemned additional land and we protested to Chairman A.H. Graham of the North Carolina Highway and Public Works Commission. . . The Chairman promptly arranged for a hearing before the State Highway Commission for the National Parks Service and me.

Almost immediately I received an invitation from WRAL-TV, in Raleigh, to debate the Grandfather Mountain right-of-way controversy with National Parks Director (Conrad) Wirth. . . Later I was notified that Wirth was bringing his engineer, and suggested I bring my engineer or lawyer to even up the sides of the debate.  I had neither engineer nor lawyer.  So I invited my friend Arthur Smith . . .

Wirth obviously did not know Arthur Smith when I introduced them, and was unaware that he performed daily in nearly every television market in the southeastern United States, including WRAL-TV.  The Park Director and his engineer spoke first. . . I made a brief statement and then Arthur Smith, in his Southern drawl said, “When a man like Hugh Morton owns a mountain and loves it like he does, it don’t seem right for a big bureaucrat to come down here from Washington and take it away from him.”

The telephone switchboard at WRAL-TV lit up with support for our position and it was soon obvious that Conrad Wirth had lost the debate. . . . The State Highway Commission voted to return the illegally condemned land.

*****

Hugh Morton almost never promoted himself, but he did try once, with a little help from a few of his friends.  Hugh’s longtime friend Charles Kuralt described the start of that effort at the 1996 North Caroliniana Society Award ceremony.

On December 1, 1971, in the shadow of the Capitol in Raleigh, surrounded on a chilly day, by shivering pretty girls in shorts wearing “Morton for Governor” hats and carrying “Morton for Governor” signs, with Arthur Smith playing “Guitar Boogie” for the crowd, with Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice on hand to declare “I have been on Hugh’s team all my life,” Hugh Morton formally declared his candidacy for governor.

Morton chose to withdraw his candidacy a couple of months later.  It was likely the only occasion when the Morton–Smith duo failed to achieve its goal.

*****

Ralph Smith, Don Ange, Jackie Schuyler, Dick Schuyler, Maggie Griffin, George Hamilton IV, and Arthur Smith at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Taken on 1973 trip Hugh Morton took to the "Holy Land" along with musicians George Hamilton IV, Arthur Smith, Ralph Smith, and others, possibly for filming of television special.

Ralph Smith, Don Ange, Jackie Schuyler, Dick Schuyler, Maggie Griffin, George Hamilton IV, and Arthur Smith at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Taken on 1973 trip Hugh Morton took to the “Holy Land” along with musicians George Hamilton IV, Arthur Smith, Ralph Smith, and others, possibly for filming of television special.

In March of 1973, Arthur Smith took his syndicated television program to the Holy Land to record shows in Nazareth, Jericho, Mt. Sinai, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and of course at the River Jordan. The group also visited Rome.  Morton, along with wife Julia and daughter Catherine, went along to take photographs that were later used for album covers.

*****

Arthur Smith and North Carolina governor Jim HuntNorth Carolina Governor Jim Hunt called Hugh Morton in March of 1981.  The Governor wanted a 3-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax to finance road improvements.  Morton, as always, stepped in to help.  Hunt had polling data that said support for the gas tax was weakest among blue collar workers and farmers.  The Governor’s plan called for Morton and retired Charlotte banker C.C. Hope to lead an effort to change the opinion of that segment of the population.  Well, Hugh Morton had better idea. Rather than banker Hope, why not recruit Arthur Smith?  Morton believed that a country music legend like Smith would do better than a banker when trying to convince blue collar workers and farmers to support a gas tax.  Smith agreed to take on the challenge.  The plan worked; on June 26, 1981, the legislature approved the tax.

Also in 1981, Morton completed work on the award-winning film The Hawk and John McNeely.  The music track for that film was done by Arthur Smith and the film was narrated by Woody Durham, “The Voice of the North Carolina Tar Heels” football and basketball teams.

*****

Musicians Arthur Smith (far left), Raymond Fairchild (second from left), and others performing at the dedication of the final piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain, N.C.

Musicians Arthur Smith (far left), Raymond Fairchild (second from left), and others performing at the dedication of the final piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain, N.C.

