“The Last American Hero”

Junior Johnson at the Mile High Swinging Bridge

Junior Johnson posed in front of the Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain. This photograph was part of the exhibition titled, “Do You Recognize These Grandfather Mountain Visitors?” seen below.

“He is a coon hunter, a rich man, an ex-whiskey runner, a good old boy who hard-charged Stock cars 175 mph…he is the lead-footed-chicken-farmer from Rhonda…the true vision of the New South.” —Tom Wolfe in Esquire, March 1965

On December 20, 2019, America lost its “last hero.” Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson lost his battle with Alzheimer’s at age 88. Over the years, Johnson crossed paths with photographer Hugh Morton a few times. Morton included a picture of Johnson in his 1988 book “Making a Difference in North Carolina” and also his 2003 book “Hugh Morton’s North Carolina.” On this day, one month after his passing, Morton Collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back at the life and times of a NASCAR legend.

Junior Johnson visiting Grandfather Mountain exhibition

Junior Johnson visiting Grandfather Mountain exhibition, circa 1996. A news article in the August 13, 1996 issue of the Johnson City Press about the exhibition’s recent opening provides a “no sooner than” circa date for this portrait of Johnson.

I remember hearing my dear friend the late Charlie Harville talk about having breakfast with Junior and Flossie Johnson on race days in Ingle Hollow. It was a tradition for media personnel to stop by and join racers, crews, and car owners for bacon, eggs and grits. Afterward, all would go down the road to the track where Junior Johnson entered his first race—a 100-miler—at age 16, in 1947 at the North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Johnson finished second that day; six years later, he set up a race team in 1953.  Johnson began his full-time NASCAR career in 1955, winning five races and finishing sixth in the Grand National points race. In 1956, Junior was caught firing up his dad’s moonshine still and became entangled in a barbed wire fence while trying to escape. The conviction that followed put Johnson on a forced eleven-month, three-day sentence that took him away from NASCAR. (Johnson always made it a point of pride that the federal agents never caught him on the highway).

Once back at the track, Johnson continued winning. By 1959 he was considered a master at “short-track-racing.” In 1960, he got his first “superspeedway” win at the Daytona 500. Johnson made an important discovery while preparing for that race. He and his crew chief Ray Fox were trying to figure out how to increase their speed and during a test run at the track, Johnson noticed that when he moved in close behind a faster car his speed would also increase due to the faster car’s “slipstream.” Following that Daytona win, other drivers picked up Junior’s technique and the term “drafting” became a NASCAR tradition that continues today.

When Johnson retired as a driver following the 1966 season, he had fifty wins—eleven at major speedways. He then became one of the most successful crew chiefs and car owners in NASCAR history. He teamed with drivers including Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott, and Darrell Waltrip, among others. In all, his drivers won 139 races, which included six Winston Cup Championships: three with Waltrip and three with Yarborough. Darrell Waltrip said on December 21, 2019 on his Twitter account: “He became my boss and made me a champion. I loved that man. God Bless Jr. and his family. You were the greatest.”

North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inductees 1982.

North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inductees for 1982: (left to right) Glen E. (Ted) Mann, sports information director at Duke University; Wake Forest footballer Red O’Quinn, who played in the National Football League and the Canadian Football League; David Thompson, North Carolina State basketball player who went on to play in the American Basketball Association and the National Basketball Association; and Junior Johnson.

On September 15, 1982 Junior Johnson was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Gardner-Webb College in Shelby, North Carolina. Photographer Hugh Morton was there that night when Master of Ceremonies Jim Thacker introduced Pat Preston, who in turned made the formal induction speech for Johnson. Morton’s picture of the hall’s Class of 1982 is in his 1988 book, Making a Difference in North Carolina, on page 160.

A little over three years later, on the day after Christmas in 1985, Junior Johnson received a full and unconditional pardon from President Ronald Reagan for his 1956 conviction in federal court for moonshining.

In 1991 Johnson was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and seven years later he was honored as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest.

In 2004, he joined Michael Jordan, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Richard Petty and Charlie Justice by having a stretch of highway named in his honor. An 8.5-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 421 from the Yadkin and Wilkes County line to the Windy Gap exit is named the “Junior Johnson Highway.” And he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.

It was May of 2007 when Johnson teamed with Piedmont Distillers of Madison, North Carolina to introduce a moonshine product called Midnight Moon. Johnson became part owner of Piedmont Distillers, the only legal distiller in North Carolina at the time. Midnight Moon followed the Johnson family’s generations-old tradition of making moonshine—every batch produced in an authentic copper still and handcrafted in small batches. The ‘shine is a legal version of his famous family recipe, and is available in eight varieties that range from 70 to 100 proof. Junior described his moonshine as “Smoother than vodka. Better than whiskey. Best ‘shine ever.”

