Homecoming weekend harkens back to October 1947

On Monday my e-mailbox contained a message with the subject line “Possible Post” from regular contributor Jack Hilliard.  Given the calendar—this weekend is UNC’s homecoming—Jack’s article is timely.  Charlie Justice and UNC football in the 1940s are his topics this time around and Justice was the focus of Jack’s post last week, so he suggested that using this story later in the year might be best.  Well maybe, but on the other hand . . . ,  “Go go go go Care-lina!”

1947 UNC football team members

1947 UNC football team members. Back Row L to R: #23 Jim Camp, #86 George Sparger, #40 Walt Pupa, #22 Charlie Justice. Front Row L to R: #29 Bob Cox, #51 Len Szafaryn, #60 Sid Varney, #58 Haywood Fowle, #65 Al Bernot, #42 Bob Mitten, #50 Art Weiner.

In August of 1947, a popular preseason football magazine predicted the UNC Tar Heels would be among the nation’s elite come football season.  Smith Barrier writing in the Illustrated Football Annual said, “with Charlie Choo Choo Justice, accompanied by a brawny crew of conductors, engineers, and brakemen, North Carolina is the high pride of the Southern Conference.”

Lath Morris

Lath Morris, known as "Tarzan," unofficial cheerleader for UNC-Chapel Hill football team. Note the cigar in Morris's left hand.

Tar Heel fans and alumni were in complete agreement when the Tar Heels started off the season with a second half victory over Georgia in Chapel Hill on September 27th.  Following a 0 to 0 first half, the Tar Heels were led back on the field for the second half by a rotund man named Lath Morris…known as “Tarzan” to Tar Heel followers.  With megaphone in hand he shouted, “Go, go, go, go . . . Care-lina!”  The students shouted back, “Go, go, go . . . Tarzan.”  UNC’s Art Weiner, with five catches, led the Tar Heels over the Bulldogs 14 to 7.

1947 Illustrated Football Annual

1947 Illustrated Football Annual cover

On Friday, October 3rd, the Heels took their first plane trip as a team, heading to Austin to meet All America Bobby Layne and the undefeated University of Texas.  Saturday, October 4th was a hot 86- degree-day in Texas and the Longhorns were even hotter.  They defeated Carolina 34 to 0.  When the Associated Press rankings came out on October 6th, Texas was number three . . . the Tar Heels were 19th.

The Tar Heel faithful said OK we’ll re-group and get back on track next week when Coach Peahead Walker’s Wake Forest Demon Deacons come to Kenan.  So on October 11th, 35,000 fans crowded into comfortable 63-degree- Kenan Stadium to see the Deacs and the Heels renew a rivalry that started back in 1888.  Carolina won the toss that afternoon, but that’s about all.  Wake Forest dominated play in the first half and led 19 to 0 at the break.

The second half wasn’t much better for Coach Carl Snavely’s troops; however, they did hold Wake scoreless and in the 4th quarter Charlie Justice completed a touchdown pass to Danny Logue.  In the end, Wake’s defense had held the highly regarded UNC offense to 29 yards on the ground and 75 through the air.  Wake Forest had entered Kenan Stadium that afternoon undefeated and left the same way.  The final score:  Wake Forest 19, Carolina 7.

“We were outclassed,” said Coach Snavely after the game.

Justice, emotionally upset, blamed himself for the loss and added, “we’ve got nothing left but our press clippings.”

Hugh Morton’s image of Coach Snavely congratulating Coach Walker as his players carried him from the field, says it all.

Following October 11, 1947 UNC–Wake Forest football game in Kenan Stadium, UNC Head Football Coach Carl Snavely (in hat, right foreground) prepares to congratulate Wake Forest Head Coach Douglas "Peahead" Walker being carried by his players after Wake Forrest's victory over Carolina 19 to 7. This was the first time a Charlie Justice era (1946-1949) UNC team had lost in Kenan Stadium. Wake Forest players pictured left to right are: #15 Ed Haddox, Right Halfback; #22 Nick Ognovich, Quarterback; #2? (?); #44 Harry Dowda, Right Halfback; #55 Bernie Hannular, Right Tackle; #42 Bud Gregus, Left Halfback.

A promising season in early August had turned into a disaster by Mid-October.  Seven games remained on the 1947 schedule, so the season could be salvaged.  A trip to Williamsburg and a game with William & Mary was Carolina’s next challenge.  The Tar Heels won that challenge and never looked back. They reeled off seven straight wins, finished the season with an 8-2 season, and when the final AP poll was published on December 8th, Carolina was ranked 9th and received 2 first place votes.  Coach Snavely would later say the ’47 team was one of his best.

The Heels would not lose another regular season game until October 22, 1949.  The loss to Wake Forest on October 11, 1947 holds a place in the UNC football history book.  It was the first Justice Era (1946-1949) team loss in Kenan Stadium, and it’s the only Justice Era loss to any of the teams that would, six years later become the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The day the Redskins came to Raleigh

Fifty-seven years ago, the NFL’s Washington Redskins made the team’s first trip to North Carolina to play one of the state’s first professional football games.  Since that day in 1954, the Redskins have played here twenty times and will return on October 23rd to play the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.  Morton Collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a personal look back at that first game.

	Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice on sidelines with Washington Redskins head coach Joe Kuharich

Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice on sidelines with Washington Redskins head coach Joe Kuharich during game versus the Green Bay Packers at Riddick Stadium, Raleigh, N.C., Septemb 11, 1954

As a little kid growing up in North Carolina in the 1950s, my only real exposure to professional football came on Sunday afternoons at 2:00 in front of my parents’ TV set—a General Electric 14-inch black-and-white model.  Thanks to Redskins’ owner George Preston Marshall’s Amoco–Redskins TV network, I could see all regular season Redskins games that were played east of the Mississippi River.  Marshall thought of his Redskins as the “Team of the South,” since Washington was the NFL’s southernmost city.  And Marshall took full advantage of that fact by drafting players like Charlie Justice from North Carolina, Harry Gilmer from Alabama, Harry Dowda from Wake Forest, and Billy Cox from Duke.

Then, during the final game of the 1953 season, a game between the Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 13th, play-by-play announcer Mel Allen and analyst Jim Gibbons made an announcement that would change the North Carolina–Redskins perspective.  Allen and Gibbons told the TV audience that the Redskins would be playing an exhibition game (they are called preseason games today) in Raleigh, North Carolina on September 11th of 1954.  The game, sponsored by the North Carolina State University Wolfpack Club, would be a night contest against the Green Bay Packers.  In the 1950s NFL exhibition games were very different from the preseason games of today.  First string players often played the entire game and teams tried their best to win.  The games were played in stadiums across the country and provided an opportunity for teams to show off in front of fans that would likely never get to see them in person otherwise.

During the next nine months, my friends and I looked forward to being able to see our favorite team for real.  We had followed them for three years on TV, but none of us had ever seen them in person.  I saved my allowance and came up with enough money for a ticket—it was four dollars.  We talked one of our Sunday School teachers into driving us to Raleigh for the game.

The Redskins started off the ’54 season on August 6th in San Diego, then to Los Angeles . . . Sacramento . . . Detroit . . . Columbia, South Carolina, and then to Raleigh.

So on game day we loaded up a 1951 Buick in Asheboro and headed east to Raleigh—stopping at Raleigh’s S&W Cafeteria for a quick dinner.  Much of the conversation centered around the game in Columbia the weekend before.  The Redskins had lost to the Bears, but that didn’t matter.  Former UNC All America Charlie Justice had made a 47- yard run for the Redskins late in the game; that’s what mattered.  It also didn’t matter that the Packers were favored; we would get to see our football hero and that’s what mattered.

I remember walking into Riddick Stadium.  There were only 22,000 seats, but to me the place looked huge.  And through my binoculars, there on the field were the Washington Redskins warming up. Their burgundy and gold uniforms were spectacular.  I had always pictured the team in black and white.  Then I spotted #22 . . . he was walking over to the Packers’ side of the field to greet his UNC teammate Len Szafaryn who played for Green Bay.  They chatted for several minutes and were joined by Clayton Tonnemaker, the Green Bay center who Justice had teamed with at the 1950 Chicago College-All Star Game.

Soon after the start of the game, it became obvious that the Packers were the better team, but that didn’t matter.  My friends and I were there to see Charlie Justice, and he didn’t disappoint.

Washington Redskin running back Charlie Justice rushing along the left sideline.

Washington Redskin running back Charlie Justice rushing along the left sideline during an exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers at Riddick Stadium, Raleigh, N.C. on September 11, 1954. This photograph may depict the play described below; the photograph was not published in the News and Observer.

Early in the first half, he took a pitch-out from quarterback Jack Scarbath around the left side of the line . . . you could feel the excitement and hear whispers of “Choo Choo.”  Bottled up, he cut back to his right.  By now the crowd was on its feet.  He went 20 yards to the Packers’ 11 yard line.  As the TV sports guys say, “the crowd went wild.”

In the second half, Justice punted to Green Bay’s Al Carmichael who returned the punt 50 yards but was tackled by Justice at the Redskins’ 5 yard line . . . another standing ovation for the former Tar Heel.

In the fourth quarter, quarterback Al Dorrow hit Justice with a pass on a crossing pattern for an 11 yard pickup.  As Justice dodged a would-be tackler near the Redskins’ sideline, a series of flash bulbs lit up the night.  Hugh Morton’s Justice picture along with five others appeared on the front page of the Sports section of the Raleigh News and Observer on Sunday, September 12th.

Charlie Justice evades tackler

Washington Redskin running back Charlie Justice evades a tackler after catching a pass for an eleven-yard gain during an exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers at Riddick Stadium, Raleigh, N.C. on September 11, 1954.

[Editor’s note: The photographs that appear on the News and Observer microfilm in the North Carolina Collection do not show the photographs mentioned above.  It’s likely, therefore, that the edition of the N&O sold in Asheboro was different edition.  The edition on microfilm shows two uncredited photographs, one of which depicts Charlie Justice drinking water from a ladle.  The photograph above did appear (although more tightly cropped) in the edition distributed in Asheboro, which Jack Hilliard clipped from the newspaper and he still has today.]

Washington Redskins' Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice signing autographs, September 11, 1954.

Redskins' Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice signing autographs at Washington Redskins versus Green Bay Packers football game in Riddick Stadium, Raleigh, N.C., September 11, 1954.

