Celebrating America in space 2019

This year, 2019, marks several special anniversaries for the United States space program. Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch that carried the first humans to the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.  Morton Collection volunteer, Jack Hilliard, takes a look at these celebrations.  Then, in an afterward, I’ll share my current thinking on Morton’s photographs made during the Apollo 11 launch.

Aerial view of launchpads at Kennedy Space Center

An aerial view of the launchpads at Kennedy Space Center, date and photographer unknown. The 35mm color slide has likely been removed from its original cardboard mount and placed into generic mount, eliminating a possible processing date stamp or any identifying information that would be evidence that Morton may have purchased the slide from somewhere such as a NASA gift shop.

Soon after NASA announced its “Mercury 7” astronauts on April 9, 1959, the agency selected Morehead Planetarium on the UNC campus as “the place” for celestial navigational training.  Between 1959 and 1975, nearly every astronaut who participated in the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Apollo-Soyuz Test Project programs trained at the planetarium. All seven of the Mercury team and eleven of the twelve astronauts who walked on the moon trained there.  Longtime planetarium director Tony Jenzano liked to claim that “Carolina is the only University in the country, in fact the world that can claim most all the astronauts as alumni.”  So, as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon launch and landing, we must give a tip of the hat to the folks at Morehead who played an important part in the most important peacetime undertaking of the 20th century.

Since I began working with Stephen Fletcher at Wilson Library in 2008, we have determined that Hugh Morton was a frequent visitor at the Kennedy Space Center for Apollo launches. We have determined that he was there for Apollo 9, Apollo 10, Apollo11, and Apollo 14. (He was likely at the launch of Apollo 8 and Apollo17, but we haven’t documented those images yet.)  Over the years, we have written blog-posts about three of the Apollo fights: Apollo 9, Apollo 11, and Apollo 14.

Worker at Michoud Assembly Facilty

Worker inside NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center at Michoud Assembly Facilty in New Orleans, LA.

In February of 1965, Morton visited the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility, a part of Alabama’s Marshall Space Flight Center, but located in New Orleans. There he took several pictures of the Saturn 1B under construction. The Saturn1B would be used for the launch of Apollo 7, in 1968, three Skylab manned launches in the early 1970s and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

Travel Council of North Carolina touring Kennedy Space Center,

Members of the Travel Council of North Carolina touring Kennedy Space Center, January 23, 1967.

About two years after Hugh Morton photographed the Saturn 1B at Michoud Assembly Facility, he and wife Julia were part of a fifty-person tour of Florida by the Travel Council of North Carolina. Mrs. Dan K Moore, the state’s First Lady, headed the tour.  On Monday, January 23, 1967 the group visited the Kennedy Space Center—just four days before the tragic launchpad fire that killed the Apollo 1 crew.  Astronauts “Gus” Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died while training for the first Apollo manned mission, which had been scheduled for February 21, 1967.

Mrs. Dan K. Moore at Kennedy Space Center

Mrs. Dan K. Moore at the Kennedy Space Center, posed in front of one of the enormous machines that transport rockets between locations at the center.

The Apollo program would not make a manned flight until the launch of Apollo 7 on October 11, 1968.

Apollo 11 rocket on launchpad

The Saturn V rocket awaits liftoff from its launchpad for the Apollo 11 spaceflight. This image is one of only seven 35mm Kodachrome slides extant from Hugh Morton’s photographs of humankind’s first mission to land man on the moon.

Fifty years ago today, on July 16, 1969, Hugh Morton was one of the more than 3,500 accredited news reporters and photographers representing fifty-six countries, at NASA’s press site, three and a half miles across the Banana River from the Pad A launch facility at Kennedy Space Center. There are Morton images from the press site complex as well as the VIP viewing site where Morton took a photograph of former President Lyndon Johnson.

More than one million spectators jammed the Florida beaches and highways. Among the dignitaries at the VIP viewing site were General William Westmoreland, Chief of Staff of the Army, four members of President Nixon’s cabinet, sixty ambassadors, nineteen state governors, forty mayors, and two hundred congressmen. Vice President Spiro Agnew accompanied former president Lyndon Johnson and wife Lady Bird.

Lyndon Baines Johnson

Former president Lyndon Baines Johnson was among the dignitaries to witness the launch of Apollo 11.

An estimated twenty-five million TV viewers in the United States watched the proceedings and the live coverage was available in thirty-three countries. President Richard Nixon viewed the launch from his office in Washington with NASA liaison officer, Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman.

As the launch time approached for Apollo 11, a few fluffy clouds could be seen, with the temperature in the high 80s and a slight breeze. NASA’s weather team at Patrick Air Force Base just south of the space center reported “flawless” launch weather.

