A Spark of Greatness, part 4

Today is the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, which A View to Hugh commemorates with the fourth and final installment of “A Spark of Greatness.” Using photographs by Morton, Edward J. McCauley, and Don Sturkey, “A Spark of Greatness” highlights some of the key events that led to Kennedy’s campaign visit to the Tar Heel State in September 1960. The story presented in A View to Hugh draws from contemporary newspaper accounts and the book Triumph of Good Will, John Drescher’s account of the gubernatorial contest between Terry Sanford and I. Beverly Lake that preceded Kennedy’s visit.

As the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate, Terry Sanford believed that John F. Kennedy would win North Carolina in the 1960 presidential election, but to do so Kennedy would need to campaign in the state. As the Raleigh News and Observer reported on July 15th, 1960, Sanford “told newsmen he is sure that when Kennedy goes to North Carolina, ‘as he will,’ he will convince voters that he has a spark of greatness.”

The North Carolina delegates’ caucus that followed the formal nomination emphasized not only the need for vigorous campaigning in the state, but also a personal appearance by Kennedy. Kennedy did indeed campaign in North Carolina; perhaps just as importantly, as John Drescher notes, Sanford “made Kennedy’s campaign his campaign.”

There are many photographs of Kennedy’s daylong campaign tour in North Carolina in the North Carolina Collection by Hugh Morton, Burlington’s Daily Times-News photographer Edward McCauley, and Don Sturkey, chief photographer of the Charlotte Observer. Sturkey’s photograph of Kennedy, U.S. Congressman Herbert C. Bonner, and Terry Sanford riding in a convertible approaching the football stadium at the Eastern Carolina University in Greenville may be the quintessential photograph that captured that “spark of greatness” reflected by the enthusiasm of onlookers chasing the motorcade. Ironically, this image did not appear in the Observer’s coverage of Kennedy’s campaign swing through the state. (Morton and McCauley’s photographs can be seen by clicking on the links above. Sturkey’s photographs are not available online; the link, however, leads to the collection’s finding aid.)

John F. Kennedy campaigning in North Carolina. Copyright Don Sturkey, 1960.

Photograph copyright Don Sturkey, 1960.

After Richard M. Nixon’s nomination for president on the Republican ticket, pollster Lou Harris showed Nixon ahead of Kennedy in North Carolina by a margin of two-to-one. A month after Kennedy’s campaign swing through the state on September 17th, another Harris poll had Kennedy ahead fifty-one percent to forty percent. On election day, Kennedy won North Carolina with fifty-two percent of the vote.

Fast forward to January 20th, 12:51 P.M—the time Kennedy began his inaugural address. Among its memorable passages, Kennedy observed, “The world is very, very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.” And among the memorable accomplishments of Terry Sanford during his governorship was the North Carolina Fund, Sanford’s innovative initiative to address the state’s dire poverty.

A Spark of Greatness, part 3

This is the third post on the story behind John F. Kennedy’s campaign visit to the Tar Heel State in September 1960, drawn from newspaper accounts and the book Triumph of Good Will, John Drescher’s account of the gubernatorial contest between Terry Sanford and I. Beverly Lake that preceded Kennedy’s visit. There’s an interesting story that photographs by Hugh Morton and other photographers in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives can help tell. In light of the silver anniversary of that momentous campaign, and during the anniversary month of Kennedy’s assassination, I’ll be contributing a series of posts touching on that pivotal time in North Carolina and the nation.

Sanford chose Kennedy.

Sanford’s decision was a bombshell, and the reaction in North Carolina was explosive. Sanford made his decision while vacationing in Myrtle Beach after his run-off victory over I. Beverly Lake. When Sanford informed Robert Kennedy of his decision, John Kennedy was thrilled and he wanted Sanford to make one of the nominating speeches at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Sanford, mindful of that his decision would not be popular with many North Carolinians, was reluctant. “Don’t do me any favors,” Sanford told Robert Kennedy. “He really needs you,” Robert Kennedy told Sanford. At the wishes of the Kennedy campaign, Sanford delayed announcing his decision until the Saturday before the DNC in Los Angeles in order to supply a boost to the Kennedy campaign going into the convention. Sanford also agreed to deliver a nomination speech, as seen below (photograph cropped by author).