It was a beautiful September day in 1987 when the Blue Ridge Parkway was officially opened for traffic to travel the entire 469.1 miles through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties.  The dedication ceremony brought together again Arthur Smith and Hugh Morton.  They had come full circle, from that famous debate 25 years before in Raleigh, to the official dedication at the Linn Cove Viaduct on September 11, 1987.

*****

Almost five years later, on September 2, 1992, another celebration took place at Grandfather Mountain.  This time it was the 40th anniversary of the Mile High Swinging Bridge.  Many familiar faces turned out for this party as well: Kuralt, Justice, and of course Arthur Smith with guitar in hand to entertain the crowd.

Arthur Smith was best known for his music, but he was a serious Bible student and Sunday school teacher throughout his career. In a January, 1992 book titled Apply it to Life, he shared his practical applications of the Scriptures. By combining his favorite verses of Scripture, humorous stories that he had collected over the years, and ten of his most popular inspirational songs, he was effectively able to apply the messages found in Scripture to one’s everyday life.

“He had a very strong faith and considered being the musical host for the ‘Singing on the Mountain’ to be part of his ministry,” said Harris Prevost, vice president of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

According to Hugh’s wife Julia, Hugh and Arthur had only one serious disagreement during their long friendship.  That disagreement came during the campaign to get “Liquor by the Drink” in North Carolina.

Both men were teetotalers, but Morton saw the tourist value in Liquor by the Drink and fought hard to get it approved.  He was finally successful in 1978 without Smith’s support, but he never lost Smith’s respect.

*****

From Swinging on the Bridge to Singing on the Mountain . . .

From the Azalea Gardens in Wilmington to the Holy Land and Rome . . .

From the Deck of the “Showboat” to the Linn Cove Viaduct . . .

Hugh Morton and Arthur Smith stood shoulder-to-shoulder carrying out numerous projects and celebrating others across the state of North Carolina for more than 50 years.  And on this day, one year after Arthur Smith joined Hugh Morton once again, I choose to believe that their special connection continues.

Hugh Morton and Arthur Smith during their March 1973 trip to the Holy Land.

Hugh Morton and Arthur Smith during their March 1973 trip to the Holy Land.

Epilogue:

When The Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte published its 2002 book The North Carolina Century: Tar Heels Who Made a Difference, 1900-2000, they chose a Hugh Morton portrait of Arthur Smith to support the Smith profile.

A Hall for All . . . Old, New, and Renovated

Nine years ago on September 8, 2005, the “new and improved” Memorial Hall on the UNC campus was celebrated with a grand re-opening weekend. On this special anniversary, Morton Collection volunteer, Jack Hilliard, takes a look back at this iconic building.

Memorial Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill, April 22 1987.

Memorial Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill, April 22 1987.

It became painfully clear during UNC’s commencement weekend of 1883 that Gerrard Hall was too small for Carolina’s growing family.  Afterward, officials quickly drew plans for a new 4,000-seat building on a site just west of Gerrard to be named Memorial Hall in honor of David Lowry Swain, President of the University from 1835 until 1868, and North Carolina’s Governor from 1832 until 1835.  Soon after construction began, however, the university expanded the memorial honor to include UNC alumni who died in the Civil War as well as additional outstanding Carolina alumni and North Carolina citizens.

A lagging fund raising campaign and cost overruns plagued the project, but finally construction was completed and Memorial Hall was dedicated on June 3, 1885. A project that had an original estimated cost of $20,000 had a final cost about $45,000. (That’s $1.074 million in today’s dollars.)  Despite a poor architectural design and major acoustical problems, the facility served the University until 1929. In 1896, after the campus gymnasium became a dining hall, Memorial Hall was used as a gymnasium and remained in that capacity until Bynum Gym was opened on May 29, 1905. By 1929, Memorial Hall had suffered major damage to its foundation.  The building was declared unsafe and torn down.

