Another known unknown: Frank Lloyd Wright’s “The Research Tower”

North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges and several unidentified men pose in front of the globe on the grounds of S. C. Johnson and Sons Company in early May 1958. Frank Lloyd Wright was the architect for The Research Tower, opened in 1950, seen in the background. Photograph by Hugh Morton, May 1 or 2, 1958.

North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges and several unidentified men pose in front of the globe on the grounds of S. C. Johnson and Sons Company in early May 1958. Frank Lloyd Wright was the architect for The Research Tower, opened in 1950, seen in the background. Photograph by Hugh Morton, May 1 or 2, 1958.

Another serendipitous discovery unveiled itself last Friday afternoon, and so another Morton Mystery has been solved.  (Well at least partially, and not all by itself; I had to do some digging.)  Yesterday and today just so happen to be the fifty-ninth anniversary of the event depicted, so I’m afraid there’s not time for me to do an extensive story.  So I present the images “as is” with a bit of background.  We can all contribute to the story and possible identifications in the comments for this post.

Last Friday while I was examining 120 format negatives in the Morton collection, I saw an envelope labeled “Gov. Hodges — Racine, Wisc. (factory visit)” with a date of May 2, 1958.  As I looked through the negatives I immediately recognized one of the images as being very similar to a color slide (below), which happens to be in the online collection.

Until now, the description of this photograph was "NC Governor Luther H. Hodges being greeted by men, probably at a hotel. Taken on "industry hunting" trip with Hodges administration, circa 1960, possibly to Chicago or New York." There are twenty-two slides in the collection with similar captions, now known to be erroneous.

Until now, the description of this photograph was “NC Governor Luther H. Hodges being greeted by men, probably at a hotel. Taken on “industry hunting” trip with Hodges administration, circa 1960, possibly to Chicago or New York.” There are twenty-two slides in the collection with similar captions, now known to be erroneous.

After looking at all the color slides in that group, a bit of sleuthing led to the discovery that the event was a trip taken by Governor Luther Hodges and several North Carolina businessmen to Chicago with a side trip to Racine, Wisconsin.  Morton made the slide immediately above at the S. C. Johnson and Sons headquarters, probably inside The Administrative Building (built 1936 through 1939) or possibly The Research Tower (built 1944 through 1950).  The buildings are on the list of United States National Historic Landmarks and the United States Register of Historic Places.  Can anyone determine which building interior this?  Any Frank Lloyd Wright experts out there who can help us identify the rest of these images with more specificity? I’m a Frank Lloyd Wright fan (but by no means an expert!) and it’s killing me that I cannot spend more time researching them.

There are twenty-two slides in the lot, and you may examine nine of the “Industry Mission” slides online.  (The slide above is not in the online collection.)  The slides also include scenes of the emissaries’ visit to the Case Corporation factory, also in Racine, where the company made Case-o-matic tractors.  Below is a slide depicting some of travelers along with Governor Hodges, probably at Case.  This image currently is not in the online collection.

Luther Hodges and group, probably during its tour in Racine, Wisconsin. As slide 21 of 22, it's likely at the Case Corporation plant, but the entirety of their tour has not yet been researched. Slide 22 has a hand-written label "Industry Hunting."

Luther Hodges and group, probably during its tour in Racine, Wisconsin. As slide 21 of 22, it’s likely at the Case Corporation plant, but the entirety of their tour has not yet been researched. Slide 22 has a hand-written label “Industry Hunting.”

The following links are to PDF’s of news articles and announcements found thus far:




This Saturday is a good day to go to New Bern

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hugh Morton retrospective at Tryon Palace in New Bern

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

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

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

A Hall for All . . . Old, New, and Renovated

Nine years ago on September 8, 2005, the “new and improved” Memorial Hall on the UNC campus was celebrated with a grand re-opening weekend. On this special anniversary, Morton Collection volunteer, Jack Hilliard, takes a look back at this iconic building.

Memorial Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill, April 22 1987.

Memorial Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill, April 22 1987.

It became painfully clear during UNC’s commencement weekend of 1883 that Gerrard Hall was too small for Carolina’s growing family.  Afterward, officials quickly drew plans for a new 4,000-seat building on a site just west of Gerrard to be named Memorial Hall in honor of David Lowry Swain, President of the University from 1835 until 1868, and North Carolina’s Governor from 1832 until 1835.  Soon after construction began, however, the university expanded the memorial honor to include UNC alumni who died in the Civil War as well as additional outstanding Carolina alumni and North Carolina citizens.

