Elephants and Butterflies . . . and Contraceptives

This post contains information about reproductive health that may be sensitive for some readers. 

A decade of change in UNC’s student population sparked several changes in reproductive and sexual health dialogue on campus.  From 1967 to 1977, women grew from 28.7% of the student body to 49.2%. Women were first allowed to enroll as freshman in most programs at the University in the early 1960s, and were admitted based on a higher academic standard until Title IX in 1972 (OIRA Fact Book, 1994). 

In December 1970, in response to a recognized need for more open dialogue about reproductive health on campus, a student and a faculty member started “Elephants and Butterflies,” a weekly column in the Daily Tar Heel. Created by student-activist Lana Starnes and Dr. Takey Crist, activist and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the column featured their responses to anonymous letters about health and sexuality.

dr. crist and lana starnes in office

Dr. Crist, holding a copy of the Elephants and “Butterflies…and Contraceptives” booklet and Lana Starnes, from “Rebellion in Black and White” by Robert Cohen and David J. Snyder

Some of the reasons Starnes and Crist cited for the necessity of the column were the high rate of unwanted pregnancies and the high rate and danger of illegal abortion (Bobo, 1973). Starnes noted that about 25,000 women sought an illegal abortion in North Carolina annually (Starnes, 1971). A few years earlier, in 1968, campus research showed that 60% of sexually-active women surveyed had not used contraceptives (Morrow, 2006, p. 12). Around the time, UNC administration denied the prescription of birth control to unmarried women, fearing that access to birth control and information would increase sexual activity (Warren, 1967). To make matters more difficult, if a student were unmarried and pregnant or found to have sought an illegal abortion, she would not be permitted to continue school (Unwed Pregnant Student Policy, Collection # 40124). 

The column grew out of the sexual health booklet titled “Elephants and Butterflies…and Contraceptives,” co-written by Dr. Crist and released in 1970.  To combat stigma and help dymystify human sexuality, Starnes and Crist wrote of their column:

“It is not our purpose to cause embarrasment or fear or shame, but to allow students to examine their educational presuppositions and value judgments concerning human sexuality. We feel your questions are legitimate, necessary and should make us respond thoughtfully, adequately and honestly.” (Starnes & Crist, 1971) 

Elephants and Butterflies newspaper column

Elephants and Butterflies column, Daily Tar Heel, February 14, 1972

The name of the booklet and column came from that same commitment to openness. It is a reference to the E.E. Cummings fairy tale, “The Elephant and The Butterfly”, a sweet, short story about love and dedication written for Cummings’ daughter (Popova, 2013). The story was printed in the beginning of the booklet, representing sexual relationships as ones that should be entered into with “caring and trust” (Cohen & Snyder, p. 201) In the health booklet, male physiology is described in the “Elephant” section and female physiology in the “Butterfly” section. (Starnes & Cheek, 1970)

the elephant and the butterfly front page

E.E. Cummings, Fairy Tales, illustrated by John Eaton [Rare Book Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library]

Subjects covered in the column ranged from how smoking affects sexual functioning (Sept. 6, 1971) to pregnancy after having a miscarriage (March 5, 1973). Sometimes, in leui of questions, readers could match definitions to a reproductive organ diagram (Sept. 25, 1972) or read an informative guide on STDs (October 1, 1973).

In 1972, the March 6th column was left blank in memory of an 18-year old student who died seeking an illegal abortion. That day, a somber message from Starnes and Crist in place of their usual advice asked if her death could have been prevented with proper birth control and counseling, ending with “We mourn in silence.” (March 6, 1972)

The final column was the seventh in a series of columns about contraception (March 4, 1974).  They omitted the recurring section requesting that students send in letters, but stated that the next essay (presumably the eighth) in the series would be on the future of birth control. They did not mention whether or not the column would return.

Learn more about Dr. Crist, Lana Starnes and “Elephants and Butterflies” in “Sexual Liberation at the University of North Carolina,” by Kelly Morrow, a chapter in Rebellion in Black and White: Southern Student Activism in the 1960s. (Robert Cohen and David J. Snyder, eds., Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2013). The article is based on Morrow’s 2006 master’s thesis, available in Carolina Digital Repository: https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/concern/dissertations/d504rm21k.

Sources:

Bobo, M. (1973). Lana Starnes: the woman who helped bring ‘Elephants and Butterflies’ to UNC. The Daily Tar Heelhttp://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1973-02-09/ed-1/seq-1/  

Cummings, E. E. & Eaton, J. (1965). Fairy tales. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. https://catalog.lib.unc.edu/catalog/UNCb3123616

OIRA. Fact Book: Bicentennial Edition, 1793-1993. https://oira.unc.edu/files/2017/07/fb1994_bicent.pdf 

Morrow, K. (2006). Navigating the “sexual wilderness”: The sexual liberation movement at the University of North Carolina, 1969-1973.

Morrow, K. (2013) “Sexual Liberation at the University of North Carolina.” Rebellion in black and white: Southern student activism in the 1960s. Edited by Robert Cohen and David J. Snyder. The John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.

Popova, M. (2013). Vintage illustrations for the fairy tales e.e. cummings wrote for his only daughter, whom he almost abandoned. Brain Pickings.

Starnes, L. & Cheek, T. (1970). Elephants and butterflies..and contraceptives. The Daily Tar Heel. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1970-10-11/ed-1/seq-3/  

Starnes, L . & Crist, T. (1971). Elephants and Butterflies. The Daily Tar Heel. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1971-08-31/ed-1/seq-50/

Starnes, L. (1971). College loans for abortion? The Daily Tar Heelhttp://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1971-04-08/ed-1/seq-8/ 

Starnes, L. (1972). Elephants and Butterflies. The Daily Tar Heel. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1972-02-14/ed-1/seq-6/

Starnes L. & Crist, T. (1973) Elephants and Butterflies. The Daily Tar Heel. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1973-04-16/ed-1/seq-6/

Starnes L. & Crist, T. (1974) Elephants and Butterflies. The Daily Tar Heel.

Unwed Pregnant Student Policy, 1967, in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records #40124, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Warren, V. (1967). Should university health services provide the pill?”. The Daily Tar Heel. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1966-02-03/ed-1/seq-1/

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The amazing resume of Robert Vinsant Cox

1948 UNC Football Starters

This Hugh Morton negative is labeled “’48 Starters.” Pictured are Art Weiner (left), Bob Cox (center), Charlie Justice (right), and Hosea Rodgers (top left).

