“The soul of the beholder will determine the revelation of its meaning.”

A landmark on the UNC campus celebrate its 101st birthday today, June 2, 2014.  Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard and I take a combined look at this Tar Heel icon.

Silent Sam in silhouette

Stephen Fletcher:

Perspective and context are two hallmarks of photography—just as they are with all the arts.  The photographer’s viewpoint shapes a photograph’s subject and how he or she frames the subject (by what it contains and eliminates) narrows the story or emotions that subject conveys.  As a UNC student and alumnus, Hugh Morton photographed UNC’s Confederate Monument, only a sampling of which appears in the online collection.

The Confederate Monument, commonly known as “Silent Sam,” is a controversial landmark on the UNC campus.  Last year—Sunday, June 2nd, 2013—marked its 100th anniversary.  There was no official recognition of this milestone.  All, however, was not quiet for afternoon saw nearly 100 people attend a Real Silent Sam Committee protest rally.  The Friday before, the University Archives blog For the Record posted two documents: a letter written by then-UNC president Francis P. Venable to James G. Keenan expressing his desire that its design not be a monument to the dead “but to a noble idea,” and two pages from Julian S. Carr’s dedication speech laced with Anglo Saxon supremacy and racial violence.

As you approach the statue today, its context is vastly different from those who knew the landscape in 1913.  The monument sets near the edge of wooded McCorkle Place, at the time the only campus quadrangle.  As Jack writes below, “In its park-like setting, many only see Silent Sam as a nice place to sit on a warm spring day and enjoy the beauty of William Meade Prince’s ‘Southern Part of Heaven.’”  As one looks deeper, however, one finds more meaning in the monument’s geographical context and the perspective of those who built it in their place in time.

In 1913 University leaders erected the northwest–facing statue near the northernmost point on the campus. Nearby to the monument’s southwest are three buildings, architecturally connected, named Pettigrew Hall, Vance Hall, and Battle Hall—all completed the previous year.  James Johnson Pettigrew, UNC class of 1843, was a Brigadier General in the Civil War, shot and killed while retreating less than two weeks after playing a major role in the Battle of Gettysburg.  Zebulon Vance was North Carolina’s Civil War governor.  Kemp Plummer Battle, during the Civil War era, was a delegate to the Secession Convention in 1861, president of the Chatham Railroad that hauled coal from mines in Chatham County to Confederate armament factories, and a trustee of the university.  He would later become university president.  The monument, in contextual words, was symbolically set before three Confederate stalwarts.

Jack Hilliard:

More than 1,000 university men fought in the war.  At least forty percent of the students enlisted—a record unequaled by any other institution, North or South.  At their convention in 1909, the North Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy decided to honor the 321 UNC alumni who died in the Civil War, as well all students who joined the Confederate Army.  Supporters raised $7,500 to erect a seven-foot statue, commissioning Canadian sculptor John A. Wilson to do the work.

The dedication and unveiling was held 101 years ago on June 2, 1913 with University President Francis P. Venable pulling off the concealing curtain and North Carolina Governor Locke Craig, UNC class of 1880, as principal speaker.  The statue’s dedication plaque reads:  “To the sons of the university who answered the call to their country in the War of 1861-1865, and whose lives taught the lesson of their great commander that Duty is the sublimest word in the English language.”

The youths, buoyant and hopeful that had thronged these halls, and made this campus ring with shouts of boyish sports, had gone.  The University mourned in silent desolation.  Her children had been slain . . . this statue is a memorial to their chivalry and devotion, an epic poem in bronze.  The soul of the beholder will determine the revelation of its meaning. —Governor Locke Craig, from his dedication speech.

Also speaking at the dedication was the chair-person of the monument committee, Mrs. Bettie Jackson London.  In her speech she said: “In honoring the memory of our Confederate heroes, we must not be misunderstood as having in our hearts any hatred to those who wore the Blue, but we do not wish to forget what has been done for us by those who wore the Gray.”

Representing the Confederate veterans was Gen. Julian Shakespeare Carr, UNC Class of 1866. Carr, namesake of nearby Carrboro and whose name is on at least one UNC campus building, captured the spirit of the times in his speech.

“The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South.”  Carr went on to say that the “purest strain” of white blood was still to be found in the South at the time, because of the duty performed by Confederate soldiers.

After the speeches, a quartet sang “Tenting on the Old Campground Tonight,” while the estimated crowd of one thousand got a close-up look at the work of art.

In his 101 years, Silent Sam has often been the subject of controversy.  There are those who think the statue is a symbol of racial oppression and there are those who believe it to be a symbol of regional pride.

On his 100th birthday, on June 2, 2013, Silent Sam had to once again endure some shots . . . this time verbal shots from a group of protestors from “The Real Silent Sam Movement,” who said the statue represents a racist past that continues in some places today.

“The reality is that Sam has never been silent,” state NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber told the crowd of about 85.  “He speaks racism.  He speaks hurt to women—particularly black women.  And he continues just by his presence to attempt to justify the legacy of the religion of racism.”

From time to time the statue has been covered with graffiti calling for an end to violence and war, as evidenced by Hugh Morton’s photographs from April 1968.  It has often been covered with dark blue paint from Duke or red from State.  Through controversy and vandalism, Silent Sam endures, continuing his watchful eye.  The area around the statue has often been and continues to be a place where students can gather and speak out on issues of the day.  And then there are those who view Silent Sam as simply a nice place to sit on a warm spring day and enjoy the beauty of William Meade Prince’s “Southern Part of Heaven.”