On January 18, 1930 John Sprunt Hill, speaking for the University building committee, recommended “the erection of a modern fireproof building of greater dignity, to replace old Memorial Hall.”  The State Emergency Fund provided $150,000 to construct a new structure on the site of the old hall.  The new Memorial Hall was completed in mid-summer 1931 at a final cost of $182,000 ($2.6 million in today’s dollars).  On University Day, October 12th, the new facility was dedicated and the building was presented to University trustee, John Sprunt Hill, by North Carolina Governor O. Max Gardner.

The first performance on stage in the new building was dancer Carola Goya. For almost 30 years, Memorial Hall served the University and Chapel Hill community well with entertainment, freshman orientations sessions, awards nights, baccalaureate exercises, commencement ceremonies, lectures, pep rallies, the North Carolina Symphony, and even a beauty pageant in 1966. The list of those appearing on stage reads like a who’s who . . . Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Montovani, Marcel Marceau.  On January 31, 1942, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited campus as keynote speaker at a jointly-sponsored International Student Service-Carolina Political Union Conference on “Youth’s Stake in War Aims and Peace Plans.”

Eleanor Roosevelt standing at the stage entrance to Memorial Hall with her secretary Malvina Thompson on the left, Frank Porter Graham (second from left), and Josephus Daniels (right), during Roosevelt's January 1942 visit to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as the keynote speaker at a jointly-sponsored International Student Service-Carolina Political Union conference on “Youth’s Stake in War Aims and Peace Plans.”

Eleanor Roosevelt standing at the stage entrance to Memorial Hall with her secretary Malvina Thompson on the left, Frank Porter Graham (second from left), and Josephus Daniels (right), during Roosevelt’s January 1942 visit to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as the keynote speaker at a jointly-sponsored International Student Service-Carolina Political Union conference on “Youth’s Stake in War Aims and Peace Plans.”

Over the years, Hal Holbrook with his “Evening with Mark Twain” made several appearances as did Flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya. At the height of the folk music era  Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul and Mary stopped by. In 1987 Charles Kuralt and Loonis McGlohon performed “North Carolina is My Home.”  A speakers list includes, Billy Graham, Terry Sanford, and Ted Kennedy. Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather have been featured at the Nelson Benton Memorial Lecture series sponsored by the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and coaches Carl Snavely, Wallace Wade, and Dean Smith were featured as part of an ongoing series on sportsmanship.  On May 13, 1989 as part of Graduation/Reunion Weekend, Hugh Morton presented a slide show from Carolina’s Golden Age to a near-full house in the storied facility.

Dan Rather during his appearance at the Nelson Benton Lecture series at UNC-Chapel Hill in Memorial Hall on April 26, 1991.

Dan Rather during his appearance at the Nelson Benton Lecture series at UNC-Chapel Hill in Memorial Hall on April 26, 1991.

When UNC’s Clef Hangers completed their annual spring concert on April 20, 2002 the doors to the ‘Great Hall” were closed for a three-year major building transformation. A partnership between the State of North Carolina and hundreds of generous donors funded the $18 million project. The new Memorial Hall now has air conditioning, seven dressing rooms, new marble lobby floor, and a new stage that is twice the size of the original. The auditorium seating configuration is improved with wider aisles and better sight lines.

On September 8, 2005 a ribbon-cutting ceremony kicked off the Grand Reopening Gala that featured stars Tony Bennett, Itzhak Perlman, and Leonard Slatkin—plus our own North Carolina Symphony.  Following the hall’s renovation, Carolina Performing Arts has continued to offer world-class performances in music, dance and theater, and the caliber of performers picked up right where it had left off before closing with Bonnie Raitt, Yo-Yo Ma, Nanci Griffith, and Vince Gill.  In 2005, National Public Radio’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” originated a nation-wide broadcast from Memorial Hall, and in 2009 the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet performed a first ever concert in the Southeast.

The future is just as bright for Memorial Hall.  Performances this season include the Pittsburgh Symphony under the direction of Manfred Honeck, and Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. And of course the Holidays would not be complete without the Carolina Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker.”

Thomas Wolfe in Hugh Morton’s time

The hands of Thomas Wolfe's mother Julia frame an array of portraits of her departed son, author Thomas Wolfe.
The hands of Julia Wolfe frame photographs of her departed son, noted North Carolina born author Thomas Wolfe.

