Harry Truman and Hugh Morton’s Confederate flag negatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are there other possibilities?  What do you think?

Breaking new ground: a transition to Winston-Salem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

p081_2-6-689_1_30_0001_crop

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

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

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

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

p081_2-6-689_1_30_0001

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

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

Epilog:

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

World Photography Day, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

And by all means make a photograph today!

 

Morton “Uncommon Retrospective” opens in Raleigh

NCMH_flyer_PhotographsByHughMorton

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

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

A climb to the bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographs by Hugh Morton: an Uncommon Retrospective in final weeks at Charlotte Museum of History

Charlotte from Grandfather Mountain

Hugh Morton’s favorite photograph of Charlotte, as seen from near the Mile High Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain approximately 87 air miles away. Morton made the photograph in mid-December after a cold front had cleared the air, providing some very rare visibility.

Photographs by Hugh Morton: an Uncommon Retrospective is currently installed at the Charlotte Museum of History though September 30th.  I will be there this Saturday, the 19th, for my exhibition talk titled “Hugh Morton’s Rise to his Photographic Peak.” at 1:00.  If you are in the neighborhood, please visit the museum and say hello!

Looking back at our common future

Happy Earth Day 2015.  Hugh Morton photographed in many places around the globe, but the planet itself was not one of them . . . at least not from outer space.  Looking for an image to post for Earth Day, I searched the online collection for “earth” . . . then “globe” . . . then “global.”  The last search term led to today’s post.

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Carl Sagan speaking at the 1990 Emerging Issues Forum at North Carolina State University, with North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt standing in the background. (Photograph cropped by author.)

Since 1986 the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University has held an annual Emerging Issues Forum.  Hugh Morton attended the forum in February 1990 when the theme was “Global Changes in the Environment: Our Common Future.”  According to the program published after the forum, there were approximately 1,500 attendees.  Featured speakers included Al Gore, 45th Vice President of the U.S.; Carl Sagan, former director of the Laboratory of Planetary Studies at Cornell University; Steve Cowper, former governor of Alaska; and Madeline Kunin, former governor of Vermont.

After searching through the Morton collection finding aid to see what other years he may have attended the forum, it appears that was the only time he went—or at least photographed, but I cannot imagine Morton attending such an event and not taking at least one photograph.  There are 68 negatives from the 1990 forum, filed in three locations in the collection with the following descriptions:

  • Roll Film Box P081/35BW-5, Envelope 2.6.270-5-1: Gore, Al at NCSU Emerging Issues Forum (with Steve Cowper, etc.), 1990, Black and white 35mm roll film negatives, 6 images;
  • Roll Film Box P081/35BW-6, Envelope 2.6.602-5-1: “Sagan, Carl, Governor Jim Hunt, North Carolina State” (Emerging Issues Forum?), 1990s, Black and white 35mm roll film negatives, 6 images; and
  • Roll Film Box P081/35BW-8, Envelope 2.8.7-5-11: Emerging Issues Forum, North Carolina State University, 8-9 February 1990, Black and white 35mm roll film negatives, 56 images.

Scans made from eight of these negatives can be seen in the online collection of Morton photographs.

This Saturday is a good day to go to New Bern

Carraway Gardens at Tryon Palace, New Bern, N.C.

Carraway Gardens at Tryon Palace, New Bern, N.C.

If you live in the New Bern area, there’s still time to see the exhibition “Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective” at Tryon Palace—and tomorrow, Saturday February 7th, would be a good time to visit.  Why . . . ?

  • The historic sites have free admission! Saturday is “Free Day: Working 9 to 5” at Tryon Palace. Normally tickets are $20.00, but on Saturday you can explore the Governor’s Palace, historic homes, gardens and the nearby New Bern Academy Museum for no admission fee. Trade demonstrations will allow you to explore jobs and trades from eastern North Carolina’s past.
  • There will be discounted passes to the North Carolina History Center’s permanent exhibits.
  • I will be giving my talk, “Hugh Morton’s Rise to his Photographic Peak,” at 2:00.