When the game ended, the Washington Redskins had come up way short on the scoreboard, but that didn’t matter to a group of kids from Asheboro, North Carolina.  We had seen our hero up close and personal, and as was often the case, Justice stayed on the field long after the game and signed autographs.  Charlie would say in a 1973 interview, he had no problem when kids ask for an autograph.  “The problem,” said Justice, “is when they stop asking.”  (Charlie never had that problem).

Forty-nine years later, on October 20th, 2003, at Charlie Justice’s memorial service in Asheville, Woody Durham, UNC’s voice of the Tar Heels, said:  “There are folks in North Carolina who cannot commit to the Carolina Panthers, because Charlie Justice first made them Redskin fans.”

I guess I’m one of those fans.

Worry No More: a Charlie Justice photograph revisited

An interesting revelation about a classic Hugh Morton photograph serendipitously unveiled itself last week while I was writing my previous post on the Good WILLmington Mission, which occurred mid November 1948 and stemmed from a tragic event that occurred during the final days of October of that year.  Researching issues of the Wilmington Morning Star on microfilm, I discovered a number of Morton photographs—including the one below in the November 8th edition that I recalled having seen several times before.

Photograph as published in Wilmington Morning Star 8 November 1948 page 6

The beginning of the caption reads:

IN THE CLOSING MINUTES of the Carolina-William & Mary game Saturday, about the time it was obvious that the Tar Heels could not break the 7-7 tie, here’s how the Carolina bench looked. . . .

I made the digital copy you see above from the newspaper microfilm because often it is the easiest way to transcribe long captions when updating image descriptions in the online collection of Morton photographs.  With the scan in hand, I returned to the original focus of my digging expedition. Later, a quick check in the online collection located the stadium sideline scene below (without cropping),

Charlie Justice and Carl Snavely, 1948. . . but the image had the surprising title “1949 Sugar Bowl: UNC vs. Oklahoma” and its description read:

UNC All America Tailback Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice #22 talks with Head Football Coach Carl Snavely at Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA. Others in the picture: #66 Blocking Back Paul Rizzo, #67 Center Dan Stiegman, and #33 Blocking Back Bobby Weant. The assistant coach to Snavely’s left is line coach Max Reed; “board of directors meeting at the final bowl.”

Did you catch that? Here was a classic Morton image of Charlie Justice, long associated with his last game with UNC—the 1950 Cotton Bowl played nearly 14 months later—because of its placement the chapter “End of an Era” in Choo Choo: The Charlie Justice Story by Bob Quincy and Julian Scheer published in 1958. In their biography of Justice, Quincy and Sheer’s caption reads, “Board of directors meeting at the final bowl.” And to compound the confusion, we had a subject heading for the Cotton Bowl, but our description related to the 1949 Sugar Bowl. (Note: I’ve since corrected the description, title, and subject heading.)

Another known appearance in print of the photograph is the June 19th, 1949 issue of Holiday magazine with the caption:

All American halfback “Choo Choo” Charlie Justice has confab with Coach Carl Snavely.  Justice with another year of playing eligibility has already become one of U.N.C.’s grid immortals.

Obviously that publication also predates the 1950 Cotton Bowl.

I passed this discovery on to our contributor Jack Hilliard, who also noted that the player uniforms in this picture are definitely from 1948.  He also noticed that Snavely is wearing a dark coat in the William and Mary photograph, but in photographs of the 1949 Sugar Bowl he is wearing a lighter-tone overcoat.  So looking more closely at Snavely, I noticed that he is wearing the same tie in both photographs!  Maybe it was his favorite game-day tie during 1948, because he is also sports it in a photograph shot after defeating the University of Texas on September 25th, 1948, an undated photograph with Wake Forest coach Peahead Walker, (if you click on those links and use the zoom tool—is that the same sports coat, too?!) and a photograph made just before the 1949 Sugar Bowl.

So with new evidence in hand, we need “Worry, Worry, And More Worry” no more. The “board of directors” photograph has been relocated to its proper place on the “Justice Era” time line.

A Rivalry for the Record Book

When is a Volunteer a Tar Heel?  When he’s Jack Hilliard, our devoted volunteer (with an upper case “vee” in this case for Valiant, of course!) with the Hugh Morton Collection. Jack has contributed several posts on A View to Hugh, and his latest covers the history of football contests between teams sported by the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. After Tennessee paid a hefty $750,000 fee last year to cancel the schools’ confrontations for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, irony brings the two one-time rivals together this year to face each other on December 30 in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

The Volunteers from Tennessee and the Tar Heels from North Carolina fought side-by-side during the American Civil War. Twenty-eight years after those hostilities ended, however, the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels took up a different battle—on opposite sides of a gridiron.

UNC versus Tennessee, 1931

That first battle took place on an old athletic field south and east of Smith Hall on the UNC campus. It was November 3rd, 1893 and the Tar Heels won that day 60 to 0. The teams would not meet again until 1897—this time in a driving rainstorm on Curry Field in Knoxville, and once again the boys in blue were victorious. The next game, in 1900, was also a Carolina win, but finally the Volunteers beat the Tar Heels in 1908 before 2,000 fans in Knoxville. Between 1909 and 1918, there were no games; the 1919 game, according to author Smith Barrier in his 1937 book On Carolina’s Gridiron, being played in “two inches of mud” and ending in a 0-0 tie. When the Tar Heels went to Tennessee in 1926 the game was played for the first time on Shields-Watkins Field, where UNC lost again by a 34-0 score. The Heels suffered another loss in ’27 when the series finally returned to Chapel Hill where 7,000 turned out for the game on Emerson Field. The photograph above (not by Morton, but from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection, 1799-1999) depicts Tennessee’s “Breezy” Wynn getting tackled during the 1931 contest—a 7-to-0 Tennessee victory—held at Chapel Hill during Kenan Stadium’s fourth year. Carolina wouldn’t win again until 1935, and then again in 1936. Eight seasons would come and go before the teams would meet again. Starting in 1945 and continuing until 1961 the teams met every year alternating home and away.