At 9:32 am (EDT), on July 16, 1969, the mighty Saturn V (AS-506) rocket began fulfilling President Kennedy’s 1961 goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth,” with the historic launch of Apollo 11.

Grandstand at an observation area during the Apollo 11 launch.

Grandstand at an observation area during the Apollo 11 launch.

Afterword by Stephen

It’s struck me as odd that there are only seven 35mm slides from the Apollo 11 launch in the Morton collection, none of which depict blast off.  Thinking photographically about the moment, I’ve come to believe that there are 35mm color negatives.  Here’s why . . .

The 35mm slides that exist are from the end of a roll of film—slides 31 through 38, with slide  35 missing.  Digital scans made from four of those slides can be seen online via the link in the story above.  Sequentially:

  • frames 31 and 32 show photographers lined up at the press site next to the Vehicle Assemble Building at the Kennedy Space Center;
  • slides 33 and 34 show the Saturn V rocket on the launchpad in the distance;
  • with frame 35 missing, slides 36 and 37 depict a sparsely populated grandstand; and
  • slide 38, the final frame, is the portrait of LBJ wearing sunglasses and looking like he may have been in the sun a bit too long (see the scans above),

At this point, Morton needs to reload his camera with a fresh roll of film.  It’s either a between slides 34 or 35 and slide 36, or after frame 38 that I think misfortune struck.

I believe Morton may have had three cameras in operation—two positioned on tripods, and one carried with him. Why? There are two unidentified rolls of 35mm color negative film (i.e., not color slide film) in the collection depicting a rocket launch—one roll is oriented horizontally the other oriented vertically.  Both are severely out-of-focus.  From the street lamp positioned in the foreground, they appear to be from the same location as the slide above.

From a content perspective regarding the slides, why would LBJ be in the press section?  More likely he would have been in the dignitaries section, which if that is what the grandstands above depict, then we can see was fairly empty.  Is this because it was early before liftoff at 9:32, or after when people would have begun to leave?  I think the later because the shadows are not long.  Morton would have photographed around the press site, then switched his attention to liftoff, then wandered back to the dignitaries section.

Somehow or other, I think the cameras with telephoto lenses on tripods lost their focus.  Or maybe there is another scenario.  What do you think?

 

Hugh Morton retrospective exhibition heads to Mount Airy

Unto These Hills dancer

Unto These Hills dancer, one of more than eighty photographs you can experience when you see the exhibition “Photographs By Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective.”

Jump for joy!  It’s amazing—though not hard to believe given the high-quality photographs—that the exhibition Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective, opens on July 4th at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.  This marks the exhibition’s ninth venue since its debut in Boone, N. C. at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts back in 2013.  The exhibition will be on display through October 25.  And you can leap once more because I’ve just confirmed that Blowing Rock Art & History Museum will host the exhibition starting November 9 through February 22, 2020.

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.”

“. . . flashing him in every pose but on his head.”

Alton Lennon photographs published in Charlotte News

Front page article from The Charlotte News, July 13, 1953, featuring photographs by Hugh Morton. The headshot portraits are among nine negatives made during that sitting that are part of the Hugh Morton collection, as is the negative for the family portrait.

STARK NAKED — Almost everybody around Raleigh and elsewhere was caught with his pants down late last Friday afternoon when Gov. William B. Umstead, as calmly as a man reaching for a glass of water, announced that Al Lennon of Wilmington was his at-long-last choice to succeed Smith as junior U. S. Senator from North Carolina.

To be perfectly frank about it, most of us were not only caught with our pants down.  We found ourselves stark naked.

So began Kidd Brewer’s “Raleigh Round-Up” column for the Thursday, July 16, 1953 issue of the Nashville Graphic (in Nash County, N. C.).  We need to go back a handful of days to that previous Friday, July 10—actually back to June 26—for the start of this story.  For that is the day that North Carolina’s junior senator in the United States Senate, Willis Smith, died while in office from a coronary thrombosis.

Smith’s term was set to end at the close of 1954.  He was completing a term begun by J. Melville Broughton on January 3, 1949 that ended abruptly nine weeks later when Broughton died in office on March 6.  Newly elected governor W. Kerr Scott appointed Frank Porter Graham to replace Broughton, but Graham lost his bid to retain the seat to Smith in a contentious run-off primary election on June 24, 1950.  Smith then handily won the general election on November 7, 1950, earning him the right to complete the remaining four years of Broughton’s term.