On this day three years ago, September 19, 2016, the Tar Heel Nation lost an icon with the passing of Robert Vinsant (“Bob”) Cox. He was 90-years-old. Many Tar Heels remember Bob as a player on the UNC football teams of the late 1940s. While that’s true, there is much, much more to his resume, as Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard recalls.

In the Spring of 2004 when Hugh Morton put together a committee of former UNC football players to critique sculptor Johnpaul Harris’ Charlie Justice statue, Bob Cox (UNC Class of 1949) was one of the first team members selected. Cox would make two visits to Harris’ Asheboro studio during June, 2004 and was instrumental in the final statue presentation which was dedicated in November, 2004 and now stands at the east end of Kenan Memorial Stadium.

Cox was a team member of the Justice Era teams of the late 1940s, having arrived on the UNC campus in 1945 following duty with the United States Marines during World War II. He became a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and was a pass-catching end and place-kicker for the Tar Heels. His 18-yard field goal in the second half of the 1947 Sugar Bowl against Georgia gave Carolina a brief 10-7 lead. When Georgia returned to Chapel Hill for a rematch on September 27, 1947, the pass-catching Cox led a Tar Heel win. The sports headline in the Greensboro Daily News on Sunday, September 28th read:
“End Bob Cox Steals Show.”

Cox was second in team scoring in 1947 and 1948—second only to Justice—and was described as “Mr. Extra Point” by Harold Styers in his 1996 book Hark The Sound: A Time Remembered and a Sentimental Journey.  He also joined Carolina’s golf team when it reformed in 1946 following World War II, and was a member of the 1947 Southern Conference Golf championship team.

Cox became a favorite photo-subject of Hugh Morton and following UNC’s great 20-0-win over Duke in 1948, Cox helped carry Charlie Justice off the field. The Morton image of that scene graced the front cover of The State on December 4, 1948.

Following his UNC graduation on June 6, 1949, the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals drafted Cox but he chose to stay at Carolina and attend graduate school.  He also became a member of Head Football Coach Carl Snavely’s coaching staff, working with the varsity ends and the freshman teams from 1949 thru 1951.

Cox has two degrees from UNC: a BA and MA in physical education. Following his time at UNC, he became a member of the Carolina Clowns, a basketball team featuring several former Tar Heel athletes. The Clowns formed in 1949, offering those Tar Heels an opportunity to stay in shape and at the same time raise money for various charity events.
Over the years the Clowns’ roster changed as new players became available while others moved on to different endeavors. Cox joined UNC football players Charlie Justice, Art Weiner, Joe Wright, Jim Camp, Kenny Powell, Sid Varney, Don Hartig, Hosea Rodgers, and Jack Fitch, among others.

About the same time he was playing for the Clowns, Cox operated a Chapel Hill clothing store on Franklin Street called “Town & Campus.” The store was a favorite for ten years. During that time, he was also a member of the Chapel Hill Junior Chamber of Commerce and in 1957 was elected President of the North Carolina Junior Chamber. Then, he was elected President of the United States Jaycees in 1958. As President of the U. S. Chamber, he was a judge at the famous Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At the pageant on September 6, 1958, Cox and follow judges selected Mary Ann Mobley from Mississippi as Miss America of 1959 before a national TV audience of 60 million on CBS-TV.

In December of 1961, when the city of Asheville celebrated “Charlie Justice Day,” two former Justice teammates were part of the celebration: Art Weiner and Bob Cox. The Asheville Citizen published a picture of the three on the front page of its December 2, 1961 issue.

Bob could often be seen on campus during Graduation/Reunion weekends and in 1989 he led the annual “Saturday Morning in Chapel Hill” before a full house in Memorial Hall. The topic that May morning, “Why Did We Have it So Good and What Made Us Different?” The program featured a panel of 1940s and 1950s Tar Heel legends including Hugh Morton who presented one of his slide shows.

I remember calling Bob in the late summer of 1996 when I was working with him on the 50th anniversary celebration of the Golden Era teams. I didn’t get an answer when I called, so I called back several minutes later. When I told him I had called earlier, he said, “I was in the car and I don’t talk on the phone while I’m driving. Don’t want to put anyone in danger if my distraction might cause an accident.”

In 1999, Bob Cox was selected to head the class of 1949’s 50th reunion. In the spring of ’99, he wrote a letter to his fellow classmates. In that letter, he said:

“To do anything for 50 years is quite a feat. We are indeed fortunate to be in that elite group that makes up the Class of ’49, which allows us to ask ‘Do you remember when…’

“The walks were gravel; Justice was running rampant at Kenan; Woodhouse was enthralling us on the beauties of ‘Poli-Sci’; Graham, House, and Carmichael were doing their thing at South Building; and hysteria-in-the-wisteria made the Arboretum more than just a name on the sign.

“We are blessed and privileged to call ourselves ‘Alums’ of the University of North Carolina. The years there were absolutely magic; but, even though those years were a special time, appreciation for the contributions of UNC has grown. The UNC reward continues throughout and we should be grateful—emotionally, spiritually, politically, and oh yes, financially.

“Let’s all make a pledge to stay in touch and do what we can to ensure that Carolina’s greatness will continue to grow and prosper. After all, we’re the Class of ’49 and that makes us special. Don’t you agree?”

Best always,

Bob

The letter appeared in the “50th Revised Yackety Yack: Carolina Class of 1949”
Bob was a financial advisor professionally, but he loved fishing, playing tennis, and gardening.  He was often called “Rosebud” because of the beautiful roses he grew.
Finally, during one of those Justice statue visits mentioned earlier in this post, Cox provided the question that prompted one of my favorite Hugh Morton stories. It was during a visit on June 21, 2004. After all of the players had added comments for Johnpaul Harris to note, Morton decided it was time to take some pictures. As he was meticulously checking focus with his trusty 35mm camera, Cox asked, “Hey, Hugh, do you have one of those new digital cameras?”

Morton’s answered,” I sure do,” as he reached down in his camera bag and pulled out a digital camera. “This is a good one,” said Hugh. “It has all the bells and whistles.”

Morton then put the digital camera back in his camera bag and continued taking shots with his conventional 35mm camera.

I don’t know if Bob Cox ever met best-selling author Tom Brokaw; but I choose to believe Robert Vinsant “Bob” Cox could very easily be the poster-boy for “The Greatest Generation.”

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Did UNC Really Lose to Wake Forest in 1888?