If you are a UNC alumnus, there is also a special “meet-and-greet” reception (details and RSVP) at 1:00.  The gathering, sponsored by the University of North Carolina Alumni Association, will provide a chance for alumni to mingle and socialize, and I’ll l be there to talk and answer questions informally about the Morton collection, the Bayard Wootten photographic collection (she was a New Bern native), the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, the Wilson Special Collections Library, or photographs in general.

Can’t make it tomorrow? No worries . . . yet.  The Hugh Morton exhibition will be on display at Tryon Palace through February 22nd.

Hugh Morton retrospective at Tryon Palace in New Bern

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Gertrude Carraway at Tryon Palace, New Bern, North Carolina, 1962. The State named Tryon Palace administrator Gertrude Carraway its “North Carolinian of the Year” for 1962, and used a similarly posed portrait by Morton on its 5 January 1963 cover.

The exhibition “Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective” opens for its fourth venue on Saturday, January 10th at the North Carolina History Center at Tryon Palace, 529 South Front Street in New Bern, NC. The exhibition runs through February 22nd, which is just a few days after what would have been Morton’s 94th birthday.

Current plans call for me to give my accompanying lecture “Hugh Morton’s Rise to His Photographic Peak” and a gallery tour on Saturday, February 7th—details to follow once they become finalized.

Nixon and Graham though the voice of Halderman

Billy Graham and Richard M. Nixon, arm-in-arm, wave to the audience during "Billy Graham Day," Charlotte Coliseum, October 15, 1971.

Billy Graham and Richard M. Nixon, arm-in-arm, wave to the audience during “Billy Graham Day,” Charlotte Coliseum, October 15, 1971. H. R. Halderman appears to be next to Pat Nixon.

Yesterday on WUNC’s program The State of Things, host Frank Stasio interviewed Carolina Public Press reporter Jon Elliston, who has listened to the H. R. Halderman audio diaries recently released by the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library.  On Wednesday, November 12th, the Carolina Public Press website published Elliston’s article about the Billy Graham–Richard Nixon alliance as revealed on Halderman tapes. During the interview, Stasio and Elliston briefly discuss Halderman’s diary entry for “Billy Graham Day” in Charlotte on October 15, 1971.

Billy Graham speaking during "Billy Graham Day" in Charlotte, North Carolina, 15 October 1971.

Billy Graham speaking during “Billy Graham Day” in Charlotte, North Carolina, 15 October 1971.

As you might expect, Hugh Morton was there.  He was located stage left, slightly elevated and slightly forward of the podium—either seated in the audience just behind the press photographers platform or on the platform behind the television cameras.  He photographed using 35mm cameras loaded with black-and-white negative and color slide films, and was switching lenses.  Two of Morton’s color images appear in the book Making a Difference in North Carolina; those two original slides, however, are not in the Morton collection.

Several of the black-and-white negative frames are double exposures, but it’s difficult to say if they were intentional or accidental.  Broken sprocket holes on the film suggest Morton experienced a camera failure during the event. Below is one of the double exposures that produced an interesting result: Nixon and Graham’s sculpted face (from an unveiled historical marker) appear to be looking at each other.

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Postscripts

In recent months we’ve run two blog posts related to this time period, when Hugh Morton was an undeclared candidate for governor in the Democratic Party: the Governor’s Down-East Jamboree in Atlantic Beach in mid September, and The National 500 NASCAR race on October 10th in Charlotte.  Billy Graham Day was just five days after the race.

In addition to Morton’s photographs of the Billy Graham Day, the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives also holds forty-two 35mm slides by Charlotte Observer Chief Photographer Don Sturkey.

Richard Nixon’s speech can read at University of California, Santa Barbara’s “The American Presidency Project” website.