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.”

Linville and the MacRaes meet Introduction to Public History

Sam Leonard, a 2009–2010 graduate student research assistant who worked on the Hugh Morton collection and has previously contributed to A View to Hugh, is the author of today’s post. Her post highlights some of the historical MacRae family photographs of early Linville, North Carolina from copy negatives made by Morton.  Thanks, Sam, for sharing your academic experience utilizing the Morton collection!

Linville pamphlet

Last year I had the pleasure of working on the Hugh Morton Collection of Photographs and Films as Elizabeth Hull’s research assistant, scanning negatives and adding descriptions to the images for the online collection of Morton “highlights.” It has been months since I worked on the collection, but I still see evidence of Hugh Morton’s work in my daily life. I saw Hugh Morton images working for the local television station UNC-TV, where I created a photographic archive. I see Hugh Morton’s photography in hallways and on the news. I have also had the pleasure of learning about Hugh Morton’s legacy in my classes.

This past Fall semester, I completed the class “Introduction to Public History” at UNC-Chapel Hill taught by adjunct associate professor Anne Mitchell Whisnant—author of the book Super Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History, and contributor of the essay “Roads Taken and Not Taken: Images and the Story of the Blue Ridge Parkway ‘Missing Link’” to the View to Hugh “Worth 1000 Words” project. Students in Whisnant’s class had the opportunity to write essays for the website Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, a new Website under development in the University Libraries’ Web publishing endeavor Documenting the American South. Whisnant serves as the scholarly advisor for “Driving through Time,” which presents and interprets archival material—including photographs—related to the history of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

"Grandfather Mountain, 1890s, Copy of photos by Donald MacRae"

Growing up in Greensboro, N. C., I always enjoyed our family trips to the area surrounding Boone, N. C. On our way to visit Grandfather Mountain, we would stop by the quaint town of Linville for lunch. I was excited by the prospect of learning more about Linville, so for the public history class my group wrote an essay entitled, “Logging, Tourism, and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Linville, North Carolina.” By exploring this topic, my group (consisting of Ben Beidler, Morgan Jones, and myself) learned a lot about the MacRae family’s influence on Linville.

Copy of historic photograph of men and women sitting on fallen tree in or near Linville, NC, from 1890-1920 era.

While writing this essay, I learned how the MacRae family participated in the town’s development through the Linville Improvement Company.  The history of Linville starts in 1887, when Donald MacRae purchased a large amount of land in western North Carolina. MacRae started the Linville Land, Manufacturing and Mining Company, which eventually became the Linville Improvement Company.  Donald MacRae’s son Hugh MacRae took over the Linville Improvement Company soon after its founding, and Linville was created alongside the Linville Improvement Company in the late 1800s (Covington, p. 9). The MacRaes also developed resorts to bring upper class tourists to Linville to become known as “a playground for wealthy Northeasterners” (Swanson, p. 3).

Copy of photograph by Donald MacRae of people, carriage, and horses going over stone bridge in Linville, NC.

In the 1800s, the Linville Improvement Company had a goal to make Linville appealing for tourists, landowners, and investors.  Sometime between 1888 and 1910, the Linville Improvement Company published an advertising pamphlet entitled Linville (cover shown above) to attract people to the area. By describing what amenities the Linville Improvement Company wanted to provide in the town, this pamphlet provides a perfect example of how intertwined the Company and community were.  For example, the pamphlet states “the Improvement Company will aid liberally in the establishment of first-class institutions of learning, libraries, museums, and whatever else is practicable and desirable for the welfare of the community.” This quotation shows how the Linville Improvement Company not only how it hoped to bring Linville profit, but it created resources for the local people. Therefore, the community became dependent on the Linville Improvement Company to take care of their town.

Copy photo of farm, house, and dirt road from the 1890s-1900s, Linville, NC.

Hugh Morton influenced many people throughout North Carolina and America, and by writing this essay for my class, I realized that Hugh Morton’s family history is a great source of learning for students and anyone who is passionate about North Carolina’s history. For anyone that is interested in the history of North Carolina, it is important to remember the history of the MacRae family, whose influence with the Linville Improvement Company was and is evident in Linville, NC. So next time you are driving through scenic western North Carolina, remember to stop by and walk around the attractive town of Linville and appreciate the area that Hugh Morton’s family helped establish.

Works Cited:

Covington, Howard E. Linville: a mountain home for 100 years. Linville, NC: Linville Resorts, Inc., 1992.

