A “wee bit” of Scotland in NC

“Brawny athletes, delicate dancers, noisy bagpipe band parades, rocking Celtic music and a spectacular highland setting makes this colorful celebration of Scottish culture the ‘best’ highland games in America . . .” (or so says the visitnc.com website).

The 55th Annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games were held this past weekend in MacRae Meadows, at the base of Grandfather. The continuing popularity of the Grandfather Games is perhaps the most visible indication of a long history of Scottish settlement and the continuing influence of Scottish culture in the North Carolina Mountains. In our latest Worth 1,000 Words essay entitled Scottish Heritage at Linville, anthropologist CELESTE RAY explores these traditions and the role of the Morton family in attempting to maintain them. (Did you know, for example, that Hugh Morton’s mother and brother Julian began the development of “Invershiel,” a replica 16th-century Scottish village in Linville?). Read Ray’s essay to find out more.

And finally, for those of you in the Wilmington area, I’d like to offer one last reminder of our Worth 1,000 Words event this coming Monday. Details below; hope to see you there!

Monday, July 19, 5:30 p.m.
New Hanover County Public Library, NorthEast Branch, Wilmington
Information: Paige Owens, powens@nhcgov.com, (910) 798-6327

“A Great Day in Mudville,” or the Loss of ‘The Boss’

NOTE FROM ELIZABETH: This past Monday, Morton images of the New York Yankees’ 1979 visit to Chapel Hill just happened to come up in our scanning queue. As I added images of George Steinbrenner to the digital collection, I chuckled to myself about those silly Seinfeld plotlines featuring The Boss. So, I was very surprised and saddened to learn of Steinbrenner’s death the very next morning. I asked our resident sports expert Jack Hilliard to write this tribute post.

It was the second Tuesday in July — the day of the “Midsummer Classic,” the 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game. A time when baseball celebrates the best players in the game . . . but the sad news from Tampa, Florida on the morning of July 13, 2010 was that a giant of the baseball world had died. George M. Steinbrenner III, owner of the New York Yankees, died at 6:30 AM of a massive heart attack, nine days after his 80th birthday, and 14 hours before the first pitch of the All-Star Game in Anaheim, California.

He was loved my many, hated by a few, but ignored by none. Steinbrenner once told a reporter for USA Today: “I’ll never have a heart attack. I give ‘em.”

In the thirty-seven and a half years Steinbrenner was “The Boss,” the Yankees won 7 World Series Championships, 11 American League Pennants, and 16 American League East Titles. Over the years, his practice of firing and hiring, re-firing and re-hiring made him famous, or perhaps I should say infamous. In his first 23 seasons,  he changed managers 20 times (including dismissing Billy Martin on FIVE separate occasions!). In 2006, he turned the day-to-day operation of the Yankees over to his sons, Hank and Hal. On April 13, 2010, Yankee stars Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi privately presented him the first 2009 World Series Championship ring. He was “almost speechless” . . . almost.

George Steinbrenner was no stranger to Chapel Hill and UNC. His daughter Jennifer is a 1981 graduate of Carolina, and on three occasions between 1977 and 1981, he brought his Yankees to play the Tar Heels in Boshamer Stadium.

The game on April 3, 1979, is the game many remember as “A Great Day in Mudville.” On that day 7,000 Tar Heel partisans jammed into Boshamer, filling the 2000 seats and the grass-covered embankment along the first base line, lining the fence around the stadium four and five deep, and filling the balconies of the surrounding dorm. Due to rain, the start of the game was delayed and the end came early. And there, in the middle of it all, was Hugh Morton, cameras in hand.

Morton documented the action on the field and also visited with his friend Clyde King, Yankee pitching coach and scout. (King was a North Carolinian from Goldsboro, and during the 1982 season became Steinbrenner’s third general manager, going 29 and 33 over the last 62 games of the season. Some of the players thought he was a spy for “The Boss.”)

