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 It’s been sitting in the unpublished drafts section of the blog ever since.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀

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.”

Final weeks for “Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective”

Just wanted to float a reminder out there that the exhibit “Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective” is entering its final two weeks at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University.

Are you going to be in the mountains for a bit of skiing this weekend, but the weather forecast calls for rain on Saturday?  Just looking for something to do in Boone?  Swing on over to the Turchin Center, view the fabulous photography by Hugh Morton, and stay dry!

Emmett Kelly, Jr. at the 1968 Azalea Festival Parade

Emmett Kelly, Jr. at the 1968 Azalea Festival Parade in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Perhaps the world’s most recognizable clown, Emmett Kelly, Jr. sprung into international fame soon after completing his four-year apprenticeship in 1964. Hired by Kodak as the attraction for its pavilion during the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, the company employed Kelly as a touring Ambassador of Goodwill for the following four years. During that time period, Kelly was the most photographed clown in the world, including this one by Hugh Morton—a founder and organizer of the azalea festival.

Here are the gallery hours at the Turchin Center:

  • Tue: 10am – 6pm
  • Wed: 10am – 6pm
  • Thu: 10am – 6pm
  • Fri: 12noon – 8pm
  • Sat: 10am – 6pm

Can’t make it to Boone before the exhibit’s last day on January 25th?  Fear not!  We have two additional venues in the works for this year: one farther west this spring and another in the east during the late summer and autumn.  I’ll be posting more information as the details unfold.

A medal for Dean

There will be some great Tar Heel news out of Washington, D.C. today—November 20th, 2013.  Morton collection volunteer and blog contributor Jack Hilliard takes a look at an honor for one of the greatest Tar Heels ever.

Dean SmithCan you name two things each of the following has in common?

  • Bob Hope
  • Walter Cronkite
  • Lowell Thomas
  • David Brinkley
  • Andy Griffith
  • Adm. Arleigh Burke
  • John Glenn
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Duke Ellington
  • Richard Petty
  • Dr. Billy Graham
  • Presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan

Each one of these distinguished individuals has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and each one has been photographed by world-class photographer Hugh Morton.  We can now add one more name to that list: UNC‘s legendary basketball coach Dean Edwards Smith.  Sixteen distinguished individuals, including the man who was Carolina basketball from 1961 until his retirement following the 1997 season, will receive the medal today at a White House ceremony from President Barack Obama.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, is presented to those who have “made especially meritorious contributions to security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”  President Obama announced the latest list of recipients on August 8, 2013.

Others to receive the medal this year are President Bill Clinton, Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, senators Daniel Inouye and Richard Lugar, astronaut Sally Ride, and entertainers Loretta Lynn and Oprah Winfrey.  Additionally Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and author; Mario Molina, Nobel Prize-winning environmental scientist; Arturo Sandoval, Cuban jazz musician; Gloria Steinem, women’s rights activist; Cordy Tindell Vivian, civil rights activist; Judge Patricia Wald, the first woman to serve on the federal appeals court in Washington; and Bayard Rustin, gay civil rights activist.

During his 36 years leading the Tar Heels, coach Smith chalked up 879 wins, 11 final four appearances, 13 ACC championships and two national titles . . . along with an Olympic gold medal in 1976.  Along the way he has been awarded membership in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

In making the announcement, President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their lives to enriching ours.  This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world.”

In addition to his basketball resume, Coach Smith was a champion for civil rights, human rights, and academic achievement. The graduation rate for his players is 96 percent.

As a loyal Tar Heel since birth, I was especially pleased to see a positive Carolina athletic story on the evening news and the reaction in Chapel Hill has been likewise, extremely positive.

“I’m so proud of Coach Smith, happy for his family and friends and appreciative to President Obama for this just recognition,” said current UNC Head Basketball Coach Roy Williams who played and coached under Smith’s leadership.

Tar Heel Head Football Coach Larry Fedora said the honor is great news for UNC.  “I can’t imagine how he feels,” Fedora said.  “What a tremendous thing for our university.”

