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 It’s been sitting in the unpublished drafts section of the blog ever since.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

“Pretty as a Christmas card”

Here's a scan of the entire 4" x 5" black-and-white negative of the summit of Grandfather Mountain as shot by Hugh Morton.

A vertically cropped detail from the left side of this scene of the Mile High Swinging Bridge and Visitor Center at Grandfather Mountain, made by Hugh Morton, graced the December 1, 1970 cover of THE STATE. This is a scan of the entire black-and-white 4″ x 5″ sheet film negative.

Some of you may have seen the comment I wrote recently about the North Carolina State Library making issues of The State and Our State magazines available online.  Last Friday, the Our State Twitter feed tweeted the magazine’s December 1, 1970 cover, which was drawn from the above Hugh Morton photograph.  The issue’s cover caption on page 2 of the magazine begins, “Pretty as a Christmas card,” and identifies

  • the UNC Educational TV tower on Grandmother Mountain in the background to the left of the left bridge tower, and
  • Wiseman’s View, the peak fifteen miles away seen above the left bridge tower.

We made a nice large scan of the black-and-white negative just in case anyone would like to order a print.  I made a 16×9 crop for my computer desktop:

P0081_NTBS4_15531_16x9_585pxWide

There’s also a color version in the online selection of Morton photographs.

Fantascope lens

Mile High Swinging Bridge photographed with Fantascope lensThe Mile High Swinging Pathway?  You certainly get that impression from the photograph above!  Hugh Morton made this photograph, and several others of various subjects, using a “Fantascope lens.”  The distorting effect of placing one of these lenses on a camera seems to be one of scrunching the image.

I’ve had no luck finding information about Fantascope lenses . . . which are not to be confused with the Phantascope, a nineteenth-century device that created the impression of a moving image, nor the Fantoscope, a 1799 patented “magic lantern on wheels” by Ettienne-Gaspard Robert.

Rather than speculate, is there anyone out there who can tell us about Fantascope lenses?

View of Grandfather Mountain summit made with Fantascope lens.

Summit of Grandfather Mountain with view of Mile High Swinging Bridge, with image distorted by Fantascope lens, August 1969.

The Mile High Swing Bridge has been getting lots of publicity this month, celebrating its sixtieth anniversary on September 2nd, so I picked two Fantascope images that are a bit different than the usual views.  The distortion in the photograph above gives the bridge a Manchu Picchu-like setting!

Intrigued? Take a peek at other scenes made by Morton using a Fantascope lens.  All of the images (35mm slides) date from August 1969.

 

Hugh Morton’s first daily newspaper assignment

The previous post on A View to Hugh features a Hugh Morton photograph of Grandfather Mountain, published without credit on the cover of the 8 March 1941 issue of The State.  As the blog post revealed, I suspect the photograph dates from 1940 or earlier, which is relatively early in Morton’s career as a photographer.  January of that year saw Morton beginning his second semester as a freshman at UNC.  His camera had been stolen shortly after arriving on campus in the autumn of 1939, and it was not until sometime around January or February 1940 that he bought his next camera.  So, I wondered, “How early in his career would that have been?”  Today’s exploration unravels an uncertainty and mystery that I didn’t even have until two days ago.

This is an important photograph in Morton’s career.  At the time he made it, Morton was a UNC student with a summertime job as the photography counselor at Camp Yonahnoka.  Here’s one of his accounts about the photograph, quoted from the preface of his 2003 book Hugh Morton’s North Carolina:

In 1940, at nearby Linville, a fourteen-year-old kid from Tarboro named Harvie Ward embarrassed a lot of adults by winning the prestigious Linville Men’s Golf Tournament.  Burke Davis, sports editor of the Charlotte News, contacted the Linville Club for a photograph of Harvie Ward, and I was called to come up from camp to carry out what was my first photo assignment for a daily newspaper.  Davis liked my Harvie Ward pictures, and this led to many photo assignments for the Charlotte News during my college years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Because this assignment helped launch Hugh Morton’s career as a news photographer, and the early view of Grandfather Mountain was also likely made in 1940, I wanted to know when the Charlotte News published the Ward photograph(s) (two negatives are extant in the Morton collection) relative to publication of the early Grandfather Mountain view in The State.  I searched the Web for information on the Linville golf tournament and Harvie Ward for 1940, but only found a few bits and pieces—and nothing that said when they played the tournament.  So . . . off to the microfilm room.