Tar Heel native Jim “Catfish” Hunter was the hit of the party.  A good time was had by all . . . well, almost. Steinbrenner’s Yanks won the game 9 to 4.

The next time you visit the new and improved, rebuilt Boshamer, notice the entrance courtyard. It is named for the Steinbrenner family — the result of a one million dollar donation by George Michael Steinbrenner III.

When future baseball historians write about the events of July 13, 2010, the 81st Major League Baseball All-Star game will not be the lead story. The loss of “The Boss” will.

Celebrating Bill Friday

William C. Friday, “the man whose name is synonymous with North Carolina higher education during much of the 20th century,” (according to a UNC Arts & Sciences article), celebrates his 90th birthday today. Friday served as President of the UNC system for three decades, and a more respected figure in the UNC community would be hard to identify. (Today’s Herald-Sun features a charming interview with Friday in which he discusses the past and future of the UNC system).

As Bill Friday was a close friend and frequent photographic subject of Hugh Morton’s (as well as a key player in the donation of Morton’s portfolio to UNC-CH!), A View to Hugh offers this brief and inadequate tribute to his remarkable lifetime of public service.

To the left is a lovely portrait Morton took in April 1995. The images below show Friday with President John F. Kennedy at University Day on October 12, 1961 (cropped); Friday with John Chancellor and Terry Sanford at the groundbreaking for the National Humanities Center in April 1977; and Friday, again with Sanford, viewing Morton photographs shortly before Sanford’s death, in January 1998.

The public are invited to attend an open house hosted by UNC and the UNC General Alumni Association today from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Carolina Club at the Hill Alumni Center. (If you can’t attend the birthday celebration, greetings may be sent to the Friday home at 521 Hooper Lane, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514).

“Some of those holy rollers really cut shines…”

This past Sunday, the joyful hordes descended on MacRae Meadows at the base of Grandfather Mountain for the “Singing on the Mountain” gospel festival, just as they have done every year since 1925. If you read this blog, you know that we’re all big fans of Hugh Morton’s evocative photographs of the “Sing” throughout the years. From the wonderfully-bearded Shelby Ever Gragg, to George Pegram, Johnny Cash, “Happy John” Coffey, Robert Harris, Jerry Falwell . . . they’ve all been to the Sing, and Hugh Morton was there to photograph them.

For more information on the Sing (and some choice quotes, such as the title of this post), please have a look at our latest WORTH 1,000 WORDS essay by authors DAVE HANEY and LISA BALDWIN entitled The Singing on the Mountain. Haney and Baldwin (recent exports from Appalachian State University to the faraway lands of Black Hills, South Dakota), offer unique interest in and perspective on the topic as traditional musicians themselves. Enjoy!

New essay, and upcoming events!

Today’s first order of business is to proclaim the availability of our newest Worth 1,000 Words essay, written by plant ecologist ALAN S. WEAKLEY and entitled Hugh Morton and North Carolina’s Native Plants (one of which can be seen at left). Weakley, Curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium, a department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, brings a unique perspective to our essay project as a scientist who worked closely with Hugh Morton on projects related to plant conservation at Grandfather Mountain. Please take a few minutes to read and respond to Weakley’s reflections.

Secondly, and speaking of Worth 1,000 Words, we’d like to announce two upcoming Morton Collection events, FREE and open to the public, to be held in Wilmington on July 19 and Boone on August 10. Further details available on the Library News and Events blog here. If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll take this opportunity to come say hi to those of us who work on the collection, as well as to hear from and chat with some of our essay authors. See you there!

The many faces of the past

As Susan Taylor Block notes in her recent essay, the port city of Wilmington, NC is known not only for its mansions, azaleas, and beauty queens, but also for its powerful, enterprising white men including Pembroke Jones and Hugh MacRae, grandfather of Hugh Morton.