Stephen Fletcher:

Last year when University Archives posted documents from Carr’s speech, then University Archivist Jay Gaidmore wrote: “Over the recent decades, Silent Sam has become a symbol of controversy, caught between those that believe that it is an enduring symbol of racism and white supremacy and defenders who contend that it is a memorial to those UNC students who died and fought for the Confederate States of America. Could it be both?”
At the time of the unveiling, it would seem not.  H. A. London was a one of those students who left UNC to fight for the South.  On June 2nd, 1913 he introduced Governor Craig at the dedication ceremony as Major H. A. London (and husband of Betty Jackson London).  As he concluded his introduction, London harkened the students who pursued their “devotion to duty.”  Of their duty London said, “We thought we were right, and now we know it.
Hopefully in our time we can acknowledge that there are indeed very different perspectives about this monument—especially respecting those whose viewpoints were, by the very nature of their exclusion from speaking at the dedication ceremony, kept silent.

Back in the (Memorial) Day

Tomb of Unknown Soldier monument, with guard, at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, circa late 1930s or early 1940s.

Tomb of Unknown Soldier monument, with guard, at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, circa late 1930s or early 1940s.

Following the Civil War through 1968, Americans observed Decoration Day, which eventually became known as Memorial Day, on May 30th.  On June 28, 1968 Lyndon Baines Johnson signed “An Act To provide for uniform annual observations of certain legal public holidays on Mondays, and for other purposes.”  The act, more commonly know as the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act,” shifted the observance of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May.

Hugh Morton likely photographed the above scene at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery dating as early as the late 1930s or early 1940s, an estimated date range based upon a period of time that we know Morton used that film format (negative film pack measuring 3 15/16 x 3 3/16 inches).  The trees are without leaves, so Morton would have made the photograph sometime during late autumn through the winter months.  The only other possible clue about the possible creation date would be the soldier’s uniform.

 

Legends of the Popular Poplar of McCorkle Place

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution chapter in Chapel Hill bears the name Davie Popular Chapter, taking its name from a living legacy on the UNC campus that stands more than 100 feet tall, is more than 16 feet in circumference, and is greater than 5 feet in diameter.

The University will celebrate its 220th birthday on October 12, 2013.  Morton volunteer/contributor Jack Hilliard takes a look at a campus landmark and Morton photography subject that is more than three centuries old.

Davie Poplar with fall foilage, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, circa 1970s.

Davie Poplar with fall foilage, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, circa 1970s.

The Davie Poplar Tree…a monarch, grander than its fellows, sending its branches far and wide, and drawing its life from every North Carolina County.

From The UNC Class Poem of 1893

The Funk & Wagnalls New College Standard Dictionary defines the word “legend” as “a narrative based partly on history but chiefly on popular tradition.”

Legend has it that a select committee headed by Revolutionary War general and legislator William Richardson Davie was appointed to settle on a specific site for the state university.  Davie, who was one of five North Carolina delegates to the 1787 constitutional convention in Philadelphia, had introduced the bill to charter the university in the state legislature in 1789.  On a warm summer day in 1792, exhausted after a long day of searching, Davie and his committee sat down to rest on the grassy lawn beneath a giant tulip poplar standing near the crest of the ridge popularly known as New Hope Chapel.  The search committee, as Archibald Henderson relates in his 1949 book The Campus of the First State University, “regaled themselves with exhilarating beverages,” and after a picnic lunch and a refreshing nap, the group “unanimously decided that it was useless to search further . . . no more beautiful or suitable spot could be found.”

The legend continues.  Almost a century later, Cornelia Phillips Spencer, who was instrumental in reopening the University following reconstruction, named the giant tree Davie Poplar.  (The 1925 edition of the UNC yearbook Yackety Yack describes the Davie Popular as “Nature’s Pisa-like commemoration of William R. Davie.”)  Longtime UNC history professor Hugh T. Lefler, however, always told his students that Fred Hargett headed the search committee—not William Davie—and Lefler stressed the point that the famous tree is a tulip poplar.  Therefore, according to Professor Lefler, the famous tree should be called “The Hargett Tulip.”

The “true” history of the site selection is likely based more on economic logic and has a rotating cast of players depending on who you ask.

The Board of Trustees, meeting in Hillsborough on August 1st, 1792, decided, from a list of seven possibilities, that the university should be located at Cyprus Bridge and New Hope because of its central location.  The trustees selected a committee of eight, representing the eight districts of the state, to go to New Hope and determine the exact location for the university.  William Davie was not one of the eight.

The neighbors surrounding New Hope made generous offers of land and money.  But the offer made by James Hogg topped all the others.  He offered 1100 acres of land, 780 dollars, and 150,000 bricks for the first building.  That coupled with the beauty of the area sealed the deal. The eight-man committee made the final selection in late November, 1792 and formally proposed that Chapel Hill be the site for the university on December 3rd.  So, perhaps the famous tree should be named for James Hogg.

Neither “The Hargett Tulip” or “The Hogg Poplar,” however, have the ring that “The Davie Poplar” has.

Davie Poplar, University of North Carolina, circa 1970 to early 1980s

Davie Poplar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, circa 1970 to early 1980s.

A different legend goes something like this: if the Davie Poplar falls, then the university will also fall.  To this end, exceptional measures have been taken over the years to insure the tree remains upright.  In 1873, the tree was struck by lightning and in 1898 a severe windstorm damaged two large branches.  The tree was struck again by lightning in 1918.  These nature-inflicted woulds lead university officials and the class of 1918 to plant a grafting called Davie Jr. on March 16th, 1918.  More damage came in the form of an ice storm in 1966.  In the late 1970s, an irrigation plan was put into effect and likely saved the tree during the drought of 1986.