The 1946 game is considered by many to be a classic. Head Coach Carl Snavely took his Tar Heels to Knoxville to meet Head Coach General Robert (Bob) Neyland’s Volunteers on November 2nd. Carolina was ranked #9 and Tennessee #10. About 1,500 students and alumni made the trip over the mountains, many on a special train called the “Football Caravan” which pulled out of Durham on Friday, November 1st with 10 sleeper cars. Two of those cars carried Director Earl Slocum and the Carolina Band, which was making its first trip since the Second World War. The Volunteers took an early 6-0 lead, but early in the second quarter the Tar Heels pulled off a play that is still talked about when UNC alumni and friends get together. With the ball at the Carolina 27-yard-line, UNC’s Charlie Justice dropped into deep punt formation. He faked the punt and took off around his left end, he then reversed his field two times and finally scored. In the record book, the played covered 73 yards, but all who saw the play believe Justice covered more than 100 yards. Many of those fans call it Justice’s greatest run—including Charlie himself. Justice teammate Joe Wright related the story of the famous play at the Justice statue dedication in 2004. Wright said that all 11 Tennessee players had a hand on Justice at some point and that tackle Dick Huffman (known as “Big Sid)” had “two shots at him.”

Snavely called it one of the outstanding plays he had ever seen; Vols Coach Neyland agreed. Duke Assistant Coach Dumpy Hagler who was at the game scouting the Tar Heels said it was the greatest he had witnessed in many years watching football. And teammate Jack Fitch told Justice, “it was the prettiest thing I ever saw.” Replied Charlie, “Thanks Jack, but it wasn’t good enough to win.” Tennessee won that afternoon 20-14, much to the delight of the 35,000 in attendance.

The following year it was Tennessee that made the trip over the Smokies and came into Chapel Hill on November 1st, 1947. The Tar Heels, led by Justice, put on a 20-6 winning performance before 40,000 fans that Saturday afternoon. UT’s yearbook “The Volunteer,” described the game this way:

“Choo Choo Justice and his traincrew, all steamed up because of last year’s loss to Tennessee, engineered a victory over the Orangeclads.”

Charlie Justice running football versus Tennessee, 1947

It was during this game that Hugh Morton took the photograph above, his most famous image of Charlie Justice.  In fact, it is one of the most reproduced pictures in the entire Morton Collection. The picture is featured in Morton’s 1988 book, “Making A Difference in North Carolina” . . . it’s on the facade in the east end of Kenan Stadium . . . it has been printed in the UNC Football Media Guide many times (twice on the cover) . . . it was printed on the cover of a Justice Celebrity Roast in 1984 . . . was on the game-day ticket for the game with Tulsa in 2000 . . . and the Justice family selected it for the front of the bulletin at Charlie’s memorial service in October, 2003.

On October 30th, 1948, the largest crowd in Tennessee sports history to date, witnessed another Tar Heel victory.  Before 52,000 fans the number three ranked Tar Heels beat the Vols 14-7. Justice passed to Bill Flamisch and Art Weiner for Carolina’s touchdowns.

Early in the 1949 season Carolina lost a game at LSU, but when the team returned to Chapel Hill about 5 PM on Sunday, October 23rd, hundreds of students were gathered on the steps of Wollen Gym and hundreds more lined the street and surrounding area.  Several emotional speeches were given by the players and Head Cheerleader Norman Sper closed the ceremonies by leading a mighty cheer . . . “BEAT TENNESSEE” . . . Carolina’s next opponent.  But that didn’t happen. The Vols were victorious by a 35-6 score as 44,000 dazed fans set in Kenan under threatening skies. This game would become a significant entry in the record book. Tennessee became the only team to beat a Justice Era UNC team twice.

Tennessee continued its winning ways over the Tar Heels during the next eight years while winning a national championship in 1951. When the Volunteers came into Chapel Hill in 1953, the “Gridiron General” Robert Neyland had stepped down as head coach and stepped into the athletic director’s job. Photographer Morton captured Neyland in his new role. Morton also deftly captured a Tennessee cheerleader with her skirt whirling about her.

The Tar Heels would finally win again in 1958. UNC’s “Alumni Review” headline: “Tar Heels Top Tennessee Jinx and Win 21 to 7.” The Volunteers would pick up two more wins in ’59 and ’60. The most recent Tennessee–Carolina game was played on November 4th, 1961 and like that very first game in 1893, the Tar Heels won; the score in ’61 was 22 to 21. Although Carolina has won only 10 games in the series while Tennessee has won 20, Carolina will take a one-game winning streak against the Vols into the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Thursday, December 30th, in Nashville—a game already in the record book because it will be the first meeting between the two teams in a bowl game.