A darker, lesser-known, and certainly lesser-discussed chapter of Wilmington’s history is that of the 1898 race riot, the only instance in American history of an elected government being overthrown. Spearheading the violent uprising was a group of elite Wilmingtonians, strong opponents of the “fusionist” coalition, strong believers in the supremacy of the white race . . . and outspoken among them was Hugh Morton’s grandfather, a young Hugh MacRae.

Four years ago this week, the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission (a state-appointed panel tasked with studying the rebellion and recommending reparative actions) released its official report, available in full here.

Back on the occasion of the 1998 centennial, historians David S. Cecelski and Timothy B. Tyson put together a seminal volume about the events entitled Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Its Legacy. While they learned much about MacRae’s role in the uprising, they never put a face to the name — that is, until Hugh Morton’s photographs became available online.

What Cecelski and Tyson discovered when they looked into that face is the topic of our latest Worth 1,000 Words essay, entitled Hugh MacRae at Invershiel.

We hope you’ll take some time to read this thoughtful exploration, and to consider the many layers of meaning that can be hidden in a single portrait. Let us know what discoveries you make.

An infamous day…campus prepares for war

Note from Elizabeth: We hope you enjoy another post from JACK HILLIARD, in honor of Sunday’s 68th anniversary of the commissioning of the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School at UNC-Chapel Hill on May 23, 1942. (For more information on this topic, see Janis Holder’s Worth 1,000 Words essay).

Regarding photos of the Pre-Flight School, please see the NCC Photo Archives Pre-Flight School Collection (a few photos from which appear in this post). You’ll note that photographer(s) for this collection are not known. Could one of them have been Hugh Morton? It seems possible, as Pre-Flight School photos in the Morton Collection are scarce, and at least some Pre-Flight photos have been credited to him (e.g., in this pamphlet).

December 7, 1941: many readers across central North Carolina turned directly to the sports pages when their Sunday edition of the Greensboro Daily News arrived on that cold morning. The lead story was the annual high school all-state football team, and leading the team was a 17-year-old junior from Asheville’s Lee Edwards High named Charlie Justice. High school football was huge in North Carolina, but professional football wasn’t, yet. Even so, on the back page of the sports section was a mention of the Washington Redskins playing the Philadelphia Eagles in the final game of the NFL season, and Redskins owner George Preston Marshall would once again stage a spectacular halftime Christmas show.

This Christmas game always filled old Griffith Stadium with families, politicians, and military personnel from the District and northern Virginia. Seated high up in the press box were Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich and Associated Press reporter Pat O’Brien. Shortly before the 2 PM kickoff, O’Brien received a puzzling-three-word telegram from his editor downtown — it said, simply, “Keep It Short.” About that same time, the public address announcer began a series of announcements: “Admiral W.H.P. Bland is asked to report to his office at once.” “Captain R.X. Fenn of the United States Army is asked to report to his office.” The announcements continued . . . Joseph Umglumph of the FBI,  Joaquim Eilzalde, resident commissioner of the Philippines . . . Secretary Stimson and Secretary Knox call the White House. A second telegram arrived at O’Brien’s desk. This one solved the puzzle: “The Japanese have kicked off. War Now!” At 2:26 PM, the Mutual Broadcasting System interrupted the radio broadcast of the game with a bulletin telling of a Pearl Harbor attack. The world would never be the same.

Back in Chapel Hill, UNC Sophomore Hugh Morton, who had recently won the “Carolina Intercampus Council” award, stood ready to document a campus preparing for war (however, his formal education would be interrupted a year later when he joined the Army).

Even before the Pearl Harbor attack, UNC President Frank Porter Graham had offered the University’s help in the event of war. In 1940 Graham said the University would offer “all its resources to the nation for the defense of the freedom and democracy it was founded to serve.”