Linville Improvement Company.  Linville.  [pamphlet] 1888-1910. North Carolina Collection, Louis Wilson Round Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Swanson, Drew A. “Marketing a Mountain: Changing Views of Environment and Landscape on Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina.” Appalachian Journal 36, 1/2 (2008-2009): 30-53.

NC is clog wild

I just happened to catch a news item that current Miss North Carolina Adrienne Core won the talent portion of the 2011 Miss America Pageant with “a fast-paced, contemporary clogging routine.” Many may already know that clogging is NC’s official state folk dance. I remember doing a bit of clogging (terribly) in my youth in Boone, and seeing some pretty amazing performances by clogging troupes, but I know nothing of the dance’s origins. According to Wikipedia,

Clogging is a type of folk dance with roots in traditional European dancing, early African-American dance, and traditional Cherokee dance in which the dancer’s footwear is used musically by striking the heel, the toe, or both in unison against a floor or each other to create audible percussive rhythms. Clogging was social dance in the Appalachian Mountains as early as the 18th century.

Fascinating to consider how those European, Cherokee and African American influences might have come together! From Wikipedia I also learn the interesting tidbit that “in the U.S. team clogging originated from square dance teams in Asheville, North Carolina’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (1928), organized by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in the Appalachian region.” (Mr. Lunsford has been discussed on this blog a few times in the past, including in detail in one of our “Worth 1,000 Words” essays).

Hugh Morton took many photos of the world-renowned Grandfather Mountain Cloggers troupe, including the one above, which shows the Cloggers performing during halftime of a 1974 UNC-Maryland basketball game, and those below taken at the 1977 White House Easter Egg Roll and during the taping of a segment of Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road.”

I’m curious to learn more about the origins of the Grandfather Mountain Cloggers. Who founded the troupe? What became of it? Internet searches turn up little except for a very small Facebook group, whose description intriguingly invites “all those who were members back when clogging was a precision dance.” Is it no longer considered as such? Are there raging stylistic debates in the world of clogging? I’m dying to know.

A Man and his Mountain; Worth 1,000 Words concludes

It is with both sadness and relief that I announce the final installation of our Worth 1,000 Words essay project . . . sadness because I’ve so enjoyed each new essay and the varying perspectives our authors have brought to the Morton collection, and relief because, wow, this has been a lot of work! (I have a whole new respect for editors/publishers).

But perhaps the sun hasn’t gone down for the last time on this project. All along, our intention with these essays has been to demonstrate the usefulness of Hugh Morton’s images beyond their obvious value as “pretty pictures.” As we stated in our original grant proposal to the North Carolina Humanities Council:

“Photographs are rich primary sources in themselves, full of historical detail, and as visual records, offer immediacy not available through text — a direct visual link to the past. Photography is also, of course, an art, one of which Hugh Morton was a master. The beautiful and communicative documents he created hold almost endless possibility for study, research, and exhibition. They also contain great potential for educational use at all levels, from grade school to graduate school.”

We heartily encourage researchers, journalists, students, teachers, history buffs, etc. to take up the mantle of our Worth 1,000 Words authors and continue to put Morton’s photos to work in the creation of new knowledge. We hope to find ways to encourage that in the future, e.g., through collaborations with media outlets and educators (here on UNC campus and/or in the public schools). We’d love to hear your ideas on ways to accomplish this.

And now to the final essay, entitled The Grandfather Backcountry: A Bridge Between the Past and Preservation, written by RANDY JOHNSON, the originator of Grandfather Mountain’s trail system. In this essay, Johnson provides his first-hand, behind-the-scenes perspective on the changing attitudes towards managing and providing public access to Grandfather’s backcountry. Combining Johnson’s piece with four of our other essays, by Drew Swanson, Anne Whisnant, Richard Starnes, and Alan Weakley, provides a fascinating, nuanced analysis (from multiple, sometimes conflicting perspectives) of the complex balancing act between profit and conservation at “Carolina’s Top Scenic Attraction.”

I’ll conclude with a final plug for our second (and last) Worth 1,000 Words event in Boone on Tuesday, August 10, which will feature both Johnson and Starnes. Come on out!

Tuesday, Aug. 10, 5:30 p.m.
Watauga County Library, Boone
Information: Evelyn Johnson, ejohnson@arlibrary.org, (828) 264-8784

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
Speakers:

“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!