Fifty-four North Carolina delegates cast their votes for Johnson; by comparison, only eleven Tar Heel delegates sided with Sanford to back Kennedy. North Carolina’s most prominent delegates were Lyndon B. Johnson supporters, including incumbent governor Luther Hodges (who had his sights on the vice presidential nomination) and United States Senator Sam Ervin Jr., seen below holding the Wednesday, July 13th night edition of the Los Angeles Herald Express.  In contrast to the larger headline stating Kennedy was slipping, a smaller headline above the two photographs reads, “‘Solid South’ is Wavering.”

How daring was Sanford’s decision? Sanford’s support of Kennedy was an important symbolic victory for Kennedy because Sanford was a southerner willing to support a presidential candidate from outside the south. Sanford broke what most thought would be a solid bloc of southern support for Johnson. But Sanford’s decision may have been even more critical facing his upcoming race for the governorship. Back home the response was often vitriolic, so much so that Sanford and his fellow North Carolina Kennedy delegates came to be dubbed the “Dirty Dozen.”

A Spark of Greatness, part 2

Terry Sanford and others listening to Elizabeth "Buffie" Ives, Adlai Stevenson's sister, at the 1956 Democratic National Convention

This is the second post on the story behind John F. Kennedy’s campaign visit to the Tar Heel State in September 1960, drawn from newspaper accounts and the book Triumph of Good Will, John Drescher’s account of the gubernatorial contest between Terry Sanford and I. Beverly Lake that preceded Kennedy’s visit. There’s an interesting story that photographs by Hugh Morton and other photographers in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives can help tell. In light of the silver anniversary of that momentous campaign, and during the anniversary month of Kennedy’s assassination, I’ll be contributing a series of posts touching on that pivotal time in North Carolina and the nation.

John Kennedy immediately sought out Terry Sanford at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce meeting in mid January 1959. Sanford was one of only a few of the 1956 Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates in attendance, and Kennedy knew Sanford was a potential delegate for the 1960 DNC in Los Angeles.  In the above photograph, Hugh Morton captured Sanford (lower right corner) and others listening to Elizabeth “Buffie” Ives, Adlai Stevenson’s sister, during the 1956 DNC. Charlotte Observer photographer Don Sturkey (whose collection is part of the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives) attended the Chamber of Commerce gathering, but Sanford is not depicted in any of the seven surviving negatives—one of which is shown below [cropped by the author].

John F. Kennedy at Charlotte Chamber of CommerceCopyright Don Sturkey, 1959. North Carolina Collection.

A year and a half later, Sanford was more than just a potential DNC delegate from North Carolina—he was the North Carolina Democratic Party’s candidate in the 1960 race for governor. Sanford had captured the most votes among five candidates during the primary on May 28th, but not enough to avoid a run-off election. On June 25th, Sanford defeated I. Beverly Lake after a month of near-rancorous campaigning. Sanford was now a de facto DNC delegate, and he had to choose between, essentially, Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson for the party’s presidential nominee. North Carolina did not hold presidential primary elections until 1972. Prior to that time, party delegates attending their national convention declared their support for a presidential nominee. Within the state’s Democratic Party the governor and party chairman, both de facto delegates, traditionally selected the remaining delegates—by electoral district and at-large—at the North Carolina Democratic Party Convention, which had been held in Raleigh on May 19th. The party’s candidates for governor and lieutenant governor also became de facto at-large delegates.

Kennedy had impressed Sanford in Charlotte, but now as a gubernatorial candidate his choice had the potential to make or break his upcoming election battle against Republican Robert Gavin—even in a historical one-party (Democratic) state. Sanford’s campaign manager told him, “History is knocking in this opportunity to associate with Kennedy,” while another aide cautioned, “You can’t be for Kennedy. It will kill you.”

A Spark of Greatness

I initially wanted to write a post for the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s campaign swing through North Carolina on 17 September 1960.  The story behind Kennedy’s trip to the Tar Heel State fascinated me, however, so I launched into Triumph of Good Will, John Drescher’s account of the gubernatorial contest between Terry Sanford and I. Beverly Lake that preceded Kennedy’s visit.  There’s an interesting story that photographs by Hugh Morton and other photographers in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, can help tell. In light of the silver anniversary of that momentous campaign, and during the anniversary month of Kennedy’s assassination, I’ll be contributing a series of posts touching on that pivotal time in North Carolina and the nation.