Governor Umstead needed to replace Smith, and he kept his selection process very closed-lipped.  The state’s then senior senator was Clyde R. Hoey from the western part of the state, so Umstead looked eastward for his appointee.  The vacant seat had proved to be like the removable chair in the children’s game Musical Chairs, so Umstead sought an appointee who he believed could begin campaigning almost immediately for the primary that would take place in May 1954—just ten months away—win the primary, and then continue on for a full six-year term.

When Umstead announced that the relatively unknown Wilmington attorney and former state senator Alton Asa Lennon as his appointment—late on a Friday afternoon—there were few photographs of Lennon for the press to print in newspapers.  Brewer noted that “there were only one or two photos of the new senator wandering around the State.”

Where on earth was the world going to get photographs of a relatively unknown Wilmingtonian who was destined for the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol?  Fellow Wilmington native Hugh Morton, of course!  How do we know this to be the case?  Later in Brewer’s story we encounter a passage that launched me into a deeper dig to differentiate the numerous negatives made by Morton between Umstead’s announcement and Lennon’s send-off to Washington, D. C. that are extant in the Hugh Morton collection.  Brewer wrote,

Hugh Morton, Wilmington photographer and tourist expert who had himself only two hours earlier been reappointed to the State Board of Conservation and Development, rushed to Lennon’s house and began flashing him in every pose but on his head.  And the state editors and wire boys were already performing that act.  The AP snapped up Morton’s pictures, got its wirephoto services on the ready, and in most late night editions of Saturday morning’s papers, there was old Al smiling out at you from a three-column photo.

Does Brewer’s description of the media blitz match the historical record?  Is it an accurate account of how Morton’s negatives came into being?  Upon searching the Morton collection finding aid, I found three listings for forty black-and-white negatives surrounding this event, with three broadly defined sets in the Morton collection finding aid:

  • Lennon, Alton: Wilmington sendoff celebration to U.S. Senate, 14 July 1953
  • Lennon, Alton: Various portraits, with family, etc., circa 1953
  • Lennon, Alton: With Governor William Umstead, circa 1953

The first two listings are a jumble of images that span from as early as the evening of July 10 through the “send-off” on July 14, officially proclaimed by the governor as “Alston Lennon Day.”  It’s important to note here that many categories of images in the Morton collection are “a jumble.”  When processing the collection after its arrival, the quantity of material in the collection and its lack of internal structure did not permit our archivist, Elizabeth Hull, to refine uncounted rough groupings and descriptions for tens of thousands of items.  Even today, I am hard pressed to find the time to dig too deep.  In this case I needed to sort through the negatives to see what they depicted for the Morton collection preservation digitization project.  A fair amount of work went into it, and I needed to write down what I learned to make sense of it all.  I felt I could turn that information into a useful and informative post, and so what follows is what I’ve gathered thus far.

Let’s start with the easiest listing first: the negatives depicting Umstead and Lennon together.

Amsted and Lennon

Governor William B. Umstead during his meeting with Alton Lennon, the governor’s newly announced appointment to the United States Senate, July 13, 1953.

News accounts stated that the governor made a surprise visit to Wilmington to meet with Lennon on Monday, July 13 during an “open house” in the offices of Star News Newspapers, the publisher of Wilmington’s two major newspapers.  The only update needed for the finding aid for that group of six negatives was a change of “circa” to the exact date.

There are six negatives of Umstead interacting with Lennon, including the following image published as an Associated Press Wirephoto:

Lennon and Umstead in AP Wirephoto

Hugh Morton photograph (uncredited) published as an Associated Press Wirephoto. The clipping shown here is from the front page of the July 14 issue of The Asheville Citizen.

The two remaining listings in the finding aid, however, is where confusion reigned.  Looking at some newspapers (Wilmington’s Morning Star and The Wilmington News, and their jointly issued Sunday Star News, plus The Charlotte News (to which Morton frequently submitted work) proved to be useful.  So, too, did an eye for fashion and a bit of knowledge about photographic film manufacturing.  Let’s tackle the film manufacturing process first.

Film manufacturers use notches on one corner of the film so that photographers can quickly and easily determine the emulsion side of the film.  Photographers need to know the emulsion is facing the outside of the film holder (i.e., toward the lens) when they insert a sheet of film into a film holder while doing so in complete darkness.  As illustrated below (but always done in the dark), if you hold the film in your hand so you can feel the notch(es) with your index finger, then the emulsion is facing upwards. (Of course there wouldn’t be an image on the film when loading new film!)  The notch is also is an indication of the specific film.  For this information we turn to The Acetate Negative Survey by David Horvath in 1987.  According to Horvath’s survey, a single V-shaped notch on safety film made by Kodak indicates that Morton photographed using Super Pan Press, Type B.

film notch code

Most photographic archivists are familiar with notch codes.  But also note the number to the left of the code.  Not as many know what that represents, and sheet film negatives do not always have a number there.  I’ve seen that number referred to both as a batch code and as a machine code: the former meaning that the manufacturer would be able to identify the emulsion batch, and the latter indicating what machine cut the film into sheets.  For archivists, we can use that number to help (it’s not definitive) determine if a photographer made a group of images during the same general time period. How so?  Most photographers purchased sheet film in boxes of 25 or 100, so each sheet in a box or boxes purchased at the same time will likely have the same batch/machine code.  In this case all but four of the forty negatives have a single notch with the code number 97.  For now, hold that thought.