Davie Poplar, University of North Carolina, 1992.

Davie Poplar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1992.

Then on 12 October 1993, as part of the University’s Bicentennial observance, Davie Poplar III was planted nearby from a seed from the original tree.  Also, 100 2-foot saplings from the original tree were distributed to 100 sixth-graders representing North Carolina’s 100 counties.  UNC Head Basketball Coach Dean Smith handed out the twigs from a flat-bed truck.  They were taken back to each county and planted.  In the October, 2013 issue of Carolina Alumni Review, there is a report on some of those planting, complete with a magnificent Hugh Morton image.  There is also a website at baby-davies.unc.edu to follow the project.

On September 6, 1996, Hurricane Fran tore through the Chapel Hill area badly damaging original Davie and once again, University officials struggled to keep the tree (and the university?) from falling.

And then there is a third and more recent legend that says if a couple kisses while sitting on the stone bench beneath the tree, the couple will marry.  I don’t know that we have any proof that legend number two and legend number three are true, but they live on as does the legend that William Richardson Davie rested under a giant tulip poplar in the summer of 1792 and helped create the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To prove it, there stands the 350-year-old popular poplar on the south end of McCorkle Place that has rightfully earned the love and admiration passed down through generations of students and faculty.

So, the next time you walk the bricks under the famous tree, tip your hat to Davie, to Hargett, and to Hogg.

A Second Tour of Duty for the Immortal Showboat

USS North Carolina Memorial Dedication

“Eternal Monument,” Gallant Battlewagon is dedicated Sunday.

The above headline in the Greensboro Record on Monday afternoon, April 30, 1962 recalled a remark by Admiral Arleigh A. Burke’s the previous day.  Fifty years later, A View to Hugh contributor Jack Hilliard takes a look back at the upcoming anniversary this Sunday of the dedication of the Battleship USS North Carolina.  For a prequel, you might want to read Jack’s post from last October, “A North Carolina homecoming.”

Admiral Arleigh Burke speaking at USS North Carolina Memorial Dedication

Retired Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke speaking at USS North Carolina Memorial Dedication. NC Governor Terry Sanford seated in right background.

Twenty one years and twenty days after its commissioning on April 9, 1941, the Battleship USS North Carolina was dedicated as a memorial to the 8,910 North Carolinians of all services killed in World War II.  Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, retired Chief of Naval Operations, was the principal speaker on April 29, 1962 at the dedication ceremony of the majestically moored battleship on the Cape Fear River near downtown Wilmington.

As she lies quietly here at Wilmington she is just as gallant as she was in the days when her big guns were firing.  She is gallant today because she stands silently to remind all who see her of our precious heritage, reminding us with her battle record and with the battle records of those to whom she is dedicated.

Burke then read the World War II roll call:

Guadalcanal, the Solomons, Saipan, Luzon, Iwo Jima, Okinawa . . . an eternal monument to brave men and a source of inspiration to all Americans.

The retired admiral expressed the hope that visitors to the ship in the years to come will “remember not only those who died—but why they died. And from this memory let us all strengthen our resolve to protect and preserve the blessings of freedom whatever the cost may be.”

Crowd onboard USS North Carolina during memorial dedicationMore than 2,000 people on the stern of the ship and thousands more in the nearby parking areas took part in the emotional ceremony . . . just as they had contributed money to the “Save-Our-Battleship” effort.  During the ceremony, the USS North Carolina Battleship Commission, headed by Chairman Hugh Morton and Vice Chairman Orville Campbell, drew praise for their tireless efforts to save the ship.

North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford, introduced by Master of Ceremonies Jim Reid of radio station WPTF in Raleigh, called the ship “North Carolina’s historic link with World War II . . . a great memorial to a fighting people.” He then reminded the audience that $315,000 had been raised to date, and more than 112,000 people had visited the ship since it’s opening on October 14, 1961.

Admiral Claude V. Ricketts, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, speaking at the USS North Carolina Memorial Dedication.Admiral Claude V. Ricketts, Vice Chief of Naval Operations added:

Her hull and her weapons may represent, in a way, a bygone era in the story of naval power and naval tactics, but her spirit remains modern and she will thereby continue to contribute in a great measure to the security of the United States and the moral fiber of her citizenry.

USS North Carolina Memorial Dedication, probably Charles J. O'Connor of St. Mary's Roman Catholic ChurchMinisters of three faiths also took part in the ceremony.  The Rt. Rev. Thomas H. Wright, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina delivered the invocation; the dedicatory prayer was by Rev. Charles J. O’Connor, pastor of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Wilmington, and Rabbi Samuel A. Friedman of the Congregation of B’nai Israel, Wilmington, gave the benediction.  Commerce Secretary Luther H. Hodges, who as Governor was instrumental in acting on Jimmy Craig’s idea to save the ship, set out new marching orders for the old battlewagon:

We’re launching this great battleship on a second tour of duty . . . as a permanent reminder of freedom’s obligations.

Navy minesweepers plied the Cape Fear, ferrying guests from downtown Wilmington to the battleship site and later passed in review just before Army, Navy, and Air Force planes flew over in a magnificent aerial salute.

The radio broadcast of the ceremonies was offered to each radio station in North Carolina and adjoining states.  Wilmington television station WECT carried the proceedings live to coastal North Carolina.  Video tape replays were available to other TV stations.