September 17th, 1960—just nine days before this country’s first televised presidential debate—found Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy campaigning in the Tar Heel State.  Two months earlier, Kennedy had emerged victorious as the party’s nominee at the Democratic National Convention, held July 11th through 15th at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. The pivotal connection between these two events was North Carolina governor-elect Terry Sanford. The Kennedy–Sanford alliance crystallized during the Democratic National Convention, but first some back-story.

According to Drescher, the first time Terry Sanford spoke to John Kennedy was in early 1959, when the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce invited Kennedy to address its members. Kennedy agreed and, in return, asked the Chamber to invite delegates who attended the 1956 Democratic National Convention (DNC). Sanford had attended the DNC, but supported Estes Kefauver. Kennedy and Kefauver emerged as the two top candidates for veep after presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson decided that convention delegates would choose his running mate. Delegates select Kefauver by a final margin of 755.5 to 589, with the third place finisher Al Gore, Sr. receiving 13.5 delegates.  North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges received 40 votes on the first ballot, but none after the final tally.  Morton photographed Kennedy speaking to the North Carolina caucus as a candidate for vice president at the 1956 DNC, as Luther Hodges, seated to Kennedy’s right, watched and listened.

Morton Among the Movers and Shakers

Note from Elizabeth: I’m pleased to present the very first essay from Worth 1,000 Words project, written by journalist Rob Christensen. Rob has been writing about N.C. politics as a reporter and a columnist for 36 years for The News and Observer and The Charlotte Observer; his book The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics won the N.C. Literary and Historical Association’s Ragan Old North State Award for the best work of nonfiction in 2008.

Update 2/9/10: This post has now been converted into its own “page” under the Essays section of A View to Hugh.

Gen. Westmoreland: Keeper of the Hearth

General Westmoreland, Sept. 1984
Hugh Morton cultivated many relationships in his various roles as photographer, publicist, land developer, and civic pillar. He became friends with paragons of athleticism (Michael Jordan, Ted Williams), beloved celebrities (Charles Kuralt) and, in the instance that is relevant to this blog post, people of great geopolitical significance. One of these people, General William Westmoreland, first met Morton on November 11, 1963 during a Veterans Day Celebration for the USS North Carolina.  A few months after, he was appointed by President Johnson as commander of the U.S. Military forces in Vietnam, a post that lasted until 1968.

Military Man

Gen. William Westmoreland and others at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, circa 1980s

Westmoreland is known primarily as a military man, and his public image was a stern one—sharp features, piercing eyes, powerful eyebrows, and a visible discomfort in plainclothes. He is shown here looking as natural and imposing as a granite cliff in his formal military attire at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Given his military demeanor, then, it must have seemed a daunting task to Hugh Morton when he was asked by Westmoreland’s Public Relations firm to take pictures of him living an entirely domestic life. Westmoreland needed PR assistance with a $120 million libel suit he filed against CBS in response to their 1982 documentary, The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception. This documentary, narrated by journalist Mike Wallace, accused Westmoreland of manipulating military intelligence to claim there were fewer communists in South Vietnam, thereby creating the impression that the war was being won. Westmoreland was upset at this assault on his character, and mounted a lawsuit against CBS and Mike Wallace.
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‘Rubbing Shoulders With History’

Note from Elizabeth: Today is University Day here at UNC-Chapel Hill, the oldest state university in the country. To help us celebrate, volunteer Jack Hilliard remembers some University Days past. (Further recollections of the Kennedy event and the full text of his speech can be found on the fabulous Chapel Hill Memories blog).

The TV viewing room on the first floor of Teague Dorm at UNC was small, but a dozen or so of us crowded our way inside. We had come to watch a speech by President John F. Kennedy, one that would be extremely important to several of us who were scheduled to graduate in less than six months. It was October 22, 1962, and we were being “recruited” by the big four — not Carolina, Duke  State, and Wake, but the other big four — Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. As I sat waiting for the address, my mind wandered back to one year and 10 days before, when I sat waiting for this same President to speak.

President John F. Kennedy at University Day 1961

October 12, 1961 was a beautiful fall day in Chapel Hill. About 32,000 of us had gathered in Kenan Stadium to observe University Day 1961 — the University’s 168th birthday. The highlight of the morning was an address by President John Kennedy, scheduled for 11 AM. Thirty minutes before the President arrived, the official 40-person White House Press Corp arrived and joined the local media in scrambling for good viewing positions. Among those scramblers was a man who had covered University events for more than 20 years — Hugh Morton.