Graham’s first priority was to lobby for a Navy Pre-Flight Training School on the Chapel Hill campus. It would be one of four such schools nationwide that prepared future pilots for aerial combat. With the help of alumnus, newspaper editor, and former Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, UNC became one of the four. The Navy announcement came in February, 1942 and on May 23, 1942 the official commissioning was held in Kenan Stadium with Daniels delivering the keynote address — 68 years ago this Sunday.

The University renovated ten dorms, expanded Woollen Gym, and built a new infirmary, recreation center and athletic field. Alexander Hall became administrative headquarters. The Pre-Flight School had its own weekly newspaper called “The Cloud Buster,” and Orville Campbell was the associate editor.

On May 28th, the first group of 242 cadets arrived on campus. Every two weeks, 300 more would arrive until a quota of 1,875 was reached. The cadets ranged in age from 18 to 27 and each cadet received $75 per month. The training day was from 5:30 AM until 6:15 PM 6 days a week, and consisted of two hours of strenuous physical activity, two hours of classroom work in Caldwell Hall, and athletic training in swimming, basketball, football and boxing.

There was some free time, and entertainers like Ronald Reagan, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra with Helen O’Connell, and Kate Smith came to the campus to entertain.

The athletic talent at the Pre-Flight School was outstanding. The baseball team featured the legendary Ted Williams, and defeated Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees in July 1943.

Kenan Stadium became home to the Pre-Flight Cloudbusters football team. In April 1942, there was a young Ensign physical fitness instructor named Gerald R. Ford. Thirty two years later he would become the 38th President of the United States. Another future President came through the program as well. His name: George H.W Bush.

On November 5, 1944 The Cloudbusters hosted The Commodores from Bainbridge (Maryland) Naval Training Station. Coaching on the sideline that day for the Cloudbusters was a young Lieutenant named Paul W. Bryant. He would lead the University of Alabama to six national titles during the 1960s and 1970s, and would be known as “Bear” Bryant. Leading the Cloudbusters at quarterback was Otto Graham who would lead the Cleveland Browns to 7 pro championships in the 1940s and 1950s, and leading the Commodores was a 20-year-old from Asheville, NC. Two years later he would return to Kenan and during the years 1946 to 1949 would rewrite the UNC record books. His name: Charlie Justice.

When the War ended, the campus returned to normal. The US Navy Pre-Flight School at Chapel Hill was decommissioned on October 15, 1945. Some of those Pre-Flight buildings still stand and remind passersby that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill adapted to serve the country during its “most critical crisis.”

–Jack Hilliard

“Recognition and Esteem”

Three cheers for this year’s NC Sports Hall of Fame inductees, and for another blog post by JACK HILLARD! I should note that although (as Jack says below) Mr. Morton probably did attend most of the induction ceremonies, the Morton collection seems only to contain images of ceremonies from 1971 and later (see the collection finding aid, sub-series 2.8, under “Other Events.”) Wish we knew what happened to those earlier ones…

It was early spring 1988 when Bob Wills, Executive Director of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, called and asked if I would once again help with the inductee profile videos. I was pleased to do so for a third year. As payment, Wills sent me two tickets to the 25th Hall of Fame induction banquet, held at the North Raleigh Hilton. He explained that since we were not officially representing a media outlet and since we weren’t invited guests of any of the inductees, we would be seated where ever there was a table with vacant seats. Much to my surprise, Marla and I were seated at a table with Hugh and Julia Morton. I remember vividly Julia describing that first Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Charlotte in April of 1963. She remembered how excited the crowd of about 500 was to see Jim Beatty run again the first sub four minute mile indoors . . . a replay of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” shown on the big screen at the Queen Charlotte Hotel. Jim McKay‘s call of the race has become a classic.