I scanned through issues of the Charlotte News, Tarboro’s Daily Southerner, and Rocky Mount’s Evening Telegram published during the “golf-able” summer months through mid September, by which time Morton would have returned to Chapel Hill from Camp Yonahnoka and Ward would have already returned to Tarboro in time for their classes.  Nothing . . . at least not that mentioned Harvie Ward winning the tournament in 1940.

I turned next to Morton’s booklet, Sixty Years with a Camera published in 1996, which I recalled also included the portrait of Ward.  As The Jetsons cartoon dog Astro would say, “Ruh Roh . . . .”

The first picture I took on assignment for a newspaper (the Charlotte News) was of Harvie Ward when he won the 1941 Linville Men’s Golf Tournament.  This was a very competitive event, and it was a surprise to everybody that a 15-year-old kid from Tarboro would win it.

Two different statements of fact.  What to do?  Well, I turned to a different newspaper, the Charlotte Observer and here’s what I found: Harvie Ward didn’t win the Linville Men’s Invitational Tournament in 1939, 1940, 1941, nor 1942.  (I didn’t go further, because Morton was in the army in 1943).  A detailed listing of the entrants in the Charlotte Observer revealed that Ward didn’t enter the 1940 tournament; he did, however, defeat Ed Gravell of Roaring Gap to win the “second flight” of the 1941 tournament.  I also found a congratulatory paragraph in the Daily Southerner on August 4, 1941 “for taking first place in second flight in Linville invitational golf tournament.  Harvie is having great time knocking off the little fellows.”  [For golf historians, Sam Perry emerged victorious in 1939, Charles Dudley won the championship flight in 1940, Hub Covington won the 1941 tournament, and Billy Ireland won the event in 1942.]

To be thorough, I searched for both years (1940 and 1941) through mid September.   There are no photographs of Ward in the Charlotte News.  I now even wonder if the newspaper ever published one of these portraits of Ward by Morton.

So in all likelihood, Hugh Morton had it right the first time in the 1996 booklet: the Harvie Ward, Jr. photographs probably date from 1941.  And here’s some supporting evidence: photographs began appearing in the Charlotte News sports section’s “Pigskin Review” articles with the credit line “News Photos by Hugh Morton” in mid September 1941, which is in agreement with Morton’s statement that the Ward pictures “led to many assignments.”  Morton photographed members of the 1941 football teams of UNC (published September 12th), Duke, (September 13th), NC State (September 15th), and Wake Forest (September 24th), plus two photographs made during and after UNC’s season opener on September 20th against Lenor-Rhyne that featured UNC’s standout running back Hugh Cox.  By comparison, there are no photographs in the newspaper credited to Morton in late summer or early autumn of 1940.

My conclusion? So far, the earliest Morton photograph that I’ve discovered to be published in a non-UNC publication is the early view of Grandfather Mountain.  Now, please tell me why I believe the story probably doesn’t end there?!

An early Morton view of Grandfather Mountain

The State, 8 March 1941, cover

It’s been quiet at A View to Hugh of late, as research for a news photography exhibit opening October 6th has become my primary focus the past several weeks.  There will most definitely be Morton photographs in that exhibit, but I’ve been digging into the 1920s and early 1930s which mostly predates Morton.  One item of interest for the exhibit that overlaps with Hugh Morton’s career, however, is The State, a weekly magazine launched by Carl Goersch on 3 June 1933.  Jack Hilliard and I will be writing about The State next year on the magazine’s 80th anniversary, which readers today know as Our State.

As I have explored Morton’s early career, I have looked at each issue of The State—page by page—from 1945 up to early 1963 (thus far).  I chose 1945 as the starting point because it marks Morton’s return from the South Pacific during World War II.  We have referred often in past blog posts to the Morton images that appeared in The State, and I’ve updated many images in the online collection as I’ve discovered them in the magazine.