In the University Archives, our work often has us viewing contemporary events with an eye toward the past. So while we look ahead to Friday night’s football game between UNC and Wake Forest, we see it not just as an important matchup for the undefeated Tar Heels, but also a chance for Carolina to avenge its loss to Wake Forest on October 18, 1888, in the first football game played by UNC.

Or maybe not. We thought the facts were pretty clear when we looked at newspaper coverage of the game, which was played in Raleigh at the State Fair. The News and Observer mentioned the game in the following day’s paper as part of its coverage of the fair: 

Decidedly one of the most interesting features of the whole fair was the game of foot ball yesterday between Wake Forest and Chapel Hill, resulting in a victory for Wake Forest. The game was exciting and was played by excellent teams on both sides. It was witnessed by a tremendous crowd. The players were uniformed and were a skilled and active set of boys. (News and Observer, 19 October 1888).

Official records have the final score as a 6-4 in favor of Wake Forest. But the coverage of the game by UNC students tells a different story. 

At the time the game was played, there was no student newspaper (the Tar Heel was established five years later, in 1893). The primary student publication on campus was the University Magazine, a professionally-printed periodical that included essays, stories and poetry, and campus news. 

The University Magazine reported on the football game in its next issue, in an unsigned column called “The College World.” At first it seems to match the newspaper story: “A game of foot-ball was played at Raleigh during Fair week between the Wake Forest team and the University Soph. Class team, under a set of improvised rules. The score was two goals to one in favor of Wake Forest.” Then the story gets confusing. The Magazine report quotes the coverage in The Wake Forest Student, which seems to describe three different games (maybe they were three periods in the same game?). The response from the Magazine is pretty direct: 

No one objects to The Student’s exulting over the victory (?), if it can find anything in it to exult over, but it should be fairer towards its opponents. There were many more rules which were strange to the University than to the Wake Forest team. It was by these rules, unfair and peculiar, that Wake Forest got the credit of a victory . . .” (University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 2, 1888, p.85). 

The Magazine goes on to compare the game to the one played between UNC and Trinity College (predecessor to Duke University) a month later, which it called the first “scientific” game of football played in North Carolina. It’s certainly understandable that the very first game of what was a new sport to all involved would result in some misunderstandings about the rules. As the debate continued in the student press, the Magazine remained adamant that UNC was the superior team and that the October 18, 1888 victory for Wake Forest did not count. By contrast, the student authors conceded that the UNC team was outplayed in a fair game against Trinity. 

The next issue of the Magazine continued the debate, responding at greater length to more claims from the Wake Forest student paper. It’s worth reading in its entirety. In closing, the author continued to insist that the game against Wake Forest did not count, writing:  

A fair-minded man likes to see merit win, whoever possesses it, and can admire it in an opponent. The University team has played but one game of foot-ball, and was then beaten fairly as this Magazine cheerfully acknowledged. It wished to show that, while in the game with Trinity merit won, in that on Thursday of Fair week it did not. (University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 3, 1889, p. 137). 

 While this was clearly a spirited debate at the time, history seems to have come down on the side of Wake Forest. Some long-lasting rivalries have disputed games in their past (see for example, Georgia-Florida), but there is no further record that we could find of the earliest UNC game being contested. In everything we have read online and in print, the October 18, 1888 loss to Wake Forest is widely credited as being UNC’s first football game. To be fair, the UNC and Wake Forest teams definitely played on that date, and the News and Observer report did not refer to it as a scrimmage or unofficial game. In an era well before the establishment of the NCAA or other governing bodies, the very idea of an “official” game would have been an unfamiliar concept. 

But the student authors of the Magazine were persistent in their claims. What do you think: does Wake Forest really deserve credit for their 1888 victory over Carolina? Will “Avenge 1888!” be the rallying cry that leads Mack Brown and the Tar Heels to victory tomorrow night? Here’s hoping so. Go Heels.

University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 2, 1888, p. 185.

University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 2, 1888, p. 185.

University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 3, 1889, p. 137

University Magazine, vol. 21, no. 3, 1889, p. 137

 

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The “Ol’ Professor” of the “Kollege of Musical Knowledge”

James Kern Kyser, better known as Kay Kyser, the “Ol’ Professor” of the popular radio program of the late 1930s and 40s, the “Kollege of Musical Knowledge,” retired and returned to his alma mater UNC-Chapel Hill in 1951 and started a second career. Earlier this week, on June 18th, 2019, Kyser would have turned 114.  Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard briefly looks back at both of his storied careers.

Hugh Morton with Kay and Georgia Kyser

Hugh Morton (left) with Kay and Georgia Kyser during the 1951 Short Course in Press Photography, probably during the Saturday evening banquet at the Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The negative is in the Morton collection, but the photographer is unknown and the date is determined by the published photograph of the Kysers seen below.

Soon after his retiring return to Chapel Hill, Kay Kyser picked up where he left off on stage with far less fanfare but as a true friend to his native North Carolina. On April 14, 1951, Kyser, along with his wife Georgia, joined his friend Hugh Morton at the second annual Southern Short Course in Press Photography banquet.

Clipping from the Statesville Daily Record, 18 April 1951

Photograph clipped from the front page of The Statesville Daily Record, Wednesday, April 18, 1951. The clipping depicts the Kysers as they examine a prize-winning photograph by Max Thorpe during the Southern Short Course on Press Photography banquet, held the previous Saturday, April 14.

Editor’s note: Kyser made an appearance at another short course banquet, probably 1952, seen below.  The two scans from negatives shown here are the only photographs of Kay Kyser in the collection.  Neither appear to have been made by Morton unless he used a long cable release and triggered the exposure from a distance.  The photograph below probably dates from the April 1952 short course because Morton’s photograph of  “Happy John”—likely made in 1951—can be seen in the upper right corner of the photographs on display.

Kay Kyser entertaining guests during Southern Short Course in Photography banquet

This negative in the Morton collection had an extensive caption written on the original negative envelope: “Kay Kyser and Billy Arthur are having fun kidding each other at the Southern Short Course In Press Photography in Chapel Hill as Norman Cordon and Beatrice Cobb look on. Kay Kyser and Billy Arthur were both former Head Cheerleaders at UNC, and both are standing (Billy Arthur’s height is about 3 feet 6). Kyser was so much a celebrity and so recognizable when wearing his trademark horn rimmed glasses that he often did not wear the glasses in order to retain his privacy in Chapel Hill. Norman Cordon was a famous Metropolitan Opera star, and Beatrice Cobb was Publisher of the Morganton News-Herald and Secretary of the North Carolina Press Association. Billy Arthur was a newspaper Publisher at Jacksonville, N.C., and later worked for the Chapel Hill paper, and he was also a press photographer.”