Hugh Morton’s association with the Hall goes back to its beginnings in 1962.  He was on the first board of directors, was Hall president in 1976, and he attended most of the induction ceremonies over the years. In the early days the induction ceremonies were held in cities across North Carolina. Usually a city was selected based on the fact that an inductee was from that area: Wilmington in 1971 for Sonny Jurgensen and Roman Gabriel; Greensboro in 1974 for Art Weiner; Durham in 1976 for Dr. Leroy Walker; Asheboro in 1977 for Lee Stone. 1970 inductee Bones McKinney jokingly would say that he carried the museum around in the truck of his car for many of those early years.

Whatever city was selected, Hugh Morton went, and his camera went also. His photographs of 1981 inductee Dean Smith (see below) and 1987 inductee Francis Rogallo have been widely published.

In a 2003 interview, Hugh described that first board of directors meeting in February of ’63. The meeting lasted four hours and the 18 board members had to cut the list of 10 candidates to 5. “We took in five people that (first) year,” said Morton. “On the first ballot, Charlie (Justice) got more votes that all the others put together. We all knew how good he was.”

So Charlie Justice became the first member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. I recall in 1980 when longtime Sports Editor of the Greensboro Daily News, Smith Barrier, was inducted, WFMY-TV sports reporter Johnny Phelps interviewed Barrier and asked him to list his favorite sports moments. Said Barrier, “I’d have to put Frank McGuire and the 1957 national champion Tar Heels near the top. And of course David Thompson leading NC State to a NCAA Championship in the Greensboro Coliseum in 1974 . . . and Billy Joe Patton at the Masters in 1954.”  At that point Barrier paused for several seconds. Then he added, “and every time Charlie Justice handled the ball for Carolina was a genuine thrill.”

As Hugh said, “we all knew how good he was.”

“The purpose of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame is to honor those persons who by excellence of their activities in or connected with the world of sports have brought recognition and esteem to themselves and to the State of North Carolina.”

Next Thursday night, May 13, at the North Raleigh Hilton, seven new North Carolina sports legends will join the other 260 at the 47th North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet.  In the Class of 2010 will be a Hugh Morton favorite photo subject, Don McCauley, often photographed by Morton with longtime friend Charlie Justice.

–Jack Hilliard

Happy Birthday, Parkway

In case you haven’t heard (perhaps you’ve been hibernating), 2010 marks the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Numerous events throughout the year will help mark this occasion, including a symposium next week at Appalachian State University, at which UNC Libraries’ Natasha Smith, Elise Moore, and faculty advisor Anne Mitchell Whisnant will unveil the exciting Driving Through Time digital project! (More on that after it’s launched).

Luckily, we were able to steal Dr. Whisnant (author of the 2006 book Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History) away long enough to write an essay for our Worth 1,000 Words project. It’s now available, and is entitled Roads Taken and Not Taken: Images and the Story of the Blue Ridge Parkway ‘Missing Link.’

It’s no secret that determining the route for the last leg of the Parkway was a protracted, complicated, and divisive process, but one that ultimately resulted in the much-celebrated (and photographed) Linn Cove Viaduct (shown from the air at left). In her essay, Whisnant uses some of Morton’s own images to shed new light on this conflict. She also provides a crucial backdrop for some of Morton’s later environmental work, which will be examined in future Worth 1,000 Words essays.

We look forward to receiving your thoughts and comments!

Picturing the Port City

With the 63rd Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival kicking off next week, it seems an appropriate time to highlight the festival’s home turf: Wilmington, NC. Not only was Hugh Morton was born and raised in Wilmington, but he and his family played a major role in shaping the tourism industry and infrastructure of the charming, historic Port City.

Here to help us is another Wilmington native, author, and purveyor of all things Wilmington history-related, Susan Taylor Block. Susan is the author of a whole bunch of books and articles (including photographic histories) on Wilmington’s past, culture, and some of its residents. She’s also behind the latest entry in our Worth 1,000 Words series, entitled Wilmington: Faded Glory to Fresh Achievement.

We hope you’re enjoying the growing variety of the essay offerings, and the opportunity they offer to delve a bit deeper into the riches of the Morton collection.