ACC Commissioner John Swofford, a former athletics director at UNC, called Smith, “one of the most successful, honorable and remarkable men I’ve had the privilege of knowing . . . his reach stretches far beyond the sport of basketball.”

Duke University Head Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski said that Smith receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom speaks loudly about Smith as a coach and the game of basketball.  “He used the platform he attained as a coach to have an influence on other areas of our society.  That’s what we should all do,” said Krzyzewski.

There has also been praise for Coach Smith from some of North Carolina’s political leadership in Congress.  “As one of the greatest coaches of the 20th century, Dean Smith revolutionized the game of basketball and brought enormous pride to North Carolina during his 36 years leading the Tar Heels,” said U.S. Senator Kay Hagan. “But while he brought us glorious moments on the court, Dean Smith will forever be known for the sense of equality and justice that he instilled in his players and fought so hard to advance in basketball, in collegiate athletics and in the country as a whole.”  Said Representative David Price: “Dean Smith is known to all North Carolinians for his tremendous success as the coach of the Carolina men’s basketball team, but the Presidential Medal of Freedom recognizes that he has been far more than a coach to his players, his community, and his country.  Throughout his life, Coach Smith has shown courage and determination on some of the most pressing issues of our time, from working to end segregation in college athletics early in his career, to advocating for inclusion in church and community, to supporting equal rights for gay Americans.”

President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton, along with first ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy by laying a wreath near his grave site in Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, November 20th.  In the evening on Wednesday, the President and First Lady will host a White House dinner honoring this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients. These annual awards were initiated by President Kennedy in 1963.

Coach Smith will not be able to attend the presentation ceremony at the White House.  He is struggling with a progressive neurocognitive disorder that affects his memory.  He will be represented by his wife Dr. Linnea Smith, his children, long-time coaching assistant Bill Guthridge, and current UNC Head Basketball Coach Roy Williams.

“We know he would be humbled to be in the company of President Clinton, United States senators, scientists, entertainers, the great Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and the other distinguished Americans who are receiving the award,” Smith’s family said. “We also know he would take this as an opportunity to recognize all the young men who played for him and the assistant coaches who worked with him as well as the University. Again, this medal is a tremendous honor.”

The award ceremony is the kind of event that photographer Hugh Morton would have attended and I choose to believe on November 20th, he will be looking down and smiling.

Mount Airy to Mayberry . . . Matlock to Manteo

It’s been a year since North Carolina said goodbye to one of its favorite sons.  It was Tuesday, July 3, 2012 that Andy Griffith died at his home in Manteo, a place where his acting career got an excellent start as Sir Walter Raleigh in Paul Green’s “The Lost Colony.” Morton collection volunteer and blog contributor Jack Hilliard takes a brief look at an American icon from Mount Airy, North Carolina.

Andy Griffith signing autographs in a crowd at the Wilmington, NC Azalea Festival in 1958.

It was Friday, February 13, 2004 when I attended the memorial service for Sarah Justice in Shelby, North Carolina.  At a reception following the service at The Church of the Redeemer, I had an opportunity to chat with my friend Hugh Morton who had just completed a book tour across the state.

“How is the book doing?” I asked.

“Pretty good,” he said.  “It’s selling far better that I ever thought it would.  You know I have really enjoyed meeting so many good Tar Heels during these book signings. I was in Manteo last week at a little book store.  I was just sitting there signing books when the next person in line stepped up to the table.  It was my dear friend Andy Griffith.”

Andy Griffith and Hugh Morton go back a long way.  All the way back to 1953 when Morton needed an entertainer for a banquet at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill. 
“Someone suggested a UNC graduate student who was active in the Carolina Playmakers,” said Morton in a 1982 interview.  “I was able to hire the student for 25 dollars and he performed a monologue called “What It Was, Was Football.”  He was known then as Andrew Griffith.  The crowd that night loved the routine that Griffith had written the year before and a couple of weeks later, Chapel Hill record producer Orville Campbell recorded it.  On November 14, 1953 Campbell released 500 copies of the tale and Griffith was on his way.