A Rambling Ram and A Traveling Trophy

Rameses XVIII made his first 2010 Kenan Stadium appearance for homecoming on October 30. He had missed the earlier games due to the untimely death of his caretaker Rob Hogan. Hogan suffered a fall at his farm just outside of Carrboro on September 15 and was hospitalized the following day. He developed a condition in which damaged muscle tissue dies and releases toxins to the kidneys. Rob Hogan passed away on October 8, 2010. He was 54 years old.

“Rob Hogan, the love of my life and my guiding star, passed away this morning at 7:40,” his wife Ann Leonard wrote on a CaringBridge.com page. “May he be at peace. We will miss him.”

Today’s post from Morton volunteer Jack Hilliard is dedicated to the memory of Rob Hogan and takes a look at the history of the beloved Tar Heel mascot as well as a later Tar Heel tradition . . . the Duke–Carolina Victory Bell, which UNC retained after its victory over Duke two weekends ago.

The caravan traveling North on November 10, 1949 consisted of cars and trucks, trailers and trains, buses and a plane or two.  Headed to New York City for a meeting with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in Yankee Stadium were, fans and players, coaches and managers, cheerleaders, majorettes and a marching band. And oh yes, Rameses VI and the Victory Bell were there too as was photographer Hugh Morton.

On that day in ’49 the UNC mascot idea for a ram was 25 years old. Morton’s photograph above of Rameses with handler G. B. “Bushy” Cook is undated, but it’s likely from that same era.

In 1924, UNC’s Head Cheerleader Leonard Victor “Vic” Huggins decided that the Tar Heels needed a mascot. After all,  Georgia had a bulldog, and NC State had a wolf. As Huggins explained in a 1962 interview, “I remembered the 1922 football team and its powerful fullback Jack Merritt. They called him the ‘battering ram.’  What about a ram for a mascot?”

So Huggins approached Athletic Director Charlie Wollen with his idea. “How much will it cost?” asked Wollen, who was known for being frugal with athletic funds. When Huggins told him the cost would be $25, Wollen smiled and took $25 from his personal wallet and handed it to Huggins saying “go get us a real he-man ram.”

Rameses I arrived from Texas in time for the pep rally on Friday, November 7, 1924 . . . the night before the big game with Virginia Military Institute (VMI).

On Saturday afternoon, November 8th, a homecoming crowd of 5,000 jammed Emerson Field for the big game. Rameses ran onto the field with the players to the delight of the Tar Heel faithful. The Horned Dorset sheep spurred the team to its finest effort of the 1924 season, holding the game scoreless late into the fourth quarter. With the ball at the VMI 30 yard line, UNC Head Coach Bob Fetzer called on kicker Bunn Hackney to attempt a field goal. But before Hackney ran onto the field, he stopped and rubbed the wooly head of Rameses. Seconds later, Hackney’s drop kick sailed through the goal post and Carolina won the game 3 to 0. (When was the last time you saw Carolina attempt a drop kick?  Maybe never.)

The right tackle on the Tar Heel squad was Henry Hogan and in 1924 he began a family tradition of caring for Rameses . . . a tradition that continues to this day.

Twenty-four seasons after UNC Head Cheerleader Vic Huggins introduced Rameses to Tar Heel fans, another head cheerleader had another great idea. In the late fall of 1948, Head Cheerleader Norman Sper thought there should be some kind of traveling trophy for the winner of the annual Carolina–Duke football game.  After all, Minnesota–Michigan had “the little brown jug,” and Indiana–Purdue had “the old oaken bucket.”  So Sper, along with Duke Cheerleader Loring Jones came up with the idea for “the victory bell.” Jones designed the model frame and Sper got an old railroad bell from the Southern Railway.

Following Carolina’s victory over Duke in Kenan Stadium in 1948, the Tar Heels were awarded the bell first. Hugh Morton’s undated negative (scanned and shown above) depicts the victory bell and UNC cheerleaders—with Sper front and center.  The photograph appeared in The Carolina Gridiron, the title of UNC’s then game-day football program, on October 15, 1949 so Morton likely made the shot during one of the two previous home games.

Whenever Carolina has been in possession of the bell, the cheerleaders wheel it out ringing it just before the team comes onto the field.  It is then displayed in front of the student section. Over the 62-year history of the Victory Bell, UNC has captured the bell 41 times to Duke’s 20. (There was a tie in 1975.) Duke’s first possession came following their win in 1950. It is the tradition for the winner to paint the platform of the trophy to match their school colors, and in recent years a spray-paint job has been performed on the field.

UNC football historian Lee Pace tells an interesting story following Carolina’s 20-14 overtime win in Kenan Stadium in 2007 game. The Kenan Stadium maintenance crew was making its clean-up round when they discovered near the Duke bench a paper bag filled with more than a dozen cans of royal blue spray paint. Obviously a plan had been made to make a quick color change following a Duke win.

Said Pace, “in the end, no one from Duke had the heart or energy to lug the bag back to Durham, so Butch Williams of the UNC staff stowed the paint in the maintenance shed on the off-hand chance anyone in Chapel Hill needs royal blue spray paint in the coming millennium.”

Whether it be a pre game ceremony on the turf at Kenan, rambling down 42nd Street in the Big Apple for a special pep rally, or on the sideline at the “House that Ruth Built,” Rameses and the Victory Bell will always be fan favorites for Tar Heel alumni and friends everywhere.