Kyser’s participation in the photographic short course was just one example of his many contributions to his native state following his long career in show business. His enthusiasm, energy, and dedication were the prime forces for WUNC-TV to get on the air in January of 1955. His faith and his dedication to the Christian Science Church became his passion. From his office on Franklin Street, Kyser became the producer-director of the film broadcasting department of the Christian Science Church.

Another Editor’s Note: While preparing Jack’s post and researching the Southern Short Course in Press Photography for an upcoming post, I encountered another Kyser contribution: a film titled, Dare: The Birthplace of America, produced by the University of North Carolina with its debut in May 1952.  In a promotional news article printed in advance of the movie’s launch, playwright Paul Green wrote, “And anonymously behind [the film] was the imaginative dynamic of that gifted and devoted North Carolina citizen—Kay Kyser.”

The boy from Rocky Mount became one of the most famous faces of the swing era.

When James K. Kyser entered the University of North Carolina in 1923, his parents, both of whom were pharmacists, thought he would be a lawyer. But he had other ideas. He switched his major to economics because, according to Kyser, “the legal profession meant lots of work.”

Being selected a Carolina cheerleader gave him the opportunity to “perform.” He enjoyed riding around campus in a Model T Ford with the word “Passion” painted on its side. He excelled not only in academics, but he also excelled in extracurricular activities. He acted in Carolina Playmaker productions, was a Sigma Nu fraternity member, and was a member Alpha Kappa Psi, Order of the Grail, and the Golden Fleece honor societies.  Because of his popularity on campus, he would, in 1926, inherit the job of leadership of the UNC campus band; although he couldn’t read music and he played no musical instrument. In addition, he was senior class president in 1928.

After graduation, he took the band on the road, but it didn’t really take off until the mid-1930s when he hired singer Ginny Simms and cornet player Ish Kabbible (his real name Merwyn Bogue). But when it did take off, it was in a league of its own.

Kyser was featured in several Hollywood movies.  His first was That’s Right—You’re Wrong in 1939 with Lucille Ball; the last was Carolina Blues in 1944.  He was often joined by such stars as Milton Berle, Dorothy Lamour, and Rudy Vallee.

He was called “The Ol’ Professor,” and he wore a short academic robe complete with mortarboard and tassel. He loved to clown-around with cornet player Ish Kabibble, plus he did a bit of dancing.  At the top of his career, Kay Kyser’s band scored 35 top-ten hits, and appeared in Hollywood and New York. He played to 60,000 during one week at New York’s Roxy Theater.

The boy from Rocky Mount became one of the most famous faces of the swing era.

During the Depression and throughout World War II, Kyser offered his zaniness as a cure for adversity. At 9:30 on Wednesday nights, more than twenty million Americans would turn their radios to the NBC Red Network to hear Kay Kyser say, “Now we’re gonna have a little syncopation, so I want you to toddle out here and truck around the totem pole and sashay around the stage. What I mean is, C’mon, chillun. Le’s dance!”

Kyser also performed for thousands of World War II soldiers, feeling guilty that so many were marching off to their deaths while he was making big money.  In a 1981 interview with Greensboro Daily News reporter Jim Jenkins, Kyser recalled being on a hillside in the Pacific Theater in the summer of 1945.  “Countless thousands of GIs were sitting on these banks, and we could hear the firing in the background. They’d come up to you after and wring your hand, thanking you, completely oblivious to the fact that they were offering their lives so we civilians would have a good go at home. I thought, my, if that isn’t the ultimate of humility . . . I knew right then I’d never play another theater for money.”

Kyser returned to the UNC campus several times during his musical career.  He often recalled in later interviews, how much he enjoyed the Carolina–Duke football games in 1939 and 1948.

In a Charlie Justice profile in Sports Illustrated magazine in October of 1973, Kyser stated: “It is simply a matter of thinking it through . . . all this glamour can end quite suddenly, so you have to think where you will be when the superficialities are through.  I watched UNC football legend Charlie Justice when he was on top.  I was up to here at the time with my own entertainment career, so I was looking to see if it was getting to him.  It takes a thief to know one, you know.  I tell you, when they recruited Charlie to play here, after his great football career in the Navy, it was a little like getting Clark Gable to appear in a local little-theater production.  He was a star even before he got here.

“But Charlie was just the opposite of a prima donna. It never got to him, as it has to so many people in entertainment . . . .”

“Let me tell you a little story. I took Charlie to a big Hollywood party once.  The Hollywood people were dying to meet him.  Charlie was flabbergasted.  His face must have fallen a foot when he walked into that place.  He didn’t act like a football hero at all. He acted like the smallest of small-town hicks.  He was the one impressed with them. All those movie stars.  He’d never seen anything like it.  I remember he came over to me and said, in that high voice of his, ‘Man, this is tall cotton.’  He just kept on saying it: ‘Taaa-lll cotton.'”

Kay Kyser passed away on July 23, 1985 in Chapel Hill. He was eighty years old.

Georgia Carroll Kyser

Actress and singer Georgia Carroll Kyser, wife of Chapel Hill bandleader Kay Kyser, at a football game in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan Stadium. The Carolina Band in the background was playing “Tar Heels On Hand” to honor Kay Kyser.

Kyser’s wife Georgia Carroll remained in Chapel Hill until her death in 2011 at age 91. She donated Kyser-related photographs and papers to the university. You can still see Kay’s picture in The Carolina Inn on the UNC campus and he is enshrined in the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.  But for the most part, you won’t find many people who know the words to “Three Little Fishies.”  Just so you know the words go like this: “Boop boop diddum daddum waddum choo, and they swam and they swam all over the dam.”

Posted in Biography, Photojournalism, UNC | Comments Off on The “Ol’ Professor” of the “Kollege of Musical Knowledge”

Still Alone at the Top

This post comes from regular contributor Jack Hilliard, who takes another look at the man “Still Alone at the Top” because today, May 18th, marks a special day for long time Tar Heels like Jack.

On this day, in 1924, a boy was born in the Emma community of Asheville. He would grow up to be the greatest athlete to ever play sports at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

UNC tailback Charlie Justice (#22 with ball) and UNC blocking back Danny Logue (#66) during the 1949 Blue-White intrasquad game played at Kenan Stadium. Until researching this blog post, the online Morton collection of Morton images had this image incorrectly dated as 1946—Justice's freshman year when he played on the White team.