While a student at Chapel Hill, Hugh Morton was given the assignment by a student publication to make photographs of Tom Wolfe’s mother, Julia, in Asheville.  The famous novelist had been dead about two years, and as every reader of Look Homeward Angel knows, Wolfe’s treatment of his mother in the book was not kind.  She had not welcomed the news media attention which resulted. When Morton appeared at the “Old Kentucky Home” and asked to make photographs, he was summarily dismissed by Mrs. Wolfe.  The next day he returned, was given a more promising audience and his entreaties gained her permission to make these two pictures. She also rode out to the cemetery to show Morton where her son was buried but she did not get out of the car.  Morton’s recollections of Julia Wolfe: “She was obviously proud of her son, proud of the success his works enjoyed … but she had mixed feelings about what he had written about her. Perhaps she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”  —Edward L. Rankin, Jr. in Making a Difference in North Carolina

The 36th Annual Conference of the Thomas Wolfe Society kicked off this Friday afternoon at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where it continues on Saturday.  This year’s conference theme is “Wolfe in his time, Wolfe in our time.”  As you might imagine, Hugh Morton photographed Wolfe-related images during Morton’s time.

Thomas Wolfe died on September 15th, 1938—around the time Morton would have been starting his senior year in high school.  When he was a junior in college—by then an accomplished photographer—The Carolina Magazine “especially sent” staff photographer Morton to Asheville on assignment to make photographs to illustrate an article by Don Bishop (Donald Edwin Bishop, class of 1941).  Simply titled “Thomas Wolfe,” Bishop wrote about Wolfe during his student years at UNC.  The magazine’s editors dubbed that particular issue, March 1942, as its “Baby-Esquire” and the cover donned the temporary title The New Carolina Magazine. [You may read either Bishop’s entire article (it’s very good), the full March issue, or the complete volume for 1941-1942 by clicking this link, then use the “Search inside” box just above the magazine or the sliding scroll bar below the magazine to navigate to Bishop’s article.]

The Carolina Magazine published three of Morton’s photographs: Wolfe’s gravestone, a portrait of his mother Julia Wolfe, and photographs of Thomas Wolfe on a table with his mother’s hands on the table’s edge (seen above).  “Returning with more photographs than could fill these pages,” the caption reads “our staff photographer confirmed the amazing similarity between parts of ‘Look Homeward’ and parts of Asheville itself.  Mrs. Wolfe generously took out all of Tom’s photos she possessed and permitted Morton to take the pictures above.”

Elizabeth Hull wrote a post about Morton’s Thomas Wolfe related images back in 2009 using a few images, including one of two close-up portraits Morton made of Julia Wolfe.  The second portrait she included depicted Mrs. Wolfe from farther back, a full length view as she stands on the porch of “Our Kentucky Home.”  Both of these portraits appear in Morton and Rankin’s book, Making a Difference in North Carolina.  The closeup portrait used by Hull, Morton, and Rankin however, is not the one published in The Carolina Magazine.  That portrait is below, which I scanned for this post.

Full negative scan of Hugh Morton's portrait of Julia Wolfe that appeared (cropped) in the March 1942 issue of The Carolina Magazine.

Full negative scan of Hugh Morton’s portrait of Julia Wolfe that appeared (cropped) in the March 1942 issue of The Carolina Magazine.

The main difference between the portraits in Making a Difference in North Carolina and The Carolina Magazine is Morton’s lighting.  Morton made the portrait above using an artificial light source placed to Mrs. Wolfe’s left, while he exposed the other negative using natural, available light.  You can tell by comparing the shadows: in the above portrait Wolfe’s shadow is behind and to her right, while the shadows in her portrait printed in the Morton/Rankin book fall beneath her chin and nose.