Tar Heels and Touchdowns and Tigers, Oh My!

Note from Elizabeth: This latest post from JACK HILLIARD is certainly timely, though not in a good way, given the negative national attention currently being drawn to UNC’s football team. Here’s hoping the Heels can rise above the mess this Saturday in their latest match-up with LSU.

It’s being billed as the “Daytona 500 of College Football.” The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game will match two projected preseason top-25-ranked teams: UNC’s Tar Heels and LSU’s Tigers. The game, scheduled for 8 PM on Saturday, September 4th in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, will be a nationally televised event on ABC Sports and will be the first game in Carolina’s 122nd season of college football.

UNC will be meeting LSU for the seventh time, but the Tar Heels have won only once during the series which dates back to 1948 . . . and that ’48 game is the one win.  Following that win, UNC Head Coach Carl Snavely said, “Best game since Texas!” (referring to Carolina’s win over Texas to start the 1948 season).

LSU’s Tigers came into Kenan Stadium on October 23, 1948 to meet a Tar Heel team that had won 11 straight games and was ranked 3rd in the country. From the opening whistle, it was apparent that Coach Snavely had the Tar Heels ready to add a 12th game to the string. Charlie Justice and company were brilliant, much to the delight of the 41,000 fans on hand. Among them, in his special place along the Carolina sideline was photographer Hugh Morton. Once again, Morton captured on film that afternoon a classic photograph of Justice — an image that would be reproduced often in books and magazines when the Justice story is told.

When the dust settled on the Kenan turf, the final score was Tar Heels 34, Tigers 7. Carolina would go on to win four more games in 1948 and finish the season undefeated. A trip to the ’49 Sugar Bowl was their reward.

One year later, almost to the day, on October 22, 1949, Snavely’s Tar Heels were in Baton Rouge for a return engagement with the Tigers. The Tar Heels were still riding a 20-game regular season win streak. It was a night game, one of three during the Justice Era. On Friday afternoon Snavely put his troops through a vigorous workout that went into night. The lateness of the hour may have triggered a chain of events that played a part in the Tar Heel loss.

According to LSU Head Coach Gaynell Tinsley, it was the custom for the LSU grounds crew to water down the field following the visiting team’s practice, but since the Carolina practice lasted so long, Coach Tinsley told the crew to go on home and do the watering early Saturday morning.  But after Carolina finished its workout, the LSU team managers took it upon themselves to go ahead and water the field. When the grounds crew came in on Saturday morning, they did as they had been told and watered the field also. By the time the Tar Heels arrived for the game, Tiger Stadium was under two inches of mud and water (according to Charlie Justice in a 1989 interview).

Ironically, the weather forecast for the Thursday before the game had been for rain, and Coach Tinsley, in his weekly news conference, indicated the Tigers would have a better chance on a muddy field, saying his players were better “mudders” than most teams. Well, it didn’t rain on Thursday, or Friday, or Saturday. Justice said it was “sunshine hot.” Sports writer Bud Montet wrote in Saturday’s “Baton Rouge Morning Advocate” that the Tiger turf was in perfect shape, adding, “if no further rain . . . Choo Choo Justice will have as fine a field to run on as he’s ever seen in his college career.”

Needless to say, Justice, Weiner & Company had problems keeping their footing on the slick field, much to the delight of many of the 43,000 in attendance. LSU, as predicted, played much better on the wet turf and snapped the Tar Heel winning streak by a 13 to 7 score.

“How wet was the field?” One Sunday morning daily jokingly put it this way: “There was a three-inch drop in the Mississippi River over the weekend.” And when the 1950 Yackety Yack came out, the lead sentence for the game read: “On a muddy field in a city where it hadn’t rained in a week, the Tar Heels dropped their first game in 21 appearances.” John Lardner, writing in Newsweek magazine, titled his column “The Water-Sprinkler Blues.”

The Tigers continued their winning ways when they came to Chapel Hill in 1961 for Homecoming, and haven’t looked back since, winning  in ’64, ’85 and ’86.

The 7th game in the series could be the charm for the Heels. At least the field will be dry inside the Georgia Dome!

–Jack Hilliard

The Grey Fox and Sunny Jim, part 2

Note from Elizabeth: this post from JACK HILLIARD continues a two-part tribute to two Hall-of-Fame UNC football coaches: Carl Snavely, a.k.a. the “Grey Fox” (head coach from 1934-1935 and 1945-1952; see part 1) and Jim Tatum, or “Sunny Jim” (head coach in 1942 and from 1956-1958), who passed away on July 23, 1959 at the age of 46.

Three seasons after Carl Snavely left UNC, a charismatic character arrived from the University of Maryland. During the 1955 season, when Maryland was undergoing some administrative changes, head coach Jim Tatum would often spend Sunday nights having dinner with Charlie Justice. (Justice was in the area because he was doing color commentary on the Amoco Redskins TV Network each Sunday afternoon). Charlie believed that Tatum was the answer to UNC’s coaching problems and tried to talk him into returning to Carolina. Tatum had been a UNC assistant coach from 1938 to 1941 and head coach in ’42, plus he played for Coach Snavely in 1934 and ’35. Whatever the reason — Tatum’s unhappiness as both head coach and athletic director at Maryland, or Justice’s convincing ways — he returned to Carolina in 1956. Said Tatum, “I’m like an old br’er rabbit going back to the brier patch.”