UNC tailback Charlie Justice (#22 with ball) and UNC blocking back Danny Logue (#66) during the 1949 Blue-White intrasquad game played at Kenan Stadium. Until researching this blog post, the online Morton collection of Morton images had this image incorrectly dated as 1946—Justice’s freshman year when he played on the White team. [Click on the photograph to see the full negative without cropping.]

UNC’s Michael Jordan was one of the most effectively marketed athletes of all time, and thanks to the emergence of the 24/7 cable sports channels, and in the latter part of his playing career the internet, Jordan’s heroics became all access, all the time. His image has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated more than sixty times . . . so far. And it’s no surprise that he also has seventy-eight mentions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy.

In the fall of 1999 when UNC’s campus newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel selected a panel of Tar Heel sports experts to determine the ten greatest UNC athletes of all time, many long-time Tar Heels, like me, thought Michael would be the top vote getter. Each week the paper listed one of the top ten athletes, and as expected, Jordan beat out Phil Ford, Mia Hamm, Lawrence Taylor, Lennie Rosenbluth, B. J. Surhoff, and Sue Walsh. In fact, Jordan beat out every other Tar Heel athlete, except one. He finished second to Charlie Justice.

Justice never had his picture on a Sports Illustrated cover and was never mentioned on Jeopardy.  When Justice played for Carolina during the seasons between 1946 and 1949, there were no 24/7 cable sports channels. In fact there was no TV in North Carolina at that time and the Internet was decades away.

I once asked Justice, “How did you become so famous without TV or the Internet.” Said Justice, “I didn’t need ‘em, I had Jake Wade writing stories and Hugh Morton taking pictures.” (Jake Wade was the award-winning Sports Information Director for UNC from 1945 until 1962).

I remember getting up early on the morning of Monday, November 29, 1999 and driving from Greensboro to Chapel Hill. I wanted to make sure that I got a copy of The Daily Tar Heel. It didn’t take me long to find that collector edition of the paper with the Section B headline that said “The Making of a Legend,” with Charlie’s life story filling the page. To support the DTH story, there were three Justice pictures, two of which were taken by Hugh Morton: the photograph above that opens this post, and the one that follows.

UNC fullback Walt Pupa (L) and UNC Tailback Charlie Justice in the locker room at Griffith Stadium, Washington DC.

UNC fullback Walt Pupa (L) and UNC Tailback Charlie Justice in the locker room at Griffith Stadium, Washington DC prior to the 1947 game versus the University of Maryland.

In an interview on October 18, 2003, Hugh Morton had this to say about his dear friend: “Clearly the most exciting football player I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot of them.” And as for Justice’s life after football, Morton added this: “There was not a worthy cause in this state he didn’t support. He used his fame to do good things. He wasn’t charging for it, he just wanted to do it.”

So, on this day, May 18, 2019, a tip-of-the-hat to Tar Heel Legend Charlie “Choo Choo Justice” who would have turned 95.  If a survey were taken on the UNC-CH campus all these years later, I don’t believe there would be many, if any, students who knew him or ever saw him play. That is their loss, because it’s doubtful we’ll ever see the likes of Charlie Justice again.

Posted in Biography, Football, Sports, UNC | Comments Off on Still Alone at the Top

The Black Arts Festival, 1972-1981

There are many forms of protest and one of them is the uninhibited celebration of your culture and the artistic achievements of your peers. Last month at the Project STAND (Student Activism Now Documented) symposium in Atlanta, one of the student panelists emphasized the necessity for uplifting depictions of black joy in addition to recognizing some of the struggles of activism. The Black Arts Festival, held by the Black Student Movement from 1972 to 1981, is an example of such joy.

Blue Poster Announcing Events

1975 Black Arts Festival Poster [Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, University Archives]

Called by 1973 Cultural Coordinator Algenon Marbley, “soul-stirring events” that “exemplify our culture through song, dance and drama,” the Black Arts Festival was an explosion of performances, workshops and lectures that featured artists not only from on campus, but throughout the United States. (Marbley, 1973)

Letter on BSM letterhead

Letter from Marbley to Chancellor Taylor [Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, University Archives]

The annual festival happened from 1972 to 1981, and featured performances from Black Student Movement subgroups like The Readers (now The Ebony Readers/Onyx Theatre), Opeyo Dancers (now Opeyo! Dance Company) and the Black Student Movement Gospel Choir. The festival was lauded as an event where black students could come together and express themselves through performance.

The relationships and roots of Black American art in the African diaspora were consistent themes in the 1973 festival. While performance seems to be the dominant form of expression in each year’s festival, the week-long series of events also featured panel discussions and classes. The festival in 1973 included a conversation between Chapel Hill’s first black mayor, Howard Lee, and activist Owusu Saudaki (Mills, 1973). Often, the BSM reached out to communities near UNC and workshops were taught by Durham’s Ebony Dance Theatre and the Bowie State Dancers (Starr, 1979).

In 1975, students expressed concern for continuing the festival, and conversations were had about how a black student organization on a predominantly while campus could thrive in terms of funding and administrative support. The festival was put on hiatus between 1976 and 1978, during which time the organization focused on other concerns like recruitment of black faculty and students (Carolina Union Records).

Speaker Contract with Black Panther Party

1974 Contract with Black Panther Party Speakers’ Bureau [Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, University Archives]

Recruitment Recommendations Text

BSM Recommendations for Recruitment 1975 [Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, University Archives]

Distressed by the lack of black artists coming to Chapel Hill, members of the BSM worked to revive the festival (Worsley, 1979). In 1979, black film and theater legend Cicely Tyson was invited to appear at Memorial Hall. That same year, co-sponsored by the Carolina Union, the award-winning and Grammy nominated New York Community Choir performed.

In 1980, the festival saw much less of an audience outside of the 300 audience members who came to support the Freshman Bloc, a skit-based variety show. The festival continued in 1981, with Wanda Montgomery as Cultural Coordinator. (Blossom, 1981). This is seemingly the last year, because in 1982, the BSM continued to fight for funding. The Black Arts Festival was under scrutiny, funding was cut and some of the events were added to Black History Month (Black Ink, 1982).

There are some occurrences of week-long events similar to the Black Arts festival after this. In 1991, an African American culture week called “African Americans in the Arts,” sponsored by the Black Cultural Centers Special Programming Committee, featured the Opeyo! Dancers (Mankowski, 1991). In the early 1990s, African American Culture Week is still mentioned in Black Ink. The Black Student Movement and its subgroups continue to produce, sponsor and curate performances, continuing their legacy as an organization that uplifts black joy.