The photograph shown at the opening of this post was the largest of the three Morton images used with Bishop’s article—but, similar to the portrait above, the scanned negative viewable in the online Morton collection is a different pose made during the same sitting.  I cropped the opening photograph above as it was in The Carolina Magazine; the full negative can be seen in the scan below. P081_NTBS3_015401

The third and final published Morton photograph was Thomas Wolfe’s gravestone.  The cropping is mine, which gives the marker a bit more room around the edges of the frame than it has in the magazine’s crop.  You may see the full view of the negative by clicking on the photograph.  A link to all of the Wolfe related images scanned and available on line thus far can be seen by clicking here or the linked text in the opening paragraph.  For a complete list of all the images related to Thomas and Julia Wolfe, you may search the complete finding aid.

P081_NTBF3_006245_07_crop

North Carolina’s Tribute to President John F. Kennedy

Back in 2007, I wrote a brief post about the fundraising event held at Kenan Memorial Stadium for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.  Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the event—North Carolina’s Tribute to President John F. Kennedy for the benefit of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library.

Governor Terry Sanford with Hugh Morton and Andy Anderson during a John F. Kennedy Memorial Library Fundraising Committee meeting, 16 April 1964.

North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford with Hugh Morton and E. G. “Andy” Anderson (county chair from Martin County) during a John F. Kennedy Memorial Library Fundraising Committee meeting, 16 April 1964. Hugh Morton chaired the state’s committee. The governor posed for a portrait with each of the county chairs in attendance.  UNC Photo Lab photograph by Jerry Markatos.

Every spring for the past several years, I have pulled together a slideshow for UNC’s Alumni Reunion Weekend for visitors to watch during Wilson Library’s Saturday afternoon open house.  To create the slideshow, I go through the negatives in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection (the UNC “Photo Lab”) for that particular year’s fiftieth anniversary class and select about 100 negatives to be scanned.  This year I came across a familiar face while surveying negatives made during the 1963-1964 academic year.  I used the above image in the slideshow, but not the one below.

Hugh Morton in conversation with then former Governor Luther Hodges, Jr.

Hugh Morton in conversation with former Governor Luther H. Hodges, Jr. (left) and an unidentified person in the Morehead Planetarium. On the far right is UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor William B. Aycock.  UNC Photo Lab photograph by Robert Arndt.

Hugh Morton was the chair of the state’s fundraising efforts—a logical choice given his highly successfully efforts to bring the USS North Carolina to Wilmington.  The North Carolina Collection holds a few items from the state’s tribute to JFK.  Within the Hugh Morton collection are several color slides made by an unknown photographer.  Five of these slides can be seen in the online Morton collection, as can three black-and-white photographs of Governor Terry Sanford and Hugh Morton presenting North Carolina’s $250,000 contribution to Jacqueline Kennedy on December 22nd.

There is a black-and-white image of Lyndon Baines Johnson with Governor Sanford examining a copy of the tri-fold pamphlet made to raise funds trough ticket orders to the event. The North Carolina Collection has copies of the flyer, the front cover of which seen below.

Flyer announcing North Carolina's Tribute to John F. Kennedy.

Flyer announcing North Carolina’s Tribute to John F. Kennedy. (North Carolina Collection)

The Daily Tar Heel, in its last issue of the year, gave a 50/50 chance that LBJ would be able to attend.  Newspaper articles from the Charlotte News and the Durham Morning Herald make no mention of LBJ being in attendance.  Currently we have this image categorized with those made during the tribute on May 17th, 1964.  I think, however, that that photograph is likely from a different event because, if you zoom in, you can see that Sanford is wearing a pin back button that says “MY BRAND’S LBJ”—hardly appropriate to wear during a tribute to JFK.

Also in the North Carolina Collection is a DVD copy of the 16mm film made about the day’s event as a gift for Jacqueline Kennedy.  Additionally, the North Carolina Collection also has two copies of the program from the event.  Copy two of this item also contains several letters and announcements to county chairmen from Hugh Morton.

 

“Mighty Mites,” Morton, and millions of azaleas

The 67th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival will be presented in Wilmington April, 9 – 13, 2014.  World class entertainment and millions of azaleas will combine to welcome spring to the Tar Heel state again.  Wilmington’s celebration of spring began in 1948 and each year celebrity guests have been an important part of the festivities. Morton collection volunteer/contributor Jack Hilliard takes a look at a special group of celebrities that came to the New Hanover County port city back in the 1950s.