 ⸑

In 1969 Vice Admiral Ernest M. Eller, Director of United States Naval History, wrote:

North Carolina, the first of the new battleships of World War II, has special significance to the Navy and the Nation.  Her brilliant performance in gunnery in the Pacific with the fast carrier task force played an important role in our ultimate victory.  She well deserved to be enshrined.

 

Hugh Morton at the USS North Carolina

Hugh Morton on deck of the USS North Carolina during an event, probably the April 29, 1962 dedication.

Hugh Morton, in his 1988 book, Making a Difference in North Carolina, dedicated an entire chapter to the ship.  Said Morton:

The (USS) North Carolina’s record speaks for itself.  She was in all 12 offensive naval engagements.  Applying any plausible yardstick one cares to use, the USS North Carolina may well be the greatest battleship ever floated by the United States.  We who hail from North Carolina were in luck the day it was decided to name this particular ship for our state.

On January 14, 1986, the ship was declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.  So, on this the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of the Battleship USS North Carolina (BB-55), I choose to believe there will be another gathering in a very special place.  Included will be, Burke and Ricketts, Sanford and Hodges, Morton and Campbell, Eller and Craig.  And as they did 50 years ago, leading this gathering will be Jim Reid along with Rt. Rev Wright, Rev O’Connor, and Rabbi Friedman.  All will be joined by 8,910 North Carolina heroes from World War II.

A double honor

Basketball was near and dear to Hugh Morton’s heart, and as we approach “March Madness” be forewarned: there are a few posts related to basketball in the offing.  Today,  A View to Hugh contributor Jack Hilliard takes a look at how the Justice Center at the University of North Carolina at Asheville got its name.

Charlie Justice standing outside the Charles Justice Sports, Health, and Physical Education Center

Charlie Justice standing outside the Charles Justice Sports, Health, and Physical Education Center

Last fall the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners proclaimed Sunday, November 13, 2011 as “UNC Asheville Bulldog Day.”  On that day, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill head basketball coach Roy Williams, an Asheville native, took his Tar Heels to the “Land of the Sky” for a game with Eddie Biedenbach’s Bulldogs of the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  It was the inaugural game for the 3000-seat Kimmel Arena, the Bulldogs’ new home.  The Tar Heels won that game, but the Bulldogs have had a great season in their new facility, having won the Big South Conference regular season championship.

The road to the 2012 Final Four will pass through Kimmel Arena with the Southern Conference and the Big South Conference playing tournament games there.  For the thirty-five seasons leading up to the 2011–2012 campaign, however, UNC-Asheville played its home games in the Charles Justice Sports, Health, and Physical Education Center—a 1100-seat facility called Justice Center (sometimes called Justice Gym) which sits just south of the new arena on the UNCA campus.  For twelve seasons (1984-1995) this historic facility hosted the Southern Conference Tournament.  The complex, built between 1959 and 1968 when the school was the Asheville-Biltmore College, includes a basketball court, classrooms and offices, swimming pool, dance studio, gymnastics area, tennis courts, a track, and soccer field.

On Monday, February 24th, 1975, UNCA trustee chairman G. Hoyle Blanton announced the dedication of the Justice Center at a dinner meeting of the board of trustees at the Great Smokies Hilton.  The following Sunday, March 2nd, an editorial titled “An Honor for Choo Choo” in the Asheville-Citizens-Times explained why the trustees of the University of North Carolina at Asheville had voted to name its $1.75 million physical education and athletic complex for Charlie Justice:

Mention his name in almost any place in this country, and in some places outside of it, and a flood of warm memories are evoked. . . . UNCA, which correctly places academics above athletics, has honored a native son who managed to keep his perspective and still win.

I recall sitting at my desk at WFMY-TV in Greensboro in the spring of 1975 when I got a call from Ian MacBryde, WFMY’s Public Affairs Producer.  He had gotten a call from Pete Gilpin, UNCA’s Director of Public Information.  Gilpin wanted to know if we had any film of Charlie Justice playing for the Tar Heels that they might show at the dedication ceremony.  MacBryde and I decided to produce a fifteen-minute mini-documentary for the occasion.  Our piece became a part of the formal dedication of “The Charles Justice Sports, Health, and Physical Education Center” on November 28, 1975.  The ceremony was held between first-round games of the 10th Annual Optimist Tip-Off Basketball Tournament.

Dr. William E. Highsmith, UNCA Chancellor, was master of ceremonies that evening and presented Justice with a framed photograph of the facility.  Also taking part in the ceremony were Asheville Mayor Richard Wood, and Hendersonville City Commissioner and Justice’s UNC teammate Joe Wright.  Representing the consolidated UNC trustees was another Tar Heel teammate Art Weiner.  Rev. John McReadie Barr delivered the invocation.  Barr was the former rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Hendersonville where Charlie and his wife Sarah attended church when Justice was in the oil business with Wright.  Also on the program was Coach Ralph James, Justice’s high school coach at Lee Edwards High during the 1941 and 1942 seasons.

In his comments, Coach James said, “Charlie didn’t need much coaching.  You just told him the general idea and he did it.  In fact, he didn’t really need a coach.  All he needed was someone to tape his ankles and pump up the ball.”  Weiner congratulated Justice and said, “All of his teammates feel he deserves this honor.  His records still stand and his contributions will never be surpassed.”  Said Justice, “I often dreamed of being an All-America and playing for the University of North Carolina but I never thought it would come true.  But it wasn’t all me.  A lot of people made it possible for me to do some things on the football field.  Those are the people who are really being honored here tonight.”  Justice praised his teammates and coaches and then in true Justice form, he thanked his linemen who opened up those holes in the opposing lines.  He then thanked his wife.  “Without Sarah and the support of my family, this evening would not have been possible.”