Researching for the news photography exhibit, I jumped back to volume one, issue one, again looking at every page to see what I could learn about the magazine’s role in the development of news photography in North Carolina.  When I got to the 8 March 1941 issue, I saw what felt like a familiar Morton image on the cover, shown above.  The photograph is uncredited, so I searched the online Morton collection, but did not find it.  I then dove into the negatives for Grandfather Mountain . . . Bingo!

Read carefully the caption on the magazine cover.  Note again the date of the magazine, plus the leaves on the trees (and their tonalities) and the lack of snow!  All those clues suggest to me that Morton made this negative in the autumn of 1940 (or earlier) and not early March 1941.  If my deduction is correct, it’s one of Morton’s earliest published images.

This photograph also appears (again uncredited) in the 27 February 1943 issue of The State as an illustration to the article “Grandfather Mountain” written by Lula M. Weir.  In a prescient statement, Weir wrote “That the Grandfather-Linville area may be acquired for a state park someday is now regarded as a certainty.”  That “someday” did come true.  Grandfather Mountain officially became a state park in 2009.

Doc Watson, 1923–2012

Legendary, inimitable, iconic . . .  Today will be a day filled with adjectives as people describe guitarist Doc Watson, born eighty nine years ago in Deep Gap, North Carolina.  Watson passed away yesterday in a Winston-Salem hospital.

Doc Watson and Jack Watson

Hugh Morton’s photograph above of Doc Watson, seated, and Jack Williams in 1953 appears in his book Hugh Morton’s North Carolina with a caption stating that Watson and Williams “were members of a band that played for small dances and family gatherings . . .”  That caption is all we know about this photograph.  Morton made this photograph very early in Watson’s career—the year Watson and Williams first met, eleven years before Watson’s first recording.

The original 35mm slide or a color negative has not turned up in processing the Morton collection.  There is, however, an inkjet print and the low resolution digital file within a PowerPoint presentation shown here, in the unprocessed files of non-original items.  Morton’s portrait of Watson playing a guitar in front of a woodpile, published in Making a Difference in North Carolina, has also not surfaced.  To date, fifteen photographs of Doc Watson can bee seen in the online collection.

The Uncommon Laureate with the Common Touch

Some fans of “CBS News Sunday Morning” may not know that the television program began airing regularly on January 28th, 1979—thirty-three years ago this weekend—originally hosted by North Carolinian Charles Kuralt.  Jack Hilliard present a profile of Kuralt and his long-time friendship with Hugh Morton.

It wasn’t unusual for Hugh Morton to get a call from a CBS News producer wanting to set up an interview with North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges during the Democratic National Convention in July, 1960.  After all, Morton was the governor’s campaign publicity manager and Governor Hodges was leading the North Carolina delegation at the convention.  When Morton and Hodges arrived at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, they met the youngest correspondent that CBS News had.  Twenty-six-year-old Charles Kuralt would be doing the interview.

Charles Kuralt interviewing Luther Hodges

Charles Kuralt (right) of CBS News interviewing North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges during the 1960 Democratic National Convention. Photographs cropped by the editor.

Charles Kuralt interviewing Luther HodgesCharles Kuralt interviewing Luther Hodges

While Kuralt conducted the interview, Morton did what he liked to do—he took pictures.  Hugh was impressed with Kuralt’s questions and his ability to handle himself during the interview.  After the questions were all answered, Morton and Kuralt struck up their own conversation, and discovered that not only were they fellow Tar Heels from UNC, but were both born in Wilmington.  Morton likely didn’t realize it at the time, but he and Kuralt would become close friends for the next 37 years.

Charles Bishop Kuralt had been with CBS News only three years when he was assigned to a 250-person staff of correspondents, news producers, reporters, directors and technicians for the 1960 conventions and election.  In those days, the three major networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, each covered the national conventions and each competed for its share of the TV and radio audiences. CBS with anchorman Walter Cronkite, and NBC with anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were fierce competitors.