The images made closest to July 10 that I found in the newspapers appeared on Sunday, July 12, meaning that photographers took them on either on the evening of the July 10 or some time on July 11.  Here’s one, a “Staff Photo by Ludwig” from The Sunday Star News on July 12:

Lennon Family in Sunday Star News

Morton took a similar group portrait of the family around the same table, but without Lennon’s parents. (You might not be able to tell from the scan from microfilm, but it’s clear in Morton’s negative that while there are rolls on the center platter, everyone’s plates and bowls are empty.)  The caption identifies the location of the family portrait as Lennon’s summer cottage in Wrightsville Beach.  As seen at the top of this post, The Charlotte News published a portrait of the family seated near a fireplace, wearing the same clothes, on the same page as it ran four portraits across a four-column-wide article.  That setting (law office versus home) doesn’t seem to mesh with Kidd Brewer’s description.  One of those single portraits may have been published in a Saturday morning newspaper that I’ve not had time to explore.  If so, then Brewer’s account could be accurate.

All totaled there are nine of the similarly posed Alton Lennon portrait negatives extant in the Morton collection, and at least one other pose made it to print.  Lest we forget about Hugh Morton’s other favorite go-to publication, The State, here’s another of the portraits . . .

Lennon portrait by Morton, cover, The State, 25 July 1953 issue

United States Senator-Designate Alton Lennon, portrait by Hugh Morton on the cover of the 25 July 1953 issue of The State.

Below is a photograph published in The Wilmington News on July 13, taken by Morton but uncredited, showing a smiling Lennon with “fellow attorneys” posed in what, after consulting various other negatives in the collection, appears to be his law office in the Odd Fellows Building at 229 Princess Street.  Many attorneys had their offices there because it was only a short walk to the city hall and county courthouse.  The steps of Thalian Hall were just across the street on North 3rd Street.

Alton Lennon with fellow attorneys

As captioned in the July 13, 1953 edition of The Wilmington News: “SENATOR LENNON CONGRATULATED — Fellow attorneys gather around Alton A. Lennon to extend congratulations on his appointment to the U. S. Senate. Shown with the new senator are Cicero Yow, H. Winfield Smith, John J. Burney Jr., Marsden Bellamy, Addison Hewlett Jr., Solomon B. Sternberger and Elbert Brown.” The photograph by Hugh Morton is uncredited.

There are several negatives made in that room, where the same composite photograph of the 1947 North Carolina Senate members is visible. Lennon was an elected member of the 1947 North Carolina Senate.  In some of the negatives, Lennon’s diploma from Wake Forest College can be seen hanging on the perpendicular wall to the left.

Your eye for fashion now comes into play.  You cannot tell from the picture above (as reproduced here from microfilm) but what can clearly be seen in the negative is that Lennon is wearing a double-breasted suit jacket.  It may be the same as seen in this detail of a negative made by Morton on the steps of Thalian Hall below:

Alton Lennon at Thalian Hall

Detail from a negative made by Morton of Alton Lennon standing on the stairs of Wilmington’s Thalian Hall. Notice the double breasted suit jacket.

It could very well be, then, that Morton photographed Lennon on that Friday evening after the announcement when he would have been in his office with his fellow attorneys, and also on the steps of Thalian Hall.

Alton Lennon standing in convertible

Newly-appointed Senator Alton Lennon standing and waving from the back of a convertible as part of his official send-off celebration.

At this point in his life, Hugh Morton was the vice president of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.  The chamber organized a special “send off” committee and named Morton as its chairman. Festivities on July 14 began with a parade through the streets to the train station.  Lennon’s car stopped for him to pose for photographers:

 

Now what about those four negatives with a different batch/machine code number?  Here they are:

Alton Lennon campaigning

The machine code for these is 419 (not 97).  Note, too, a portion of a campaign poster on the side of the car (lower right image).  And that eye for fashion?  Note Lennon is not wearing a bow tie, which he wears in all of the negatives made during the appointment days except during his meeting with Umstead, when he wears a light-colored suit and not a darker shade.  There is enough evidence to conclude that Morton did not make these four negatives during events surrounding the Lennon announcement and send off.  Lennon began campaigning soon after his appointment so we can date them from 1953 or 1954, but we cannot presume Morton made these four negatives in Wilmington.  The top left negative is part of the online collection, and the metadata for that has been updated to reflect the distinction.  The finding aid groupings will also be revised to reflect the new findings.