During the week following the dedication ceremony, the Greensboro Daily News published Hugh Morton’s portrait of Justice standing in front of the building (seen above).  The photo caption read, “Choo Choo and His Building.”  The late Smith Barrier, Executive Sports Editor of the Daily News, commented on that March 2nd editorial saying, “An Asheville Citizen-Times editorial calls the dedication announcement ‘An Honor For Choo Choo.’  I would add an honor for UNCA.”

The Living Room of the University

A View to Hugh closes out the year with a contribution from Jack Hilliard celebrating the December 30th anniversary of a notable Chapel Hill landmark, the Carolina Inn.

Have a Happy New Year!

Carolina InnThe committee searching for UNC’s new athletics director, Lawrence Bubba Cunningham, met for more than twenty-seven hours and interviewed thirteen candidates before making its recommendation to Chancellor Holden Thorp.  The final selection was announced on October 14th, 2011.  Those interviews were not held in the Ernie Williamson Athletic Center.  They weren’t held in the Smith Center, nor were they held in the Kenan Football Center.  They took place in another very special place on the UNC campus.  A place UNC President Emeritus Dr. William Friday calls “The Living Room of the University”—the Carolina Inn.

On May 5, 1965, noted movie and TV actor Richard Chamberlain stayed at the Carolina Inn while in Chapel Hill for the World Premiere of the movie Joy In The Morning, which was based on a novel by Chapel Hill’s own Betty Smith.  The film was featured at the Carolina Theater.

About a month after the famous 1949 UNC vs. Notre Dame football game in historic Yankee Stadium, Notre Dame President John J. Cavanaugh paid a courtesy visit to Chapel Hill and met with Acting UNC President William D. Carmichael, Jr. and UNC All America Charlie Justice.  That visit took place in the Carolina Inn as well.

William D. Carmichael Jr.

William D. "Billy" Carmichael Jr. at an unknown event in the Hill Room at the Carolina Inn, circa 1940s to early 1950s.

Those visits were not unusual; many famous people have visited the Inn during its 87 year history—Eleanor Roosevelt, Kay Kyser, David Brinkley, Michael Jordan, Alexander Julian, Julius Chambers, John Motley Morehead, and Andy Griffith.  The list does go on.

It was ninety years ago this year, in the early fall of 1921, when John Sprunt Hill, distinguished alumnus and University trustee, checked into a Franklin Street hotel during a visit to the campus.  That hotel was likely the old University Inn.  Unable to sleep because of the unseasonably warm weather, Hill decided to take a walk across the moonlit campus.  When he arrived at the corner of Columbia Street and Cameron Avenue, he spent several minutes looking at the old wooden boarding house there operated by Mrs. Ralph Graves.  He envisioned a new more modern hotel on the site.  During the following months, Hill was able to purchase the boarding house and land from Mrs. Graves, and at the UNC trustee meeting on November 2, 1922, he proposed his plan for a “college inn,” which would be funded totally by alumni contributions.  To start the fundraising project, Hill offered the land and donated $10,000.  In early 1923, it became clear that the fundraising drive was not going to reach its projected goal of $100,000, so Hill decided to fund the entire venture on his own.  By the time the Carolina Inn’s dedication on December 30, 1924, John Sprunt Hill had invested over $250,000 in the building, equipment, and furnishings.  For the next ten and a half years, Hill maintained the inn.  Then on June 5, 1935, he presented the entire Carolina Inn property to the University.  In the following decades the Carolina Inn faced many challenges due the changing face of the university, but to this day it remains a featured centerpiece.

It seems that everyone who visits the Carolina Inn comes away with a favorite story.  Carolina’s great All America football star Charlie Justice was a huge fan of the inn.  He and wife Sarah lived there in early 1946 while they waited for a place in Victory Village.  Justice often recalled listening to a radio broadcast of Carolina’s NCAA championship game on March 26, 1946 in the lobby of the Carolina Inn.  The Justice family spent many nights at the inn during his playing days as well as football weekends during a span of 50 years.

One of my favorite Carolina Inn stories is one told by the late Bob Quincy, a former Sports Information Director at Carolina and co-author of the 1958 book, Choo Choo: The Charlie Justice Story.  On November 22, 1947, when Carolina defeated its arch rival Duke by a  score of 21 to 0, a Chapel Hill celebration was staged that was only rivaled by the one in 1929 when the Tar Heels beat the Blue Devils 48 to 7.  The dancing on Franklin Street went on for hours after the ‘47 game.  Finally, a weary bunch of Tar Heel fans, along with a couple of players, found their way to the Carolina Inn hoping to get a celebratory meal—only to find the dining room was closed.  James Weaver, an employee of the inn for forty years, met the students at the door and explained that closing time had long passed, but he said he would speak to manager Leigh Skinner to see if anything could be done.

“Sir,” said Weaver, “we just got to open up the dining room again.”
“We can’t, James,” said the manager.  “Rules are rules.”
“But you got the most important man in North Carolina standing out there goin’ hungry.”
“Do you mean to tell me Governor Cherry is in our lobby?”
“Oh, no, sir, not anybody like that.  I mean the MOST important—Mr. Charlie Choo Choo Justice.”