1949 Queen of the North Carolina Azalea Festival, actress Martha Hyer, with her court.

1949 Queen of the North Carolina Azalea Festival, actress Martha Hyer, with her court.

A Prologue:

When the 1950 College All-Star football team reported to training camp at St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin on Thursday, July 20, 1950, UNC’s great All America football star Charlie Justice met up with his old friend Doak Walker from Southern Methodist University (SMU) and new friend Eddie LeBaron from College of the Pacific (COP), which is now University of the Pacific.  Justice and Walker had become friends over the years when both were on most of the 1948 and 1949 All America teams and both had been pictured on the cover of Life.  Walker had been selected for the 1948 Heisman Trophy while Justice was first runner up.  And when UNC was in Dallas for the 1950 Cotton Bowl, Walker had helped the Tar Heels prepare for a game with Rice Institute (now Rice University).  Walker’s SMU team had played and lost to Rice, 41 to 27, on October 21st. Hugh Morton photographed Justice, Walker and UNC Head Coach Carl Snavely during one of the film screening sessions at the Melrose Hotel.  Also, Justice and Walker had gotten into the T-shirt business in early 1950 and Morton had done their publicity pictures.  Quarterback Eddie LeBaron had been selected All America in 1949 as well, and the three “country boys” hit it off.  All three loved watermelon and on the first day of camp they staked out a small country store which sold melons. “Put one on ice every afternoon,” Charlie told the store owner, “and we’ll come by and pick it up.” So every afternoon after practice the trio walked to the store, purchased their chilled melon, took it outside and sat on the curb enjoying the treat.

When game day arrived on August 11, 1950, the three “Mighty Mites,” as they were called (each was under six feet tall and weighed less than180 pounds) took the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles down by a score of 17 to 7. Hugh Morton didn’t attend the All-Star game, but he always included a wire photo from it in his slide shows.

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Back in Wilmington after the War, I left town for a week, and while I was gone the local folks elected me chairman of the first Azalea Festival in 1948. —Hugh Morton, 1996

The Dallas Morning News issue of Saturday, March 18, 1950 featured the storybook, Friday night wedding of Doak Walker and his college sweetheart Norma Peterson.  The story said the couple would leave for a wedding trip to Canada “early next week . . . and will take another trip to North Carolina soon after they return.”  That North Carolina trip would be to the 1950 Azalea Festival in Wilmington, held March 30th through April 2nd.

Hal Love, president of the Azalea Festival Committee; Mrs. Norma Walker; Doak Walker; former Wilmington mayor E. L. White; and Cherokee leader McKinley Ross (with "Unto These Hills" program in pocket) at Bluethenthal Airport, Wilmington N. C., 31 March 1950.

Hal Love, president of the Azalea Festival Committee; Mrs. Norma Walker; Doak Walker; former Wilmington mayor E. L. White; and Cherokee leader McKinley Ross (with “Unto These Hills” program in pocket) at Bluethenthal Airport, Wilmington N. C., 31 March 1950.

Hugh Morton photographed Doak and Norma soon after they arrived in Wilmington.  Hugh’s wife Julia said in A View Hugh comment back in 2009, “I do remember that Doak and Norma and Charlie and Sarah (Justice) stayed with Hugh and me.  The festival didn’t have as much available money back in those days, and they were our friends.”

Charlie and Sarah Justice had been part of the 1949 festival. Charlie had crowned Queen Azalea II who was movie star Martha Hyer and many remember how the photographers covering that event had insisted that Justice kiss the Queen and he very obligingly followed through on the request.  Morton’s photograph in The State for April 16, 1949 (page 5) showed Justice with lipstick on his face.  (The original negative for this shot is no longer extant, but there is a similar negative made moments apart.)

Walter Doak during the 1950 North Carolina Azalea Festival

Charlie Justice and Doak Walker during the 1950 North Carolina Azalea Festival parade.  This scan of Morton’s negative shows the entire scene, which is usually cropped in publications.