At 11:05 AM, President Kennedy’s caravan arrived at the west end of the stadium, having completed a journey down Highway 54, which had been closed and well guarded by 50 North Carolina Highway Patrolmen. The President, with Governor Terry Sanford at his side, rode in an open top limousine. At 11:12, the academic procession, led by Faculty Marshal John Coriden Lyons, started toward the east end of Kenan Stadium. Greensboro Record staff writer Charlie Hamilton described what he saw:

“A warm sun whose heat was cooled intermittently by soft breezes, beat down upon the scene, as the President, in cap and gown and flanked by state, national, and university officials, made his way beneath the west goal post and down the gridiron to the speaker’s rostrum.”

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Edward Kennedy, 1932-2009

We’ve been writing way too many of these memorial blog posts lately . . . Hugh Morton images of the “Lion of the Senate” are pretty few and far between, but there are some, mostly from the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach (see above).

I also found a few choice shots of Kennedy from the May 17, 1964 memorial for his brother, John Fitzgerald, held in UNC’s Kenan Stadium. The second image below shows Kennedy on stage with none other than Bill Friday. That’s Hugh Morton just visible at the right, so he could not have taken these photos. Wonder who did?

As I was preparing this blog post, I got the following email from library student assistant Kyla Sweet-Chavez:

Just thought you’d want to know that Morton saved the day today! UNC-TV was looking for some Ted Kennedy in NC footage, from a tribute service to JFK that the NC Film Board produced. Stephanie pulled the two copies from the collection and both were in pretty terrible shape, either no sound or lots of splices. I came up to work, saw what she was working on and remembered processing that film in the Morton collection. Pulled the film and lo and behold, it’s a really nice print with good color, sound and no splices. It’s been digitized to DigiBeta and is in the process of being sent off. Hurrah for Hugh and his collecting ways!

So, keep your eye out for that footage!

The “Stephanie” Kyla refers to above is the moving image archivist here in Wilson Library, and Kyla works for her — currently, on a project to process the Hugh Morton motion picture film. Kyla’s going to update us on that project in a separate blog post, coming very soon.

Hugh Morton’s Short Run For Governor

Hugh Morton for Governor pinback button, 1971-1972

From Elizabeth: This is a second post from our indomitable volunteer Jack Hilliard. Note that Jack (a retired WFMY-TV employee) directed the January 18 and February 29, 1972 Morton appearances he mentions below! Note also that the pinback button above is from the North Carolina Collection Gallery’s collection of political memorabilia.

The 1972 race for governor in North Carolina was notable for a number of reasons. Twelve candidates at one time or another . . . a unique news conference . . . two primaries . . . and finally the election of James Holshouser as the first Republican governor of NC in the 20th century. Between December 1, 1971 and February 17, 1972, Hugh Morton was one of those 12 candidates.

At a reception and banquet in the Carolina Inn on June 7, 1996, Hugh MacRae Morton accepted the 1996 North Caroliniana Society Award for contributions to and preservation of North Carolina’s history, culture, and resources. CBS newsman Charles Kuralt was on hand that night to honor his friend Hugh Morton and in his remarks, Kuralt set the scene for Morton’s short run for governor.

“Hugh Morton is North Carolina’s greatest promoter . . . but he never promotes himself, well, with one exception. On December 1, 1971, in the shadow of the Capitol in Raleigh, surrounded on a chilly day by shivering pretty girls in shorts wearing Morton for Governor hats and carrying Morton for Governor signs, with Arthur Smith playing Guitar Boogie for the crowd, with Charlie Choo Choo Justice on hand to declare, ‘I have been on Hugh’s team all my life,’ Hugh Morton formally declared his candidacy for governor.”

Hugh Morton announcing for Governor, 12/1/1971, NC Capitol

The Morton campaign was off to a great start, but there were a couple of problems. By December 1 many of Hugh’s friends were already supporting Lt. Gov. Pat Taylor or State Senator Hargrove “Skipper” Bowles. And any time one runs for governor, money is a concern. But Hugh had already visited all 100 counties in North Carolina and he knew he wanted to vitalize and “professionalize” the Department of Travel and Tourism –  to bring in more visitors to gaze upon what he truly regarded as the glories of the Tar Heel state. A headline in the Greensboro Daily News called him “A Low-Key Campaigner With Time For Everyone.”