Alton Lennon campaigning

Alton Lennon campaigning for the 1954 Democratic Party primary election, circa 1953-1954.

Epilog

Alton Lennon or his surrogates used at least two of Morton’s photographs during the 1954 primary.  Below is a page from the April 24, 1954 issue of The State:

Alton Lennon political advertisement published in The State

Alton Lennon political advertisement published in April 24, 1954 issue of THE STATE.

The image above is cropped from one of the many negatives Hugh Morton exposed in Lennon’s law office, one of two with that “Keep America Strong” illustration in the background.  It’s the upper portion of a calendar, which explains the last letters of the word “COMPANY” next to his left arm.

Morton’s family portrait of the Lennons seated in front of their fireplace reappears in a political advertisement paid for by Rocky Mount Friends of U. S. Senator Alton Lennon in that city’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram, on May 24:

Lennon political advertisement in The Evening Telegram

Lennon political advertisement in The Evening Telegram, May 24, 1954, featuring Hugh Morton’s family portrait made in July 1953.

Lennon lost his bid for the full term.  He and six other candidates fell to W. Kerr Scott on the Saturday, May 29 election day, with Scott securing 25,323 more votes than second place Lennon.

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 (but cropped to include only Justice).

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.

Flowers, parades, parties, and golf along with the Golden Voice, Known as “The Whiz”

The North Carolina Azalea Festival is in progress for the 72nd time in Wilmington.  This year’s event takes place from April 3-7, 2019.  Going back to 1948, not only is this event a celebration of flowers and golf, it brings celebrated guests from across the United States. From Hollywood movies, to TV stars, to celebrated sports heroes, the festival has seen them all.  Over the years, many of the guests have made returned visits.  This was especially true in the early years.  As we celebrate festival number 72, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back at one of those guests, noted broadcaster Harry Wismer, who visited often during the1950s.

UNC Head Football Coach Carl Snavely, UNC tailback Charlie Justice, and ABC Radio play-by-play announcer Harry Wismer prior to the start of the 1949 Sugar Bowl.

UNC Head Football Coach Carl Snavely, UNC tailback Charlie Justice, and ABC Radio play-by-play announcer Harry Wismer prior to the start of the 1949 Sugar Bowl.

Hugh Morton crossed paths with legendary sportscaster Harry Wismer at the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1949 in New Orleans.  Wismer was in town to broadcast the game for ABC Radio between the UNC Tar Heels and the Oklahoma Sooners.  Of course Morton was in town to photograph the game which featured his dear friend Charlie Justice.  And as one would expect, Morton took at pre-game picture of Justice and Wismer, a picture that Hugh often included in his famous slides shows. Morton also included the image in his 1988 book Making a Difference in North Carolina on page 257.

Nearly two years later on December 10, 1950, Morton photographed the final regular season game between the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Browns in Washington’s Griffith Stadium.  Again, he crossed paths with Harry Wismer, the Redskins’ play-by-play man.  At the time, Harry Wismer, who was known by many as “The Whiz,” was already considered the nation’s leading sportscaster, having broadcast numerous events like the National Open and PGA, the Penn Relays, and the National Football League Championship.

Wismer was also a part owner of the Detroit Lions and the Washington Redskins of the National Football League.  In addition to his co-ownership, Wismer was “The Voice of the Redskins,” having called their games on the “Amoco-Redskins Network” since 1943.  It was on those Redskins broadcasts that I first heard him.  As a little kid, I listened to the Redskin games starting in 1950.  When the game came to TV in North Carolina in 1951, Wismer was right there with the play-by-play.  I remember those early broadcasts. Wismer’s commercial tag line went like this: “All around town, for all around service, visit your Amoco man, and Lord Baltimore filling stations.”

1949 Queen of the North Carolina Azalea Festival, actress Martha Hyer, with her court.

1949 Queen of the North Carolina Azalea Festival, actress Martha Hyer, with her court.

Starting in 1949, the Azalea Open Golf Tournament became a part of the spring festivities.    Hugh Morton invited Wismer to the 1950 Azalea Festival in Wilmington, along with Southern Methodist University football hero Doak Walker and his wife Norma.  Of course, Tar Heels Charlie and Sarah Justice returned in ’50, having been there in 1949 to crown Azalea Queen II, Hollywood starlet Martha Hyer.  When Justice and Wismer returned to Wilmington for the 1951 festival, Hugh Morton had added a new event: a special golf match at the Cape Fear Country Club called “Who Crowns the Azalea Queen?”  The match pitted two ABC Radio broadcasters, Harry Wismer and Ted Malone, against two football greats, Charlie Justice and Otto Graham.