Following the 1960 elections, in the spring of 1961, CBS assigned Kuralt to a Friday evening, prime time program called Eyewitness to History, an in-depth look at the top story of the week.  One of his first programs was broadcast on Friday, May 5, 1961—the day America put its first man in space with Alan Shepard’s sub-orbital ride from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  “Eyewitness” proved to be a popular program, and Kuralt called it “the best job I’ve ever had,” but a management change at CBS sent Kuralt to Latin America as a one-man bureau—not exactly what he had dreamed of doing.  From there, Kuralt completed four tours in Vietnam and then it was back to the United States and the West Coast bureau.  During these career changes, Kuralt and Morton stayed in touch and when he could get away, Kuralt would visit Grandfather Mountain, a place he dearly loved.

Charles Kuralt in "On the Raod" RVThen, in 1967, Kuralt floated an idea to CBS News President Dick Salant about an “On the Road” series.  Salant was willing to try it.  So in October of 1967, Kuralt hit the road and as they say “the rest is history.”  From Loafers’ Glory, North Carolina to Albertville, France and the ’92 Winter Olympics, Charles Kuralt picked up thirteen Emmy and three Peabody awards, was often compared to Edward R. Murrow, and was called by Time magazine “laureate of the common man.”  In addition he returned each weekend to New York to anchor “CBS Sunday Morning.”  Oh yes, he wrote six books also.

Hugh Morton and Charles Kuralt

Hugh Morton with Charles Kuralt at 40th anniversary of the Mile High Swinging Bridge on summit of Grandfather Mountain, NC. Cropped by the editor.

Kuralt continued to return to North Carolina when he could—sometimes to write and sometimes to just relax . . . and sometimes for special occasions.  On September 2, 1992, he accepted Hugh Morton’s invitation to speak at the 40th anniversary of the Mile High Swinging Bridge.  He had fun with his old friend.  ” . . . the Mile High swinging bridge, which is NOT a mile high, is not swinging either.  So, what we have here is the 80-foot-high, Tethered Bridge.  Big Deal.”

On May 21, 1993, Kuralt returned to Chapel Hill for a reception and banquet honoring him on the occasion of his acceptance of the North Caroliniana Society Award.  That Friday night at the Carolina Inn, Kuralt’s younger brother Wallace delivered the keynote speech.  It was titled, “The Uncommon Laureate:  Sketches in the Life of Charles Kuralt.”  During his talk he recounted,

“Early on Charles exhibited a penchant for journalism and broadcasting . . . he would sit in the front yard and announce: They’re up to the line, and here’s the play.  It’s Justice to Weiner, Justice to Weiner . . . down the sideline . . . TOUCHDOWN!

On October 12, 1993, Charles Kuralt spoke at UNC’s bicentennial celebration:

“What is it that binds us to this place as to no other?  It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls or the crisp October nights. . . . No our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.”

Editor’s note: last week, the Daily Tar Heel ran an article accompanied by a photograph of students protesting proposed tuition increases.  One of the protesters carried a sign bearing words from that very quotation, even crediting Kuralt on the placard.

Charles Kuralt at Grandfather Mountain, 1994

Charles Kuralt at Linville Bluffs overlook, with Grandfather Mountain peaks in background, May 28, 1994.

On April 3, 1994, after thirty-seven years at CBS, he did his last “Sunday Morning.”  Charles Kuralt was ready to return home . . . this time for good:

Farewell, my friends.  Farewell and hail.
I’m off to seek the Holy Grail.
I cannot tell you why.
Remember, please, when I am gone
‘Twas aspiration led me on.
Tiddly-widdly-toodle-oo.
All I want is to stay with you.
But, here I go.  Goodbye.

Kuralt then spent much of his time researching and writing his final book, Charles Kuralt’s America.

On December 8, 1995, he spoke at Hugh and Julia Morton’s 50th wedding anniversary”:

We should thank them (Hugh & Julia) for bringing us (Duke and Carolina) together.  There aren’t many things that bring us together, but Julia and Hugh can do it.