The front-page headline in the January 9, 1956 Washington Post read: “Tatum Goes To North Carolina.”

Since “Sunny Jim,” as many called him (others called him “Big Jim,” and his players called him “Bullmoose”) had been so successful at Maryland with three 10-game-winning seasons, five bowl teams and a national championship in 1953, Tar Heel alumni and fans thought they were headed once again for greatness. You could go downtown in Chapel Hill and get a slice of “sweet Tatum pie” at the Carolina Coffee Shop, or you could get a trademark Tatum ten-gallon hat from Monk Jennings and Bob Cox at Town & Campus clothing store.

Below is a detail from a Hugh Morton image of Tatum’s triumphant return to Kenan Stadium on September 22, 1956, for a game vs. NC State (click to see full version). But the ’56 Tar Heels struggled, winning only 2 games. It would be Tatum’s only losing season.

In ’57, thanks to “Sunny Jim’s” enthusiasm and optimism, things took a turn for the better. An early season win over nationally ranked Navy and a win over Wake Forest, despite having to suspend three players prior to the game with the Deacons (including quarterback Dave Reed), and finally a win over Duke, had Tar Heel fans looking up. A classic Hugh Morton image of Coach Tatum and an emotional Dave Reed following the game at Duke (see below) has been widely published and was a Morton favorite.

The 1958 season started off slow, but a win at Southern Cal on October 3rd had fans cheering again. Everything pointed to the 1959 season . . . that would be the year that Tar Heel football would be great again. Said Tatum, “1959 will be our year. That’s what I’ve been building for all this time.”

On Thursday, July 16, 1959, Jim Tatum played a round of golf at Hope Valley with his friends Carrington Smith, Vic Huggins, and Orville Campbell. Upon finishing the round, Tatum asked Campbell to drive him home saying, “I don’t feel good.” On Sunday, the 19th, he was hospitalized.

By now the media had picked up on Tatum’s illness. On Thursday evening July 23rd, across the state in Greensboro, WFMY-TV Sports Director Charlie Harville was just about to go on the air with his 11:20 PM sports report when he was paged for a phone call. It was Chuck Erickson, UNC Athletic Director, who passed on the news that Jim Tatum had died at 10:40 PM. Harville struggled to report his friend’s death. Jim Tatum was 46 years and one day old. The opening game of the ’59 season was 57 days away.

I remember being in summer school on Friday, July 24th. As I walked from Manly dorm to my class in Phillips Hall, the campus was silent. I don’t ever remember being on campus when there was absolutely no sound — but on this day there was nothing but silence.

September 19, 1959 was a picture-perfect autumn day in Chapel Hill. (Perhaps I should say a Hugh Morton picture-perfect autumn day). Clemson came to town and handed the Tar Heels the first of 5 defeats during the 1959 season . . . a season that had so much promise just wasn’t to be.

Jim Tatum was inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame with the class of 1984. Tatum’s Hall of Fame plaque was presented to his widow Edna by his friend Charlie Justice.

When UNC alumni and fans get together, often the subject of football will come up in conversation and invariably someone will ask, “What if ‘Sunny Jim’ had lived? Could he have taken the ’59 Tar Heels to the place where the ‘Grey Fox’ had taken them in ’48?”

We’ll never know.

–Jack Hilliard

The Grey Fox and Sunny Jim, part 1

Note from Elizabeth: UNC football coaching legends Carl Snavely and Jim Tatum both passed away in the month of July —  Snavely on July 12, 1975, and Tatum on July 23, 1959 (51 years ago today, at only 46 years old). JACK HILLIARD provides a two-part tribute to the two Hall-of-Famers: first up is Snavely, a.k.a. the “Grey Fox.” Keep an eye out for part 2 on “Sunny Jim,” coming soon.

A cold winter rain was falling on the UNC campus when Head Football Coach Carl Snavely arrived at his 311 Woollen Gym office on February 14th, 1946. Spring football practice was underway and Snavely was thinking about a scrimmage game with Coach Doc Newton’s Guilford College Quakers that was scheduled for February 27th in Kenan Stadium. The ring of his phone broke Snavely’s concentration. It was UNC’s Director of Admissions Roy Armstong. “Carl, I thought you’d like to know that a freshman named Charles Justice has just enrolled in the University.” Before the soft-spoken Snavely could react, Armstrong began extolling Justice’s football virtues – how he had been recruited by more than two hundred schools, as well as by George Halas and the Chicago Bears of the NFL . . . how he had been an all-state performer at Asheville’s Lee Edwards High . . . and how he had been the star of the Bainbridge Naval Training Station team during the War.

Finally, Snavely was able to get in a word. “Thank you very much, I hope Charles comes out for the team.” Suddenly that cold rainy Thursday had turned into the best Valentine’s Day Carl Snavely ever had. (And as for that scrimmage game with Guilford, Justice carried the ball one time that day – a 66-yard touchdown run to the delight of about a thousand students who had come to watch the practice).