Harry Wismer and Ted Malone

ABC Radio broadcasters Harry Wismer and Ted Malone.

Margaret Sheridan, Otto Graham, Harry Wismer, Charlie Justice, and Earl Stewart

Margaret Sheridan, Otto Graham, Harry Wismer, and Charlie Justice seek magical powers by holding the putter of golfer Earl Stewart after he shot a superb round of 65 to capture the lead after the third round of the Azalea Open Golf Tournament.

The winner of the nineholeevent would have the honor of crowning Queen Azalea IV, Margaret Sheridan.  The ‘51 winner was the Justice/Graham team.

Margaret Sheridan holding flagstick

Queen Azalea IV Margaret Sheridan takes charge of the flagstick on the 18th green at the Cape Fear Country Club.

In addition to being part of the parades, flowers, and parties, Wismer broadcast the Azalea Open Golf Tournament on ABC Radio.  The 1951 Open winner was Lloyd Mangrum, and Wismer included an interview with him on his ABC Radio show which was also originated live in Wilmington.

Harry Wismer interviewing Lloyd Mangrum

ABC Radio broadcaster Harry Wismer interviewing the 1951 Azalea Open Golf Tournament winner Lloyd Mangrum.

The 1952 “Who Crowns the Azalea Queen?” event once again put Wismer’s team, which included writer Hal Boyle and band leader Tony Pastor, against a football squad of Charlie Justice, Eddie Lebaron, and Otto Graham and this time the Wismer team won.

Harry Wismer crowns Cathy Downs as Azalea Queen V.

Harry Wismer crowns Cathy Downs as Azalea Queen V during the 1952 Azalea Festival.

According to Hugh Morton, the original queen selection for 1952 was actress Janet Leigh, but her husband Tony Curtis decided to cancel their trip to Wilmington.  Morton knew that actress Cathy Downs was in town because her husband Joe Kirkwood, Jr. was playing in the Azalea Open.  When Morton invited her, she accepted and became Queen Azalea V.

Wismer continued his Azalea Festival visits during the mid-1950s. Charlotte broadcaster Grady Cole also participated in Wismer’s broadcasts. 

Wismer would later become one of the founding fathers of the American Football League, which began play in 1960; three years later, however, he gave up his football leadership.  Wismer spent the remainder of his life trying to reclaim his glory days as broadcaster and team owner, but was unsuccessful partly because of his declining health.  In 1965, Wismer wrote a book titled The Public Calls It Sports.  In it he gives a “behind the scenes” look at professional football from a broadcast and ownership point of view.

Harry Wismer passed away on December 4, 1967, the day after a tragic fall at a New York restaurant.  He was 64-years-old.

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.

The father of big-time basketball in North Carolina and the South

The ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament begins today and “March Madness” is on our doorstep. Once again the Atlantic Coast Conference is evenly balanced and is predicted to be a NCAA leader.  There was a time before the conference was born, however, when basketball in North Carolina and the South was secondary to football.  Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look at the man and the tournament that brought about the roundball prominence we see today.

Everett Case

Everett Case, head basketball coach at North Carolina State from 1946 through 1964. Photograph by Hugh Morton, probably during the late 1950s.

I remember a time in 1954 when I was a freshman in high school and working for my dad at his drug store in Asheboro. He had just hired a guy named Johnny Campbell, an Army veteran who had recently returned from three years (1951–1953) in Germany and Korea. Campbell told me once that most everywhere he went, when people learned he was from North Carolina, they would say “NC State basketball, Everett Case.”

Coach Everett Case was a basketball visionary long before he came to North Carolina State in 1946. Back in his native state of Indiana, he was a legendary high school coach. When he arrived in North Carolina, football was king; Case, however, saw basketball as king, and he began to change the minds of fans across the state. He saw a partially built Reynolds Coliseum as an arena of 12,500 cheering fans.

In the beginning, Case recruited many out-of-state players, but he visited North Carolina high schools across the state, encouraging coaches and school boards to build better gym facilities so young boys could compete for basketball scholarships.

In his first season at State, the fire marshal canceled a game because people were spilling onto the floor and climbing in the windows of tiny Thompson Gymnasium. Case described that scenario in a 1964 interview: “We played our first games in Frank Thompson Gym, and had to cancel the North Carolina game when the students broke down the doors and the fire marshal wouldn’t let us play.”