A lagging fund raising campaign and cost overruns plagued the project, but finally construction was completed and Memorial Hall was dedicated on June 3, 1885. A project that had an original estimated cost of $20,000 had a final cost about $45,000. (That’s $1.074 million in today’s dollars.)  Despite a poor architectural design and major acoustical problems, the facility served the University until 1929. In 1896, after the campus gymnasium became a dining hall, Memorial Hall was used as a gymnasium and remained in that capacity until Bynum Gym was opened on May 29, 1905. By 1929, Memorial Hall had suffered major damage to its foundation.  The building was declared unsafe and torn down.

On January 18, 1930 John Sprunt Hill, speaking for the University building committee, recommended “the erection of a modern fireproof building of greater dignity, to replace old Memorial Hall.”  The State Emergency Fund provided $150,000 to construct a new structure on the site of the old hall.  The new Memorial Hall was completed in mid-summer 1931 at a final cost of $182,000 ($2.6 million in today’s dollars).  On University Day, October 12th, the new facility was dedicated and the building was presented to University trustee, John Sprunt Hill, by North Carolina Governor O. Max Gardner.

The first performance on stage in the new building was dancer Carola Goya. For almost 30 years, Memorial Hall served the University and Chapel Hill community well with entertainment, freshman orientations sessions, awards nights, baccalaureate exercises, commencement ceremonies, lectures, pep rallies, the North Carolina Symphony, and even a beauty pageant in 1966. The list of those appearing on stage reads like a who’s who . . . Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Montovani, Marcel Marceau.  On January 31, 1942, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited campus as keynote speaker at a jointly-sponsored International Student Service-Carolina Political Union Conference on “Youth’s Stake in War Aims and Peace Plans.”

Eleanor Roosevelt standing at the stage entrance to Memorial Hall with her secretary Malvina Thompson on the left, Frank Porter Graham (second from left), and Josephus Daniels (right), during Roosevelt's January 1942 visit to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as the keynote speaker at a jointly-sponsored International Student Service-Carolina Political Union conference on “Youth’s Stake in War Aims and Peace Plans.”

Eleanor Roosevelt standing at the stage entrance to Memorial Hall with her secretary Malvina Thompson on the left, Frank Porter Graham (second from left), and Josephus Daniels (right), during Roosevelt’s January 1942 visit to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as the keynote speaker at a jointly-sponsored International Student Service-Carolina Political Union conference on “Youth’s Stake in War Aims and Peace Plans.”

Over the years, Hal Holbrook with his “Evening with Mark Twain” made several appearances as did Flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya. At the height of the folk music era  Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul and Mary stopped by. In 1987 Charles Kuralt and Loonis McGlohon performed “North Carolina is My Home.”  A speakers list includes, Billy Graham, Terry Sanford, and Ted Kennedy. Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather have been featured at the Nelson Benton Memorial Lecture series sponsored by the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and coaches Carl Snavely, Wallace Wade, and Dean Smith were featured as part of an ongoing series on sportsmanship.  On May 13, 1989 as part of Graduation/Reunion Weekend, Hugh Morton presented a slide show from Carolina’s Golden Age to a near-full house in the storied facility.

Dan Rather during his appearance at the Nelson Benton Lecture series at UNC-Chapel Hill in Memorial Hall on April 26, 1991.

Dan Rather during his appearance at the Nelson Benton Lecture series at UNC-Chapel Hill in Memorial Hall on April 26, 1991.

When UNC’s Clef Hangers completed their annual spring concert on April 20, 2002 the doors to the ‘Great Hall” were closed for a three-year major building transformation. A partnership between the State of North Carolina and hundreds of generous donors funded the $18 million project. The new Memorial Hall now has air conditioning, seven dressing rooms, new marble lobby floor, and a new stage that is twice the size of the original. The auditorium seating configuration is improved with wider aisles and better sight lines.

On September 8, 2005 a ribbon-cutting ceremony kicked off the Grand Reopening Gala that featured stars Tony Bennett, Itzhak Perlman, and Leonard Slatkin—plus our own North Carolina Symphony.  Following the hall’s renovation, Carolina Performing Arts has continued to offer world-class performances in music, dance and theater, and the caliber of performers picked up right where it had left off before closing with Bonnie Raitt, Yo-Yo Ma, Nanci Griffith, and Vince Gill.  In 2005, National Public Radio’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” originated a nation-wide broadcast from Memorial Hall, and in 2009 the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet performed a first ever concert in the Southeast.

The future is just as bright for Memorial Hall.  Performances this season include the Pittsburgh Symphony under the direction of Manfred Honeck, and Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. And of course the Holidays would not be complete without the Carolina Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker.”

“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 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.”