And on June 6, 1996, he paid tribute to his friend of thirty-six years as Hugh Morton accepted the 1996 North Caroliniana Society Award for his service to North Carolina:

Hugh Morton is North Carolina’s greatest promoter—always, however, of things that ought to be celebrated: the natural wonder of his mountain, the flaming beauty of Wilmington’s azaleas. Or of things that ought to be saved: the Battleship North Carolina, the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras.  Or of things that ought to be changed:  the laws which permitted disfiguring development on the mountain ridges, the laws which permit acid rain to fall, the constitution prohibition against our governors from succeeding themselves in office.  Our famous promoter never promotes himself.

When Hugh Morton visited with Kuralt in June of 1997 at Belmont Abbey College, he was appalled at Kuralt’s weakened condition.  He had been diagnosed with Lupus and the treatment had taken a severe toll.  Morton begged him to come up to Grandfather and recover, but Kuralt said he had too much to do.  Morton wasn’t surprised when the phone call from Kuralt’s assistant Karen Beckers came on July 4th telling him that “Charles is gone.”  Charles Kuralt was only sixty-two years-old.

Following his death, the University of North Carolina commissioned a series of oral histories with Charles Kuralt’s friends.  His dear friend Hugh Morton said this:

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

Charles Kuralt at Grandfather Mountain, 1994

Charles Kuralt at Grandfather Mountain, May 1994.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newt Gingrich within arm’s reach of goal

We like to stay current here at A View to Hugh as much as possible, pairing historical images with current events or anniversaries of notable occasions.  This past weekend’s news just begged for today’s featured Hugh Morton photograph (which I have been secretly chomping at the bit to post for several weeks).  Carpe Diem!  The winds of politics shift quickly, so today we bring you . . . Newt Gingrich and Gerry.

Newt Gingrich and Gerry at Grandfather Mountain

New Gingrich and Gerry during a visit to Grandfather Mountain on 29 August 1995.

No insider political treats here: Mr. Gingrich has had a longtime love for animals and zoos, and his website “Gingrich Productions” even has a webpage called “Newt’s Favorite Zoos“—which includes the North Carolina Zoo that he describes as “the best kept secret in the zoo world.”

Like Newt, Gerry is still alive and kicking.  According to the Grandfather Mountain website, “Even at age 20, Gerry is still very spry and acts like a bear half her age.  Even though she is very patient, she does not hesitate to let her keepers know when they aren’t moving fast enough with her very distinctive and adorable moaning.” Perhaps Newt and Gerry are kindred spirits?

You can “adopt” Gerry through the Grandfather Mountain’s Adopt an Animal program. I don’t believe Mr. Gingrich is similarly available, although heading into the Florida Republican Party primary, I’m certain he’d accept donations, too.

 

‘Ghost Cat’ confirmed as ghost

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed that the Eastern Cougar (a.k.a. puma, mountain lion, catamount, red tiger, or “ghost cat”) is officially extinct — i.e., there have been no wild breeding populations of the species since, probably, the 1930s. Officials blame continuing, numerous mountain lion sightings in the eastern states on mistaken identity (either another animal entirely or a migrating Western Cougar), or on big cats escaped from captivity — though they may have trouble convincing many locals of that!

This sad news does provide an opportunity to highlight some of Hugh Morton’s striking photos of cougars in the wildlife habitats at Grandfather Mountain.

I’m not entirely sure when the first cougars came to Grandfather (circa late 1970s-early 1980s), or of the impetus for creating a habitat for them — perhaps some of the staff at Grandfather can shed light on that story? But I believe the image below to be one of those inaugural cougars, named Terra and Rajah, possibly upon arrival at the Mountain (judging from the ropes and the unhappy attitude). (Of these two, only Terra, shown in the photo at the top of this post, was an Eastern Cougar — Rajah was Western).

Mr. Morton was obviously taken with the animal’s extreme elegance and athleticism. He tried repeatedly to capture that perfect “cougar leap” image. I’m particularly fond of the shot below (taken in 1982 of the cougar named Judy).

Two cougars, Nakita and Aspen, currently live at Grandfather (though the website doesn’t say whether either or both of them are Eastern Cougars). At least, through captivity programs like Grandfather’s, we can take comfort that not all of these incredible animals will become “ghosts.”