That 1946–47 NC State team compiled a 26 and 5 record, and won the Southern Conference Tournament beating Maryland, George Washington, and North Carolina.

Then, it happened again during the 1947-48 season:

The fire marshal called off our Duke game in Frank Thompson Gym on the afternoon it was scheduled to be played. . . They said Frank Thompson Gym was a ‘fire hazard’ and wouldn’t let us play any more home games there . . . so we had to move into Memorial Auditorium.

State racked up an even better record of 29 and 3 during the 1947-48 season, and once again won the Southern Conference Tournament—this time beating William and Mary, North Carolina, and Duke.  By the 1948-49 season, NC State basketball was becoming extremely popular, just as Case had envisioned, as they won yet another Southern Conference Championship.

NC State moved into the William Neal Reynolds Coliseum for their home games during the 1949–50 season, and saw the establishment of a holiday basketball tournament that quickly became the top sporting event in North Carolina. It was called the “Dixie Classic.” As Case said, “All the Big Four schools were tickled to get in on it . . . it meant some big pay-checks for them.” And as you might have guessed already, State won the first Dixie Classic as well as the 1949–50 Southern Conference Championship.

I recall seeing my first Dixie Classic. I had never seen anything like it.  The house lights in the Coliseum were dimmed and a spotlight was turned on for the player introductions, and when it was all over the winning team cut down the nets. The names Dick Dickey and Sam Ranzino were fast becoming heroes for kids across the state.

Case’s 1950–51 team brought home another Southern Conference and a second Dixie Classic Championship, winning 30 games. Finally, during the 1952–53 season, Wake Forest nipped State 71 to 70 for the Southern Conference Championship, but State won its fourth Dixie Classic.

The 1953-54 basketball season in North Carolina brought a new conference to town: the Atlantic Coast Conference.  NC State suffered two losses in the Dixie Classic—one to Navy and one to Wake Forest—but they won the first ACC Tournament Championship.

The 1954-55 Wolfpack continued their winning ways with the Dixie Classic and ACC Championships.  It was ditto for the next two seasons, and it was beginning to look like Coach Case and his Wolfpack would dominate the ACC as it had the Southern Conference.  But in 1956, the momentum was derailed when NC State was placed on a four-year probation by the NCAA. It was reported that an assistant coach and State’s assistant athletic director had given a Louisiana high school kid cash and gifts to entice him from his previous agreement to attend Kentucky. Case denied the charge, but the NCAA ruled that he knew about the gifts—which included a seven-year medical education. This became known as the Jackie Moreland case.

The 1956-57 NC State team lost to Wake Forest in the Dixie Classic and the ACC Tournament. The 1957-58 Wolfpack lost both tournaments as well, this time to powerful North Carolina, who compiled a 32-and-0 record and won the NCAA Championship.

Case and his Wolfpack came back to win the ACC Tournament following the 1958-59 regular season as well as the 1958 Dixie Classic, but lost both events in the 1959-60 season.  There were no NC State tournament wins during the 1960-61 season.  Following the season, it was revealed that at least four NC State players and possibly two UNC players had shaved points in order to shade the outcome of games, including at least one Dixie Classic game.  Said Case, “it was a terrible blow to all of us here at State.”

The 1960 Dixie Classic was the last to be played, because things got worse.  On Saturday morning, May 14, 1961, Lester Chalmers, Wake County’s district solicitor called UNC President Dr. William Friday to an an emergency meeting.  Chalmers told Friday that a player’s life had been threatened by gamblers.  “In our minds, we were dealing with protection of human life of an innocent college kid . . . you weren’t left with any alternative.”  The UNC system imposed numerous sanctions on both UNC and NC State’s basketball programs and abolished the Dixie Classic.

Due to the scandals, State played fewer games during the 1961 through 1964 seasons, with no ACC Championships.  By this time, Coach Case was in failing health, but he began the 1964–65 season even though he was suffering inoperable cancer.  Two games into the season, he was unable to continue and turned the coaching over to assistant Press Maravich.  When State won the 1965 ACC Tournament, Coach Case was taken in his wheelchair out to help the team cut down the net.  A year later, Everett Case died and was buried in Raleigh’s Memorial Park. It was his wish to be laid facing US Highway 70 so he could “wave” to later NC State teams as they traveled to Durham and Chapel Hill.

In his time at NC State, Everett Case’s resume is like no other.  He won 379 games, six Southern Conference Championships, four Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, and seven Dixie Classics.  During his career the ACC named Case as its Coach of the Year three times.  Through all those accomplishments, he brought big-time basketball to North Carolina and the South.