The dining room was opened and dinner was served.

Hugh Morton liked to tell the following story.  In April of 1953, Morton was hosting a banquet at the inn and needed an entertainer.  Someone suggested a young graduate student who was active in the Playmaker’s Theater.  Morton was able to hire the student for twenty-five dollars.  The student’s name was Andrew Griffith, and he delighted the audience with a hilarious monologue about a bumpkin at his first college football game.  Chapel Hill record producer Orville Campbell was in the audience and after the show rushed up to meet Griffith and told the young comedian he was star material.  Within a week or two, What It Was, Was Football was recorded and became a hit.  Not long after, Griffith was on Broadway in No Time For Sergeants.

Andy Griffith at Kenan Stadium, 1954

Andy Griffith performing "What it Was Was Football" at Kenan Stadium, September 25, 1954.

“I don’t claim all the credit for his success,” Morton would say in a 1984 Greensboro interview.  “I’m sure anybody with Andy’s great talent would have made it without my help,” but it was a night to remember in “The Living Room of the University.”

A North Carolina homecoming

USS North Carolina berthing

USS North Carolina berthing, Wilmington, N.C., October 2, 1961

October 2nd, 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the USS North Carolina’s arrival in Wilmington.  Hugh Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look at the final days of the historic journey.

October 1961 was a busy month for photographer Hugh Morton.  UNC’s football Tar Heels played host to Clemson, the North Carolina Trade Fair opened in Charlotte, President John F. Kennedy came to Chapel Hill for University Day, and the UNC basketball Tar Heels began practice under new head coach Dean Smith.  But it would be the events of October 2nd that would become a defining episode in the legacy of Hugh Morton.

On October 17th, 1945 the battleship USS North Carolina (BB-55) entered Boston harbor.  The ship had spent forty months in the Pacific during World War II traveling 307,000 miles.  On its arrival, freighters, tugs, transports, and work boats cut loose with whistles, sirens, and bells for the North Carolina’s first salute back home.  During World War II, the ship had been credited with twenty-four enemy planes, one enemy cargo ship, and had participated in every major offensive engagement in the Pacific from Guadalcanal to Tokyo Bay, earning fifteen battle stars.  In the summer of 1946, it twice visited the Naval Academy at Annapolis to embark midshipmen for training cruises in the Caribbean.  Then in October the North Carolina returned to its birthplace, the New York Navy Yard, for inactivation.  On June 27th, 1947 it was decommissioned and assigned to the 16th Fleet (inactive), Battleship Division 4, Atlantic, relegated to fourteen years of retirement at Bayonne, New Jersey.

USS North Carolina at Bayonne, New Jersey

USS North Carolina at Bayonne, New Jersey, no date (P0081_NTBR2_006361_10)

In 1958 a brief news item appeared in the media saying the World War II battleship was going to be scrapped by the United States Navy . . . sold for junk.  When James S. Craig, Jr. of Wilmington heard the news, he was outraged.  Craig set out to save the old ship.  He was able to get Governor Luther Hodges’ attention and support as well as that of incoming Governor Terry Sanford.  Hodges sent a dispatch to Washington requesting that the Department of the Navy postpone its plans to destroy, pending an investigation by the state into the possibility of salvaging the ship. On June 1st, 1960 the North Carolina was stricken from the official Navy list.

A little over five months later, on November 11th, 1960, Governor Hodges appointed the USS North Carolina Battleship Advisory Committee to investigate the feasibility of establishing the warship as a state memorial.  In the spring of 1961, a bill was introduced in the legislature creating the USS North Carolina Battleship Commission.  Hugh Morton was installed as chairman.  During the next five months Morton and his commission initiated an intensive “Let’s bring the USS North Carolina home” campaign that raised the needed funds.

Battleship USS North Carolina Commission visit to the White House, 1961.

Battleship USS North Carolina Commission visit to the White House, 1961.

The United States Navy turned the battleship over to the state of North Carolina in a ceremony in Bayonne on September 6, 1961, with noted newsman Lowell Thomas as master of ceremonies.  The ship’s towing to North Carolina was scheduled to begin on September 25th, but the remnants of Hurricane Esther had other ideas.  A one-day delay was in order.  The weather on Tuesday, September 26th was better and a proud warship headed home.  Instead of an infamous journey to the junkyard, the USS North Carolina’s final voyage would be to a memorial berth in Wilmington, North Carolina—and the stage was set for a true North Carolina homecoming.

Soon after 9:00 a.m. on September 26th, the 45,000 ton USS North Carolina was moved away from its dock at Bayonne.  Five tugs alongside and two others at the bow eased the battleship out into New York Harbor.  Several ships in the harbor gave the majestic North Carolina salutes with their deep-throated horns as it moved down the channel through the narrows to lower New York Bay and then the open sea.  Captain Axel Jorgensen of the lead tug Diana Moran answered each salute.  For the next four days, the Diana Moran and its sister tug the Margaret Moran guided the big ship down the east coast.  On Saturday afternoon, September 30th, the ship circled slowly the lee of Frying Pan Shoals, awaiting an early Sunday morning tide to assist its trip up the Cape Fear River.  The plan was to enter Southport Harbor about 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 1st.  But once again, mother nature stepped in: an unexpected northeaster blew in over coastal Carolina, bringing rain and low visibility.

North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford and the USS North Carolina, 1961.

NC Governor Terry Sanford in a borrowed Coast Guard cap, squinting, with the Battleship USS North Carolina on the water in the background. Cape Fear River, off Southport, N.C., October 1, 1961.