On Tuesday, January 18, 1972, Hugh held a news conference at the WFMY-TV studios in Greensboro for the Triad media. In response to questions, he said, “the biggest challenge for the next governor will be public education.” The news conference was taped and played back the next night. Following the news conference, Morton told the gathered newsmen that they had been part of a first — a “live, open, news conference paid for by a candidate for governor.”

On February 17, 1972, about 300 people gathered in Raleigh to witness Hugh’s official filing. But instead of a filing celebration, Morton made a dramatic announcement. He said that he had learned the night before that funds available to him would not be sufficient to permit a victory. “It would not be fair to subject my friends to a campaign that couldn’t be won,” he said. Hugh Morton had become a victim of the high costs of politics. His surprise withdrawal inadvertently dramatized the need for campaign spending reform at the state level.

On Tuesday, February 29, 1972, in his first major television appearance since his withdrawal from the governor’s race, Hugh Morton appeared on the WFMY-TV News and Public Affairs Program, “Newsmaker.”  News Director Charles Whitehurst and reporter Dave Wright questioned Morton about his withdrawal from the race. Said Morton, “I knew that money wasn’t going to be a problem for Skipper and it was for me, so the smart thing to do was get out and that’s what I did.”

Finally, in July of 1982, Gary Govert wrote a Hugh Morton profile in Carolina Lifestyle magazine. The article includes this quote from Hugh Morton’s friend, former Governor Terry Sanford:  “I think he’s one of North Carolina’s most outstanding citizens. He ought to have been governor.”

Presidents’ Day picks

Today, Monday, February 16, is Presidents’ Day (or “Washington’s Birthday,” in Virginia). Though most of America will be preoccupied with the Lincoln Bicentennial or stupefied by the great deals at their local auto dealerships, I would like to use this day to celebrate (or at least acknowledge) some Presidents who typically do not have bargains associated with them.

There are photos in the Morton Collection that depict Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. I have selected four to share.

First, one that I scanned last fall, and stored away for this very holiday. It was found between some images of athletes standing outside, and women posing with flowers — you just never know where this guy will show up.

Richard and Pat Nixon, eating at unknown event, circa late 1950s-early 1960s
It’s a young, barely-jowled Richard Nixon in a tent, eating an unidentifiable platter of food in a most aggressive fashion. His wife, Pat, sits beside him and appears characteristically patient. Why is he here, and what is he doing (besides aggressively eating)? Pat Nixon appears in many other pictures that are probably from the annual Azalea Festival, and we know that the Nixons attended the 1958 Rhododendron Festival at Roan Mountain, TN. Perhaps one of these events explains why this young, earnest couple is featured in this picture.

Here is a picture of another President, this time fully vested in the title of Commander in Chief, and in a more Presidential pose.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower and southern governors, 1957

Yes, Dwight David Eisenhower, smiling grimly as the possibility of a national crisis looms: the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School and the subsequent unwillingness of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. That’s why Hugh Morton’s friend and NC Governor Luther Hodges is there — the President summoned a crack team of five Southern Governors to try and uphold the ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education in Arkansas while preventing riots.

Besides Eisenhower, Hodges, and a man that is most likely Faubus himself (second row, far right), the identities of the other men are unconfirmed. Who wants to help identify them?

President Jimmy Carter on the campaign trail, with NC Gov. Jim Hunt, Tanglewood Park, 1980

Here’s something more cheerful: a beaming President Jimmy Carter, on the 1980 re-election campaign trail in Winston-Salem’s Tanglewood Park hosted by the applauding Governor Jim Hunt. But all the good will couldn’t help Carter overcome the fuss over the Iran Hostage Crisis, a flagging economy, and a 28% approval rating . . .

Ronald Reagan and Debra Paget at the 1959 Azalea Festival, Wilmington, NC

. . . and Carter instead had to vacate his post in 1981 for this affable, handsome Californian. Ronald Reagan, seen here in April 1959 at the Azalea Festival with Love Me Tender actress and Azalea Queen Deborah Paget, was at the time on the payroll of General Electric, hired to make motivational pro-G.E. speeches at various venues.

These pictures, taken individually, provide explicit and implicit narratives, but as a whole, what do they say about the American Presidency and the people who held its office? It is easier, instead, to see the narrative they present regarding their photographer, Hugh Morton: that he had access available to few, and the photographic ability to make something of it.