References:

Black Student Movement in the Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records #40128, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Blossom, Teresa (1981). “BSM Black Arts Festival Arrives Mar 18-25”. Black Ink. Retrieved from
http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/2015236558/1981-03-17/ed-1/seq-3/

Mankowski, Melissa (1991). “Opeyo! Dancers Mix Modern with Traditional Steps”. The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1991-09-27/ed-1/seq-5/

Marbley, Algenon. (1973). “BACF Affect Apathy”. The Black Ink. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/2015236558/1973-04-01/ed-1/seq-4/

Mills, Janice. (1973). “Realm of Black Arts Explored”. The Black Ink. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/2015236558/1973-04-01/ed-1/seq-4/

Starr, Mary Beth. (1979). “Notable Groups Reflect Culture in Performance”. The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1979-03-23/ed-1/seq-12/

Williams, Linda (1974). “’74 Festival Set” Black Ink. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/2015236558/1974-03-01/ed-1/seq-1/

Worsley, Carolyn. (1979). “A Week of Arts, Entertainment.” The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved from
http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073228/1979-03-23/ed-1/seq-12/

Unknown Contributor. (1982). “Choir Guilty as Charged” Black Ink. Retrieved from http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/2015236558/1982-04-29/ed-1/seq-2/

Posted in Student Life and Student Organizations, University Archives, University History | Comments Off on The Black Arts Festival, 1972-1981

“Proving a Secret is Difficult”: Zora Neale Hurston at UNC

Image of the Zora Neale Hurston Hall plaque created by UNC MFA candidate Jeanine Tatlock.

On May 28, 2015, the UNC Board of Trustees voted to remove the name of Ku Klux Klan leader and Confederate Army colonel William Saunders from a campus building and rename it “Carolina Hall.” Additionally, the Board voted to place a 16-year moratorium on renaming campus buildings. The removal of Saunders’ name came after decades of work by student activists on campus, particularly the collaborative efforts of student organizations (the Black Student Movement, Real Silent Sam Coalition, and the Campus Y) in 2014.

Activists had urged the administration to rename the building for renowned black anthropologist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston. They cited a belief that Hurston attended UNC as a “secret student” in 1940, more than a decade before the first African American students were admitted to Carolina.

Even after the Trustees’ decision, student activists continued to celebrate Hurston’s life and call for a new name for Carolina Hall. In the fall of 2015, student activists held an “opening ceremony” for Hurston Hall. A statement by the Real Silent Sam coalition acknowledged the importance of naming the building for Hurston: “We named this building after Zora Neale Hurston precisely because racist and sexist admissions policies excluded her and other Black women from UNC.”

In March 2017, UNC MFA candidate Jeanine Tatlock added an additional plaque to the building, naming it Zora Neale Hurston Hall and acknowledging that “against all odds and despite a system that did everything in its power to keep [Hurston] from attending college she went on to become one of America’s most celebrated authors.”

From what we can tell, the Board of Trustees never collectively addressed the idea of renaming Saunders Hall for Zora Neale Hurston. However, in a letter to the Daily Tar Heel editor in 2017, UNC Trustee Alston Gardner argued that students never formally proposed the name change from Saunders to Hurston. Responding to the suggestion, Gardner wrote, “of course, proving a secret is difficult, so I applied a reasonableness test and came up short.” Many details of Zora Neale Hurston’s connection to Carolina are unclear, but the question of whether or not she was really a secret student here before UNC integrated in 1951 still remains on many of our minds. After an extensive search of resources in the Wilson Special Collections Library (and some from the University of Kansas’ Kenneth Spencer Research Library) we’ve established the following:

According to Cecelia Moore’s The South as a Folk Play: The Carolina Playmakers, Regional Theatre and the Federal Theatre Project, 1935-1939, in 1934, Zora Neale Hurston met playwright and UNC professor Paul Green and Carolina Playmakers founder Frederick Koch at the National Folk Festival in St. Louis, Missouri (p. 167). Recruited by Koch, Zora Neale Hurston came to North Carolina in 1939 to assume a theater teaching position at North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham (now North Carolina Central University)(Moore, p. 154).

Daily Tar Heel, 7 October 1939.

Daily Tar Heel, 7 October 1939, describing Hurston’s presentation at the Carolina Dramatic Association.

Hurston is now best known for her folktales and novels telling black stories, but in the 1930s she was invested in writing and producing folk plays: plays that highlighted everyday black life. On October 7, 1939, Hurston spoke at the fall meeting of the Carolina Dramatic Association, a statewide organization of theater directors and educators. The group met in Playmakers Theater on UNC’s campus. The following day, the Daily Tar Heel quoted her as telling the group, “Our drama must be like us, or it doesn’t exist.” She wanted to create theater that better exhibited the fullness of black life. Green, drawing from the legacy of the Carolina Playmakers under Frederick Koch, was similarly interested in writing folk plays He wrote and produced many works and won a Pulitzer Prize in May 1927 for the play In Abraham’s Bosom

Daily Tar Heel article describing the Sunday night Radio Writing and Production course, lists Zora Neale Hurston among other students, March 30, 1940. 

In the spring semester of 1940, Hurston joined Paul Green’s small Sunday night theater class that met at Caldwell Hall. There is conflicting information about this class: Hurston biographer Robert Hemenway writes in Zora Neale Hurston: a Literary Biography that the class was moved to Green’s home due to a complaint from a white student (p. 255), while Laurence G. Avery in A Southern Life: Letters of Paul Green, 1916-1981 says the class was always at Green’s house (p. 312). The March 30, 1940 issue of the Daily Tar Heel lists Zora Neale Hurston among the students in Green’s “Radio Writing and Production” course, meeting Sunday nights in Caldwell. In a 1971 interview with Robert Hemenway, Paul Green said they often had to work “sort of specially separate from the class,” and she would come to his house quite often.

Although Paul Green was the instructor for the course, his relationship with Hurston appeared to be more collaborative. In one energetic letter, Hurston writes to Green imploring him to send someone to record a spiritual she found at a black church in South Carolina. The spiritual could help them in the writing of their play, with the working title John De Conqueror. In the letter, she says, “Now, don’t sit there Paul Green, just thinking! Do something!” (p. 312). She feared a fellow student would record the spirituals and sell them before they could use it in their work. Unfortunately, the recordings weren’t made, and John De Conqueror was never finished.   

Daily Tar Heel article describing the Sunday night Radio Writing and Production course, lists Zora Neale Hurston among other students, March 30, 1940.