The battleship USS North Carolina spent its final night at sea just off Cape Hatteras—the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”—near the skeleton of the Laura E. Barnes, which wrecked off the Dare coast before the turn of the 20th century.  Then at 8:00 a.m. on October 2nd, the ship began the last twenty-seven miles of its final journey.  Thousands of spectators lined the river banks to watch.  Scores of boats followed the big ship as it was pulled by the Coast Guard cutter Cherokee and guided up the winding channel by a fleet of eleven tug boats.  As the North Carolina approached downtown Wilmington at 3:30 p.m., the crowds grew larger.  Bleachers had been set up at the Customs House, and people could be seen hanging out of buildings trying to get a look at North Carolina’s newest tourist attraction.  A band played “Anchors Aweigh” as the battlewagon cleared the Cape Fear River at 5:37 p.m.

USS North Carolina berthing, October 2, 1961.

Aerial view of tugboats maneuvering the Battleship USS North Carolina into its berthing place on the Cape Fear River, across from the Federal Court House in Wilmington, N.C., October 2, 1961.

“The berthing at Wilmington was one of the most tense moments in my lifetime,” said Morton in his 1996 book, Sixty Years With a Camera.  “If it did not work, we knew we had a mighty big ship that would make a formidable dam on the Cape Fear River.”  But it did work: at 5:40 p.m. on October 2nd, 1961, Rear Admiral William S. Maxwell, Jr. USN, Retired, superintendent of the Battleship Memorial, pronounced the USS North Carolina was home.

During World War II, the Japanese claimed six times to have sunk the North Carolina, but the gallant battleship survived every onslaught.  And when it was doomed for the junkyard the people of the great state whose name it had carried during the war, and led by planner and organizer Hugh Morton, saved it for future generations.

Unfortunately, James S. (Jimmy) Craig, Jr. did not get to see the mighty battleship slip majestically into its memorial shrine at the Port of Wilmington.  He was in the Army Burn Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in critical condition from injuries suffered in an air show crash just eight days earlier.  He died on October 14th, the day “The Showboat” first opened to the public.

Islands of the Pacific revisited

Hugh Morton in Manila Chinese Cemetery

Hugh Morton with camera, Manila Chinese Cemetery, Philppines, circa March 1945.

During the Memorial Day weekend, I looked online through the numerous photographs made by Hugh Morton during his tour of duty in the South Pacific during World War II as a photographer (still and moving image) with the United States Army 161st Signal Photographic Company.  The idea was to have a military post related to the holiday.  I must confess that the exercise consumed the greater portion of my holiday weekend, but it was enjoyable and educational!  It also was rewarding because my journey through the collection, using the geographical subject heading “Islands of the Pacific,” led to several corrections with some interesting new identifications.  Unfortunately it has taken some time to update the catalog records, plus some of the master scans were “M. I. A.” so I needed to rescan those negatives.  That extra work meant that this post got pushed into June—and there’s enough material to merit more than one post.

The delay turns out not to be a such bad thing, however, because significant events in the war in the South Pacific took place during the month of June 1945—particularly on Luzon that lead to the liberation of the Philippines, declared on July 5th.  Ironically it was through that country’s two national heroes from the Spanish-American War—Andrés Bonifacio, and José Rizal—that I was able to identify the actual locations depicted several photographs.

Our first stop on this virtual expedition, however, is 4,000 miles southeast of Manila: Nouméa, New Caledonia.

Noumea, New Caledonia

Nouméa with Mount Dore in the distance, New Caledonia, circa late 1943–1944.

Many of the “misidentified” images are from a batch of negatives that Morton originally labeled “Noumea, New Caledonia.”  Nouméa is the capitol of New Caledonia, a country formed from a group of islands that are more than 900 miles east of Australia.  Nouméa is located on the southwestern coast near the southern tip of a long slender island called Grande Terre and situated on a protected harbor with a small island, Ile Nou, just offshore.  In 1942 the Allies needed to relocate the center of their Pacific operations from Auckland, New Zealand to a place closer to the “front.”  New Caledonia had been a French colony since the mid 19th century, and Nouméa was significantly closer to the action.  During the summer and autumn of 1942, the United States Navy and Army constructed extensive facilities at Nouméa, and on 8 November 1942 Nouméa became the official headquarters of the Allied Commander of the South Pacific.  New Caledonia also became home to many USO performances by Bob Hope and others, which Morton photographed in 1944.

When the army shipped members of the 161st Army Signal Corp to the Pacific, including Hugh Morton sometime in late 1943 or early 1944, they likely landed first in Nouméa.  Above is a scenic photograph by Morton of Nouméa with Mount Dore in the distance, scanned from the original negative with a U.S. Army Signal Corp identification number 22-16 along the left-hand edge.  Another scan in the online collection is from a cropped print.  The snapshot photograph below, with Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in the background, is the only other positively identified view made Nouméa. The original 2.5 x 3.5-inch negative is in the Morton collection, but it has not been scanned.

Street scene, Noumea, New Caledonia

So far, these are the only two images positively identified as Nouméa.  When Elizabeth Hull processed World War II material in the Morton collection, she made a note in the finding aid alerting users that many of the images in that the batch of negatives may not be of Nouméa.  Many of those negatives can now be assigned their proper place on the map: the Philippines, where Morton’s military service concluded in the spring of 1945.  The next post (or posts) on this trip back to the South Pacific will be a reflection of Morton’s tour of duty: “island hopping” our way to the Philippines.