Afterword from the Editor

In searching for images to illustrate this post, I’ve discovered that Hugh Morton images for the Dixie Classic and from the early years of the ACC Tournament are sparse.  The earliest identified Dixie Classic negatives date from 1957 through 1959, while those depicting the ACC Tournament images date from 1958.  Earlier images may exist, but the dates are uncertain.  In fact, 1950s college basketball negatives by Morton are a relative scarcity.  Many negatives listed in the finding aid for this decade are broadly categorized, such as “Old basketball negatives” or (take a deep breath . . . ) “College basketball, various (North Carolina State University vs. William & Mary, George Washington vs. William & Mary, North Carolina State University, Wake Forest, Greensboro, Maryland, other unidentified teams), 1940s-early 1950s.”  Perhaps one day we’ll be able to sort out the images with a bit more specificity.—Stephen

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.

Billy Graham at “Singing on the Mountain,” 1962

It was one year ago today, Wednesday, February 21, 2018, that we received the sad news that America’s Pastor, Rev. William Franklin (Billy) Graham, Jr. had passed away at 7:46 that morning.  On this first anniversary of his passing, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard remembers one of his record-breaking gatherings in his native Tar Heel state.

Billy Graham, portrait by Hugh Morton, 1962.

Billy Graham, portrait by Hugh Morton, August 5, 1962.

It was Saturday, November 19, 1949…a gathering of 57,500 football fans packed Duke Stadium in Durham for the 36th meeting between Duke and UNC. That game would go into the sports history books as one of the greatest in the Carolina – Duke series and the 57,500 fans made up the largest crowd in North Carolina history. That record would stand for almost thirteen years.

Then, on Sunday, August 5, 1962, a new record was set at Grandfather Mountain at the 38th annual “Singing on the Mountain.”  Monday’s headline on the Greensboro Daily News read, “150,000 Hear Billy Graham.”  Before the program began, Hugh Morton, the main promoter for the event, spoke with reporters and said that North Carolina Highway Patrolman Sgt. M. S. Parvin had estimated the crowd at 150,000 and added that “there was a traffic jam from Marion to Blowing Rock,” about 50 miles in length.

Normally, the annual all-day gospel sing and fellowship at MacRae Meadows is held in June, but in 1962 the date was changed to August in order to have Rev. Billy Graham as the featured speaker.

In the early morning hours of August 5th, threatening clouds gathered before the program began. About an hour before Dr. Graham was to speak, however, the program began with a gospel sing led by Cliff Barrows, music and program director of the Billy Graham evangelistic team. Gospel singer Joe Emerson, along with Lulu Belle and Scotty also performed. Master of Ceremonies Arthur Smith and his Crossroads Quartet also sang during the hour-long musical part of the program. A photographic memento was presented to 91-year-old Joe Hartley, founder and chairman of “Singing on the Mountain.”  Then, as Dr. Graham stepped up to the platform that had been built around a large rock, a few rumbles of thunder could be heard. But the rain held off until later in the day after Graham had finished his sermon.

Billy Graham at the podium

Billy Graham at the podium during the “Singing on the Mountain” gospel festival at Grandfather Mountain, NC, August 5, 1962.

Dr. Graham was impressed by the size of the crowd saying it was the greatest crowd of its type he had ever seen, even exceeding the one he addressed at Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa; and he related a story of how Hugh Morton had taken him to the top of Grandfather Mountain to view the thousands who were camping out on the sides of the mountain as well as in the meadow below. Many of them had been there for days. He then talked about the excellent amplification system that carried his voice to all those gathered as well as the fifty-plus radio stations across the southeastern United States that broadcasted the service.

Graham began his message by saying, “I want you to stop what you are doing and listen. Many people have made long trips to this mountain today to hear the word of God, and we do not want anything to distract from the message.”

In 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union were in the ninth year of what would be called the “Cold War,” and Dr. Graham included his thoughts as part of his Grandfather Mountain sermon.  “Today the cross of Christianity faces the hammer and sickle of communism.” But Dr. Graham said the only ideology in the world that has any possibility of stopping the spread of communism is dedicated Christianity.  He added, “I am convinced that we may not have war but the whole world could conceivably become communist.”  He then added: “The future of the world does not lie with communism. Time is not on their side. The future of the world lies with the kingdom of God. Time is on God’s side.”

When Dr. Graham had completed his presentation, many in the vast audience took time to ponder his message. Then, the thousands started the long journey down the mountain, creating what could likely be called the largest traffic jam in North Carolina history.  All had been a part of a history-making event.

Singing on the Mountain traffic August 1962

Traffic, likely on the way to or leaving “Singing on the Mountain” gospel festival at Grandfather Mountain, NC on August 5, 1962.