Despite not being officially recognized as a student, the spirit of the plaque students placed on Carolina Hall two years ago is still represented in Zora Neale Hurston’s abundant life as a black scholar. Her work initially received mixed reviews, but by the time she arrived in North Carolina, she had already earned a bachelors degree from Barnard College in 1928 and published several noteworthy books—including one of her most popular works, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Paul Green said in that 1971 interview that he remembered Hurston driving around campus in her “little red sports car” with a “jaunty little tam o shanter” on her head. Students would “jeer” as she drove by. On one occasion, he recalled, even the professors mocked her — she responded by calling “Hi, freshmen! Hi, freshmen!” It seems she never backed down from a challenge.

As Gardner noted, “proving a secret” is a challenge, and one archivists face often. Reference archivists frequently receive questions about aspects of campus history that, for many reasons, went undocumented or unpreserved. It is a struggle to find answers and adequate evidence to support them. It all depends on what has been collected and preserved. When we find these gaps in the historical record, it is frustrating but encourages us to think more deeply about what we’re collecting now and its uses in the future. In the case of Zora Neale Hurston at UNC and many parts of university history that we take extra time to research, we relish in the small crumbs we have but find ourselves hungry for more information.

Learn More: “Saunders Hall” essay in Reclaiming the University of the People: Racial Justice Movements at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Charlotte Fryar, 2019.

Sources:

Carolina Hall History

The Daily Tar Heel

Frederick H. Koch Papers, 1893-1979.

Letter to the Editor of the Daily Tar Heel

Paul Green Interview, 1971, Personal Papers of Robert E. Hemenway, PP 487, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Paul Green Papers, 1880-2009

The South as a Folk Play: The Carolina Playmakers, Regional Theatre and the Federal Theatre Project, 1935-1939 [in the Carolina Digital Repository]

A Southern Life: Letters of Paul Green, 1916-1981

UNC T-Shirt Archive

University Archives Web Archives

William Laurence Saunders Papers, 1712-1907.

Zora Neale Hurston: a Literary Biography

Posted in history, Little Known History, Student LIfe, Student Life and Student Organizations, UNC, UNC History, University Archives, University History | Comments Off on “Proving a Secret is Difficult”: Zora Neale Hurston at UNC

Introduction to the History of Performing Arts at UNC Library Guide

UNC’s campus culture and the lives of students can be examined through the sometimes exciting, sometimes fraught lens of the performing arts.  From controversial visiting artists to the joyful and attentive work of student and faculty artists on campus, performance has played a major part in representing the sentiment of any given time in UNC’s history.

A sample of resources you might use for research and curiosity about UNC’s relationship with performance is now available through the History of the Performing Arts at UNC library guide.

Students and Teacher in Music Classroom

Music Department, circa 1940s-1969 [UNC at Chapel Hill Image Collection, Folder P0004/0694]

Following the resources in this guide, you may come across some interesting facts:

There are several sketches, drafts of music scores and notes from Paul Green’s work with Richard Wright on the theater adaptation of Native Son. Native Son is one of Wright’s most well-known works and was staged in 1941 by Orson Welles “with imagination and force” (Atkinson, 1941).

Preliminary Draft of Native Son [Paul Green Papers, 1880-2009, Folder 3278cb]

 

-Some performing arts groups on campus have been around longer than you might think. The Opeyo! Dance Company, founded by Herman Mixon in 1971, continues to participate in outreach. They still host Dancing for Hope in the Fall semester, a benefit offering donations to charitable organizations.

-Carolina Performing Arts’ records are surprisingly helpful for theater architects! Folders of information provide insight into the specifications required for remodeling Memorial Hall. The correspondence related to theater acoustics and audience seating are as architectural as they are performance-oriented in nature.

Visitors entering Memorial Hall

Transformed Memorial Hall [Carolina Performing Arts Records, 1990s-2014, Digital Folder DF-40428/2]

Using the Guide:

Kick off your research by using the Home tab as a directory to the subject, department, organization or medium you are exploring. For example, if you’re looking for the work of a playwright who was a professor at UNC, check for resources under the Academic Departments tab. If you’re looking for general photographs, ephemera or video, check the Visual Materials tab. You can access the library guide here.

Happy searching!

 

 

References:

Atkinson, Brooks (1941). “‘Native Son’ by Paul Green and Richard Wright, Put on by Orson Welles and John Houseman”. New York Times. Retrieved 10 April 2019 from https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1941/03/25/85265284.pdf

Posted in Black Student Movement, paul green, performing arts, Richard Wright, Tips, University History | Comments Off on Introduction to the History of Performing Arts at UNC Library Guide

A Midwest conquest

On March 18th, 2012 Bill Richards, a colleague who worked in the library’s Digital Production Center, passed away unexpectedly while watching the Tar Heel’s basketball team defeat Creighton University in the “Sweet Sixteen” round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  In 1982, Bill was the Chief Photographer for the Chapel Hill Newspaper.  In 1988, he began working as a photographer and graphic designer in the UNC Office of Sports information.  In 1998 he started working in Library Photographic Services, but continued shooting for Sports Information into the 2000s. I am dedicating this blog post, as I have each year since his departure, to Bill who, like Hugh Morton, was an avid UNC basketball fan.

This year poses a bit of a challenge for this annual blog post: the NCAA Tournament has yet to begin. Where then shall we go to celebrate, Bill?  I know . . . midwest!

Yep. it’s NCAA Men’s Basletball Tournament time.  Were it not for two teeny tiny points, UNC might be heading up the East Regional bracket.  Instead, the Tar Heels find themselves atop a different bracket farther west—the Midwest, to be exact.  Haven’t we been here before?  Yes, and just like this year, Carolina did not win the ACC Tournament played in Charlotte.

In the 1990 NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels took off for Austin, Texas as the bracket’s eighth seed. First up: ninth seeded Southwest Missouri State University (now known as Missouri State University).  The Tar Heels handily beat the Bears by thirteen points, 83-70.  Next on the docket: number one seed Oklahoma, ranked first in the nation in the final Associated Press Coaches Poll (through March 11) with its 26-4 record.  By comparison, UNC with its 19-11 record was unranked—its worst season in twenty-six years despite defeating the fifteenth-ranked Duke Blue Devils twice during regular season play.