Loafer’s Glory, or happiness in the hills

I want to go back to Loafer’s Glory and have another cup of coffee in the small diner there, look out the windows at the wooded hills, maybe while away some time “just sittin,” as the mountain folk say. Watch the play of light and shadow on the mountains and perhaps discreetly observe the people as they come and go.

Thomas James Martin, 2001

In my last post, I mentioned a messy box of roll film I found, previously overlooked, in the stacks. As dirty and jumbled as the box was, I assumed it would be filled with, shall we say, less-than-premium examples of Hugh Morton’s work. I was (at least partially) wrong. Among the many rolls of the Morton sons’ high school basketball games I found shots of Terry Sanford’s 1961 inauguration as NC Governor, Kerr Scott at the 1956 Democratic National Convention, and Billy Graham preaching at “Singing on the Mountain” in 1962, among other high-quality scenes.

I also found an intriguing roll of 120 film depicting a North Carolina destination with which I was unfamiliar — a very small community in the NC mountains called “Loafer’s Glory.” To quote Mr. Martin again, “Loafer’s Glory is a wide place in the road in the mountains of western North Carolina. At last count less than a hundred souls live in the community, but at least there is a caution light marking the spot on NC Highway 226 where it it intersects NC 80 of this ‘gloriously’ named town near the Tennessee border perhaps 50 or 60 miles west of Asheville.” (Be sure to read the entirety of Martin’s lovely article on the importance of taking time to “loaf”).

According to a resource on Mitchell County Place Names, Loafer’s Glory “is probably Mitchell County’s most famous named place. Located at the bend of the river about three miles north of Bakersville, Loafer’s Glory was reputedly coined by the women of the community, who took a dim view of the men’s habit of ‘lollygagging’ on the porch of the community soter, rather than working.”

Hugh Morton appears to have visited the community sometime in the 1950s-early 1960s, on his way to or back from a “hillbilly festival” taking place in the middle of the road (the two shots below are on the same roll of film as the Loafer’s Glory images). The road signs for highways 64 and 28 in the bottom image would indicate a location of Highlands, NC, which then leads me to the distinct possibility that these are shots of “Highlands Hillbilly Days.”

According to Anthony Harkins’ Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon, the Hillbilly Days were held each August between 1951 and at least 1957 — “participants dressed as hillbillies and participated in beauty contests, as well as the more traditional pursuits of wood chopping, square dancing, and ballad-singing” (263).

Can anyone verify this? Is this, in fact, “Highlands Hillbilly Days”? And, have you ever loafed in Loafer’s Glory?

“Unto These Hills”

Note from Elizabeth: Sixty years ago today, the historical drama “Unto These Hills” premiered at Cherokee, NC. We’re thrilled to present a guest post on the topic by Worth 1,000 Words essay author Andrew Denson of Western Carolina University.

This month marks the sixtieth anniversary of the outdoor historical drama “Unto These Hills,” which debuted in Cherokee on the evening of July 1, 1950. A vivid recounting of Cherokee history from European contact through the Removal era, the play was an immediate success, drawing large audiences throughout its first season. “Huge crowds have been present,” The State magazine proclaimed in its July 15, 1950 issue, and “everyone who has seen it thus far is enthusiastic.” Drawing more than 100,000 viewers in its first season alone, the drama quickly became one of Western North Carolina’s premier tourist attractions. In a significantly revised form, it remains popular today.

Hugh Morton captured some of the excitement of those early performances in a series of striking color images, now preserved in the Morton digital collection. The play’s dance sequences, in particular, seem to have drawn his photographer’s eye. He documented the “harvest dance” seen at the beginning of the drama and meant to express the Cherokees’ respectful relationship with the land (they “possessed it with gentleness and humility, with peace,” reads the script by Kermit Hunter). He also recorded the athletic “eagle dance,” which reviewers of the drama invariably cited as one of play’s most arresting moments. With modern choreography by UNC drama professor Foster Fitz-Simons, these performances bore little resemblance to traditional Cherokee dance, but they certainly gripped viewers’ attention. Fitz-Simons’ version of the eagle dance, in fact, became an all-purpose emblem of the drama, appearing in advertising for “Unto These Hills” for years to come.

The original “Unto These Hills,” it must be said, was rather poor history. Kermit Hunter, who wrote the script as a UNC graduate student, knew little about the Native American or Appalachian past, and his research seems not to have extended much beyond a cursory reading of James Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokee. Hunter portrayed Cherokees sympathetically, as honest people who loved and defended their land, yet his Indian characters were little more than stereotypes. Seeking to appeal to a broad audience, Hunter relied on familiar images like the “noble savage,” turning fascinating figures like Sequoyah and the Cherokee leader Drowning Bear into flat caricatures. The play depicted real events, but only in a form devoid of historical complexity.

But perhaps that judgment is unfair. The creators of “Unto These Hills” transformed a somewhat obscure historical subject into compelling popular entertainment, which was no small feat. In the process, the drama may have accomplished something more. For all of its flaws, “Unto These Hills” ensured that several generations of visitors to the mountains departed knowing that Western North Carolina was the Cherokee homeland and that Cherokees had persisted there. That was a message worth broadcasting. Sixty years later, it remains so.

–Andrew Denson

REFERENCES

Beard-Moose, Christina Taylor. Public Indians, Private Cherokees: Tourism and Tradition on Tribal Grounds. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2009.

Finger, John R. Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the Twentieth Century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Hunter, Kermit. Unto These Hills: A Drama of the Cherokee. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1951.

The State, July 15, 1950.