During the 1950 festival, Morton took several pictures of Doak and Charlie, and Norma and Sarah: a beautiful shot of both couples at Arlie Gardens, and a shot from the parade on Saturday, April 1st. The parade image was reproduced in the 1958 Bob Quincy–Julian Scheer book, Choo Choo; The Charlie Justice Story, on page 112.  The same picture was also included in the 2002 Bob Terrell book All Aboard, but with an incorrect caption.  That image is on page 182. And of course, The State magazine issue of April 15, 1950 (page 3) included a Morton picture of Justice and Walker at the crowing ceremony where Justice passed the crown to Walker who crowned Gregg Sherwood as Queen Azalea III.

When Charlie and Sarah arrived in Wilmington for the 1951 festival, Hugh Morton had put in place a new event. On Saturday afternoon, March 31st, there was a special golf match at the Cape Fear Country Club.  It was called “Who Crowns the Azalea Queen?” and it pitted broadcasters Harry Wismer and Ted Malone against football greats Charlie Justice and Otto Graham—nine holes—winners crown Queen Margaret Sheridan Queen Azalea IV. And the winners . . . Charlie Justice and Otto Graham.

The day following the 1950 All-Star game, Eddie LeBaron left for Camp Pendleton and Marine duty. He would spend nine months in Korea and would receive a letter of commendation for heroism, a Bronze Star and a purple heart. Lt. Eddie LeBaron was back home in time to accept Hugh Morton’s invitation to the 1952 Azalea Festival. Again, as in 1951, there was a “Who Crowns the Azalea Queen?” golf match. This time with ABC broadcaster Harry Wismer, writer Hal Boyle, bandleader Tony Pastor, and football greats Justice, LeBaron, and Otto Graham.  The football guys won and would be part of the crowning ceremony for Queen Azalea V, Cathy Downs. A tightly cropped version of Morton’s crowning shot is also in Chris Dixon’s 2001 book Ghost Wave (unnumbered center picture page).

Later, in November, 1952, Hugh Morton took in a Washington Redskins game and photographed Justice, LeBaron, and Graham at Old Griffith Stadium.

In March of 1953, Charlie and Sarah Justice made their fifth Festival appearance as Alexis Smith became Queen Azalea VI on Saturday, March 28th.

Eddie LeBaron would return to Wilmington for the ‘58 Festival, along with Andy Griffith who crowned Queen Azalea XI, Esther Williams on March 29, 1958. Morton photographed LeBaron with Andy and NC Governor Luther Hodges.

The “Mighty Mites” were special Azalea Festival guests and were special friends of Hugh Morton, who in 1997, at the 50th Festival was honored with a star on the Wilmington Riverfront Walk of Fame and was the Festival Grand Marshal.

An Epilogue:
Doak Walker’s marriage to Norma Peterson ended in divorce in 1965 and four years later he married Olympic skier Skeeter Werner.  They lived in Steamboat Springs, Colorado until his death as a result of paralyzing injuries suffered in a skiing accident. Walker’s death on September 27, 1998 came ironically 50 years to the day of his Life magazine cover issue.

Prior to the planning sessions for the Charlie Justice statue, which now stands outside the Kenan Football Center on the UNC campus, Hugh Morton visited the Doak Walker statue at SMU.  Morton decided, unlike the Walker statue, that Charlie would not wear his helmet so everyone could easily recognize him.

Charlie Justice passed away on October 17, 2003 following a long battle with Alzheimer’s.  Charlie’s wife Sarah died four months later.

Hugh Morton “slipped peacefully away from us all on June 1, 2006.”  Those words from Morton’s dear friend Bill Friday.

Eddie LeBaron played professional football with Charlie Justice for two seasons with the Washington Redskins.  After Charlie’s retirement, the two remained close friends.  LeBaron participated in a Multiple Sclerosis Celebrity Roast for Charlie in 1980, and both were Hugh Morton’s guests at the Highland Games in 1984. Justice and LeBaron were also celebrity guests at the Freedom Classic Celebrity Golf Tournament in Charlotte in 1989 and 1990.  LeBaron lives in Sacramento, California and continues to play golf in his retirement.  Due to his diminutive size, 5 feet, 7 inches, and his leadership skills from his military service, he is often called the “Littlest General.”