The limited time I have available does not permit me to recount the game’s highlights, but the photographs below tell some of the closing story.  The first frame, Frame 24A, depicts the time out called by Carolina at the 0:39 second mark after Oklahoma’s William Davis converted his “and-one” free throw for a three-point play to take the lead 77-76.  After the break, the Tar Heels struggled to make anything to happen.  Dean Smith tried to get someone’s attention to call a timeout, but before that could happen, an Oklahoma player fouled King Rice with 0:10 on the clock.  A timeout did take place, after which Rice tied the game by making his first “one and one” foul shot.

“Tied,” declared CBS play-by-play announcer Brent Musberger.

King’s second shot was off the mark, and the ball rebounded high off the rim.  No one could reel in the rebound before an Oklahoma player knocked the ball out of bounds under the basket.

Dean Smith called for a timeout, during which he drew up a play designed to get the ball in the hands of Rick Fox, the Tar Heel’s three-point marksman with twenty-one points in the game to that point.  Fox recounted after the game what Dean Smith told him during the timeout: “‘Rick, remember, we don’t need three. We only need one.'”

Fox got two, with a quick fake of a three and a drive down the baseline to make the layup with only one second remaining.

Morton’s second frame shows the outcome.

close of the UNC versus Oklahoma game at the 1990 NCAA Tournament game

Hugh Morton negatives depicting two moments from the close of the UNC versus Oklahoma game at the 1990 NCAA Tournament game.

Frame 25, showing a time out break with 39 seconds left on the game clock.

Frame 25: a timeout break with 0:39 seconds left on the game clock and Oklahoma up by one point, 77-76. The critical timeout occurred at 0:08 with the score tied at 77.

There are no negatives or color slides of the ensuing play, with no missing frames or 35mm color slides.  But when the clock reached 0:00, Morton recorded the final score: UNC 79 Oklahoma 77.

The game clock after UNC's upset of Oklahoma in the Midwest Regional of the 1990 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

The game clock after UNC’s upset of Oklahoma in the Midwest Regional of the 1990 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Morton also shot a few frames of the celebration on court, then made his way to the locker room for the celebration.

UNC players celebrate their 79 to 77 win over Oklahoma in 1990 NCAA Tournament.

UNC players celebrate their 79 to 77 win over Number #1 Oklahoma in the Midwest Regional Final in Austin, Texas. Left to Right: #54 John Greene, #32 Pete Chilcutt, #5 Henrik Rodl, #3 Jeff Denny, #42 Scott Williams.

Here’s looking at you, Bill.

Rick Fox

Rick Fox after his game-winning layup capped off UNC’s upset victory over top-seeded Oklahoma.

Posted in Basketball, Sports, UNC | Comments Off on A Midwest conquest

Our time with Woody

It was one year ago today, March 7, 2018, that we received the sad news that Woody Durham had lost his gallant battle with primary progressive aphasia, a neurocognitive disorder that affects language expression.  On this first anniversary of his passing, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back on our time with Woody.

Prolog
If you search the online collection of Hugh Morton photographs, you will find two dozen Morton photographs that include Woody Durham.  If you search the collection finding aid, you will find many more.  Woody was a favorite Morton subject, so when Bob Anthony and Stephen Fletcher, of the Wilson Library’s North Carolina Collection, put together a panel at Appalachian State in October of 2013 to discuss Morton’s work, Woody was an important participant.

Woody Durham interviews King Rice following win over Duke in the 1991 ACC Tournament.

Tar Heel Sports Network play-by-play announcer Woody Durham interviews King Rice following win over Duke in the 1991 ACC Tournament. Also in the frame is #32 Pete Chilcutt, and Rick Fox (right). Jim Heavner, Tar Heel Sports Network and CEO of The Village Companies of Chapel Hill can be partially seen in extreme left of the frame.

As the 2010-11 college basketball season turned into that famous March Madness, it looked like Carolina might be headed to yet another final four.  With wins over Long Island, Washington, and Marquette, they were in the “Elite Eight”® and playing Kentucky for another Final Four trip.  It was Sunday afternoon, March 27, 2011 . . . Number 2 seed UNC against Number 4 seed Kentucky . . . at the 18,711-seat Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  Woody Durham was calling game number 1805 as the Tar Heel “Voice.”  The winner would capture the East Regional bracket and advance to the Final Four in Houston.  A Tar Heel win would give Woody an opportunity to call his fourteen Final Four.  But sadly for those of us listening to Woody and watching CBS Sports, it wasn’t to be.

The Tar Heel Nation was stunned as Kentucky came away with the win, 76 to 69.  We didn’t know it at the time, but we suffered another loss that afternoon: it would be Woody Durham’s final play-by-play broadcast after forty years as the “Voice of the Tar Heels.”  The official announcement came twenty-four days later.  After calling 1,805 football and basketball broadcasts, Woody Durham was signing off.

***

From 1971 until 2011, Woody Durham was the soundtrack for Tar Heel football and basketball.  During that span

  • the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association selected Woody as the North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year thirteen times;
  • he was the voice for six national championship games and thirteen Final Fours;
  • he called twenty-three football bowl games; and
  • he interviewed six Tar Heel head football coaches and four head basketball coaches.

His game-day-preparation was legendary and his attention to detail with his color-coded information charts became famous.  But Woody Durham was much more than the voice of his university.  He often headed up life-long-learning programs for UNC’s General Alumni Association and was a program fixture during Graduation-Reunion weekend each May.  He traveled across his native state speaking to Tar Heel alumni groups.

Following his retirement, Woody and his wife Jean attended most of Carolina’s football games, and were always seated in Section 212 Row C in the Smith Center for Tar Heel basketball games.  Then, in 2015, Woody began to lose his ability to speak. The following year, came the diagnosis: Primary Progressive Aphasia.  But as you might expect, Woody took up the cause and became a leader educating his many fans about the disease.

On March 7, 2018 came the news report that Woody had lost his battle.

I think UNC Head Basketball Coach Roy Williams said it best when he issued this statement:

“It’s a very sad day for everyone who loves the University of North Carolina because we have lost someone who spent nearly 50 years as one of its greatest champions and ambassadors. . . . My heart goes out to Jean, Wes, Taylor and their entire family. . . . It’s ironic that Woody would pass away at the start of the postseason in college basketball because this was such a joyous time for him. He created so many lasting memories for Carolina fans during this time of year. It’s equally ironic that he dealt with a disorder for the final years of his life that robbed him of his ability to communicate as effectively as he did in perfecting his craft.

Woody Durham will forever be “THE Voice of the North Carolina Tar Heels.” Others will broadcast the games and will do a really good job, but Woody will be the one we all remember.

Posted in Basketball, Biography, Sports, UNC | Comments Off on Our time with Woody