In January of 1954, Griffith’s new manager Richard O. Linke secured a live guest spot on the CBS-TV show Toast of the Town.  (That show would become The Ed Sullivan Show on September 25, 1955.)  It would be Andy’s introduction to live television.  His nervousness and his inexperience were clearly visible and the performance didn’t go over well.  Later Andy would say he had no recollection of his performance.

Griffith learned his live TV lessons well and on March 15, 1955 he starred in ABC-TV’s The United States Steel Hour production of No Time for Sergeants. This time the show was a hit and on October 20, 1955 the show opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theater. It would run for 796 performances and Griffith would be nominated for a Tony in 1956.  Playing the part of Corporal Manual Dexterity was Don Knotts who was making his Broadway debut as well.  Griffith and Knotts would become good friends . . . more on that later.  The show closed on September 14, 1957.

Next up for Griffith was the role of Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes in director Elia Kazan’s film A Face in the Crowd.  It debut in June 1957 and was another hit for Griffith.  Then in 1958 Griffith and company headed up the film version of No Time for Sergeants (watch the original trailer).  When the film opened at Greensboro’s Carolina Theater on July 5, 1958, Andy became an honorary citizen of the Gate City.

Andy Griffith was on a roll.

Andy Griffith, Dolores Gray, and Luther Hodges

Andy Griffith, actress Dolores Gray, with whom Griffith appeared in a 1959 Broadway production of “Destry Rides Again,” and North Carolina Governor Luther H. Hodges.

On April 23, 1959, he returned to Broadway for his first musical comedy Destry Rides Again.  That show would run for 472 performances at the Imperial Theater.  There was another Tony nomination for Andy.

Then, in the fall of 1959, Richard Linke called . . . this time about a possible TV show.
That show turned out to be The Andy Griffith Show, and was born during a series of meetings between Andy, Richard Linke, and Sheldon Leonard who was the producer of the highly successful The Danny Thomas Show, which, as it turned out, aired the Griffith pilot. (Watch the pilot—parts one, two, and three).  Between the pilot episode and the first Griffith show on October 3, 1960, Andy brought on board his old buddy Don Knotts to play Deputy Barney Fife.  As the TV sports guys would say “the rest is history.”  Sheriff Andy Taylor turned out to be the defining character for Andy Griffith and the show ran for eight seasons on CBS and continues to this day in reruns.

Following the final episode on April 1, 1968, there was a long dry spell for Andy Griffith.  Many mediocre movies and TV shows followed, but none came close to matching the success Andy had found in Mayberry, North Carolina.  Two divorces and a major health issue threatened to end his career, but Andy persevered.

It was in a 1984 NBC mini-series titled Fatal Vision that Andy caught the eye of NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tarnikoff and another gigantic TV series was born.  Andy became Benjamin Leighton “Ben” Matlock when the network broadcasted the television movie Diary of a Perfect Murder as the pilot for the TV series Matlock on March 3, 1986.   The first regular episode aired on September 23, 1986, and ran for nine seasons ending on May 7, 1995.  In 1989 Griffith brought the production to Manteo, the place where he would retire.

Andy Griffith and Governor Mike Easley at the dedication of the Andy Griffith Parkway, 2002.

Andy Griffith and Governor Mike Easley at the dedication of the Andy Griffith Parkway, 2002.

Andy Griffith returned to his hometown for the first time in 40 years.  Mount Airy held a dedication ceremony on October 16, 2002 in the parking lot behind City Hall.  Eleven miles of US Highway 52 became known as the Andy Griffith Parkway.  Andy, along with wife Cindi, was joined that day by his friends Dr. William Friday, Hugh Morton, and North Carolina Governor Mike Easley . . . along with more than 3,000 adoring fans.

Andy Griffith once said, “When I discovered I could entertain, I worked hard at it.  It’s the only thing I do well.  I can’t be a company director.  I can’t be an accountant.  I can’t make furniture, but I can entertain.”

I don’t know this for sure, but I believe that meeting with Hugh and Andy at the book store in Manteo in February of 2004 was their last meeting . . . that is until July 3, 2012 when I choose to believe Andy joined Hugh in a very special place.