Carl Grey Snavely, affectionately known as “The Grey Fox,” or “King Carl,” or “The Dutchman,” first came to UNC in 1934 and was head football coach for 2 seasons. Two great teams and two great players emerged from that period: George Barclay became UNC’s first All America player and Jim Tatum became an All-Southern tackle. Snavely left Carolina following the ’35 season to become head coach at Cornell; Tatum followed him to Cornell and became his assistant. It was while at Cornell that “The Dutchman” gained national prominence and during a famous game exemplified his shining ethics.

On November 16, 1940, Cornell played rival Dartmouth. Cornell had won 18 straight games, but Dartmouth was able to hold on to a 0-0 tie going into the 4th quarter. Then Dartmouth scored a field goal and led 3-0. With less than a minute to go, Cornell got the ball to Dartmouth’s six-yard line. Three runs and a pass failed to score . . . then, as confusion reigned on the field with what looked like a tremendous upset, the unheard-of happened. Linesman Joe McKenny signaled the ball should remain with Cornell for another down. Referee Red Friesell agreed. Cornell was given a fifth down. They scored. Game over, Cornell wins 7-3. When Carl Snavely reviewed the game film and realized what had happened, he sent a telegram to Dartmouth Head Coach Earl “Red” Blaik. “Cornell relinquishes claim to victory and extends congratulations to Dartmouth.” Dartmouth accepted the forfeit; final score 3-0, Dartmouth. (Snavely pioneered in the use of film for coaching and scouting, and is remembered in Chapel Hill for his late-night screening parties with vanilla ice cream).

Continue reading

“Scores, Weather and Traffic, Up Next”

Note from Elizabeth: Hope you enjoy another great sports post from Morton volunteer Jack Hilliard!


The Sunday afternoon weather forecast for Washington, DC and northern Virginia was for cold temperatures with sleet and snow. But that didn’t keep several thousand North Carolinians and Hugh Morton away from the Washington Redskins-Cleveland Browns football game in Griffith Stadium on December 10, 1950. Most of those Tar Heels were there to see UNC’s great All America Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice work his magic one more time. Morton was also there to see his friends Cleveland Quarterback “Automatic” Otto Graham, Redskins Halfback “Bullet” Bill Dudley, and Amoco Redskins Network announcer Harry “The Whiz” Wismer.


Before the scheduled 2PM kickoff, the snow began falling.

It was the final game of the ’50 season and for Justice it was the completion of his first season of professional football. Cleveland was favored to win (they were 9 and 2 while the Redskins were 3 and 8). A season-high crowd of 32,000 watched the Redskins take the lead in the first quarter when Justice caught a touchdown pass from Sammy Baugh. Both teams alternated in scoring the first six of the game’s nine touchdowns with the Redskins striking first each time. At times the snowfall was so heavy, it was hard to see the players, especially the Browns who were wearing their white uniforms. Luckily, the weather didn’t prevent the halftime show.

Continue reading

My Personal “Photo By Hugh Morton”

11/5/04 dedication of Charlie Justice statue outside UNC's Kenan Stadium

Note from Elizabeth: Five years ago today, Johnpaul Harris’ sculpture of UNC football legend Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice was unveiled at the west entrance to Kenan Stadium. Not only was our volunteer Jack Hilliard there, he was involved (along with Hugh Morton) in the creation of the statue. Jack shares some of his recollections in this post.

The voice on the phone was familiar. “Hello Jack, this is your friend Hugh Morton.” He was answering my request for photographic help with one of my projects. The conversation lasted about 10 minutes but as we began to wrap it up Hugh said: “I’m going to be dong something next Tuesday that you might be interested in. I’m going to take a group of Justice-era players over to Johnpaul Harris’ studio in Asheboro to check out his progress on the Justice statue. Would you like to join us?” It took me about 1/100 of a nanosecond to make up my mind. We were all to meet at the McDonald’s on Highway 64 in Asheboro at 10 on Tuesday morning June 1, 2004. “We’ll caravan over to the studio . . . I can take you there, but couldn’t begin to tell you how to get there,” he said.

When I walked into the restaurant on Tuesday morning it was like a gathering of my boyhood heroes . . . Rizzo, Neikirk, Morton, Pupa, and Cox.  A few moments later Weiner joined the group. Boyhood heroes indeed, but the thing is, I never outgrew that . . . these guys are still my heroes.

Johnpaul Harris with model of Justice statue, ca. 2004

The 10 mile drive to Harris’ studio took about 15 minutes — Highway 64 to 49 and back into rural Randolph County. Johnpaul and Ginger Harris’ home/studio is unique. (It was once described in a magazine article as a cross between “Swiss Family Robinson” and “Sanford and Son”). We were greeted and taken in to view the 8 foot 6 inch clay model. All of the Justice-era players made comments and Harris took lots of notes. Then Morton took out his camera and began taking pictures. When all of the players’ pictures had been taken, he turned to me and said, “OK, Jack, let’s get one of you.” It was like that Walter Cronkite – Ted Baxter scene from the Mary Tyler Moore Show when Cronkite tells Baxter, “you can call me Walter.” I wasn’t dressed properly for a picture, but I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to have a my very own personal “Photo by Hugh Morton.” When that photo arrived in the mail a couple of days later, it was placed in a very special scrapbook to be treasured forever.

Jack Hilliard with Charlie Justice statue at Johnpaul Harris' studio, 6/1/2004

Over the next five months I made several trips back to the studio to watch a master at work, and in the process Johnpaul and Ginger became great friends. In early September a statue dedication date was finalized.

Continue reading