 

The Original Tar Heel Tie

E. L. White wearing Tar Heel necktie

A slightly different pose than this Morton photograph appeared in the December 6, 1952 issue of the magazine The State with the caption, "The First Citizen of Wilmington, His Honor Mayor E. L. White, tidies up his identification badge before venturing out for an official appearance.—The tie also is being used at outside-of-state conventions by North Carolina delegates.—(Photo by Morton.)"

It’s that time of year again . .  tie buying season!  (I bought one myself this weekend, a holiday gift for myself.)  Maybe Father’s Day is the only other time of year when men’s ties sell more?  Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can fill in the statistics.

In 1952 a certain style necktie made its way into the wardrobes of North Carolina males: “The Original Tar Heel Tie.”  Is the necktie now celebrating its 60th anniversary? (A celebration, that is, if anyone even remembers this tie!)  Time prevents me from jumping too deeply into the topic, so perhaps our fellow readers can fill in some details and we can collectively revive this knot-worthy event.

Article in The State, 1952-12-06, page 9.

Hugh Morton’s portrait of a smiling E. L. White appears with other photographs by different photographers in a short two-column spread in the December 6th, 1952 issue of The State.  The most important clues on this page can be found in the group portrait by Frank Jones depicting Ira Julian of Winston-Salem (owner of Kent Bakeries?) showcasing his Tar Heel necktie.

Working backwards in time, I skimmed through previous issues of the magazine looking for other mentions of the necktie. The earliest I could find was a small listing (third from bottom) in the classified advertisements in the October 11th, issue:

Classified advertisements, The State, 1952-10-18, page 11.

Small classifieds for the necktie continued for an undetermined time.  Illustrated advertisements in The State for the necktie soon appear, the first being on November 10th:

Illustrated advertiement for The Original Tar Heel Tie, The State, 1952-11-01_p19.

A few things pop out at me here.  If it’s new and original, why did it need to say so?  Were there impostors?  If so, how far back does the “original” go?  The caption for Frank Jones’ group portrait said that Ira Julian’s necktie had “recently” been a conversation piece.  When was Hans Hiedemann’s recital at Salem College?  And who or what is the “Downhomers?”  Designer?  Manufacturer?  Distributor?  There is no listing in the Raleigh 1952 city directory for that company.  My last observation is that the necktie came in six different versions, three of which sport collegiate colors—presumably for wider appeal on campuses where wearing neckties was commonplace, and alumni, too.

The November 8th issue of The State contains a portrait by Bill Leinbach of Bart Leiper, then newly appointed executive director of Western North Carolina Highlanders, Inc. wearing the necktie with a dark shirt.  The caption says Leiper now “sells his native State to tourists” by wearing the “Tar-Heel-splattered” necktie, “Just so no one could be in doubt as to his new mission.”  The most prominent depiction, however, of the Tar Heel necktie in The State made its splash on the November 22nd cover:

Cover of The State, 1952-11-22, featuring the Tar Heel Tie.

This November 22nd cover of The State featured The Original Tar Heel Tie. The cover's caption reads, "Little Bobby Kennerly of Statesville has come into his very first necktie, and Max Tharpe caught him in the interesting process of learning the old four-in-hand business. We think Bob will make it. The neck-piece, incidentally, is the new Tar Heel tie, which you see so many larger North Carolinians wearing these days."

Well that’s as far as I can take this for now.Keen readers of A Hugh to View may recall seeing this tie in a previous post, as Bill Sharpe and Orville Campbell both don the tie in 1956 for the Honorary Tar Heels gathering in New York City.  Below is another scene from that event, Orville Campbell and Andy Griffith arm-in-arm.

Orville Campbell and Andy Griffith and the Honorary Tar Heels gathering in New York City, January 21, 1956.

I did check in the North Carolina Collection Gallery and none of the six flavors of The Original Tar Heel Necktie are among the other neckties in its holdings.  Would anyone possibly still have one or more in their closet who would be willing to donate this seemingly one-time popular fashion statement to the gallery to add to its sartorial holdings?