It seems as though everybody who knew Junior Johnson has a favorite “Junior” story. Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer columnist, shared this story on twitter last month:

“NASCAR writer Tom Higgins once told me that Junior…was asked in the ‘70s if he ever went to the GM engineers for help. ‘Naw, but sometimes they come to me,’ he said.”

Greensboro News & Record columnist Ed Hardin added this story in the paper on December 21:

We were in Rockingham back in the late ‘80s, and a group of writers had followed Junior out to his pickup. Along the way, he stopped to sign autographs and pose for pictures. . . . When we finally got there, he reached into the bed and dragged a cooler down to the tailgate. Inside was a big pickle jar filled with cherries floating in a clear liquid. . . . And to this day, I remember Junior looking at me and giving me words of advice I still pass on to folks not accustomed to North Carolina cherries from Ingle Hollow.

‘Son,’ he said, ‘don’t eat two.”

Finally, Hugh Morton, in his 2003 book, Hugh Morton’s North Carolina, (on page 185) says this about the “Last American Hero”:

. . . if you go to a race or a car show and are able to obtain Johnson’s autograph in indelible ink on the lid of a quart fruit jar, you have a priceless souvenir.

Rest in Peace, Junior Johnson. You will be missed.

“Save Old Main”

As is often the case with Hugh Morton photographs, a single image that seems straightforward enough turns out to have a more involved story.  Such is the case with today’s post. Looking for any photographs made during the month of January led me to two sets of images: six color slides and six 120 format black-and-white negatives—and a larger story.

In 1921, the North Carolina legislature appropriated $75,000 for the construction of a new building for the Cherokee Indian Normal School of Robeson County.  Completed in 1923, the building housed twelve classrooms, two offices, four toilets, a large auditorium that seated several hundred, and a “picture booth” on the upper floor.  Though funded by a state appropriation, the building took on a symbolic link to the Lumbee community’s efforts to sustain the school from its origin as the Croatan Normal School that opened in 1887. Over the course of time, the building became known as “Old Main.” Local newspaper accounts in which the name starts to appear suggest around 1952, but perhaps even sooner after the addition of two new buildings, Sampson Hall and Locklear Hall, in 1949 and 1950.

Old Main, Pembroke State University

Old Main, Pembroke State University (now University of North Carolina at Pembroke), January 1972.

Reflecting the Lumbee’s complex history, the school experienced many name changes during the 20th Century: first, in 1911, the Indian Normal School of Robeson County, and then in 1913, the Cherokee Indian Normal School of Robeson County, which it retained until 1941 when it became Pembroke State College for Indians.  In 1949 the name was shortened to Pembroke State College, and then Pembroke State University in 1971. In October of that year, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation that enlarged the statewide university system to include all four-year state-supported institutions of higher education.  Thus Pembroke State University became part of the University of North Carolina system effective July 1972.

In July 1970, Old Main stood in disrepair. The university included in its capital improvement requests to the Advisory Budget Committee, as a priority, a replacement auditorium to cost $1.6 million. Approved in January 1971, Old Main became earmarked for demolition. A petition drive led by Daniel Dial to spare the building, however, gathered 1,000 Lumbee signatures by mid December 1971. Dial told a news reporter for The Robesonian, “People sign it weeping.  People want to sign it, beg to sign it.”  The petition’s wording was:

Let us preserve our heritage and our legacy. OLD MAIN on the Campus of Pembroke State University is the last monument to our humble yet very historic beginning,  Historic buildings are preserved all over this land and we should show this much concern for ours. We are a proud people and OLD MAIN has helped keep us so. Please sign this sheet to show your loyalty.”

Dial anticipated the collection of 10,000 signatures.  The effort drew national attention.

Save Old Main demonstrators

Photograph of the Save Old Main demonstrators at Pembroke State University, January 12, 1972. Photograph by Dolores Briggs, The Robesonian, January 13, 1972, page 1.

On Wednesday, January 12, 1972, about two dozen people carried protest signs in front of the building, chanting “Save—Old—Main.” Inside, Hugh Morton gave a noontime campaign speech at the invitation of the Student Governance Association.  Morton had officially entered the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial primary race six weeks earlier on December 1.

News article Hugh Morton campaigning at Pembroke

Detail of an article on Hugh Morton’s January 12, 1972 campaign speech at Pembroke State University (in The Robesonian, January 13, 1972, page 2).

On that Wednesday evening, Danford Dial met with the Pembroke Jaycees “to discuss what constructive plans can be made for the preservation of Old Main building on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. By that time, The Robesonian reported, Dial had obtained signatures from “some 7,000” supporters who favored keeping the building in lieu of the proposed demolition. Dial noted that demonstrations would continue and would be “on a much larger scale.” The Robesonian‘s coverage from this period suggests January 12 may have been the first day of demonstrations.  The newspaper caption for the group photograph above states, “Some 100 members of the Eastern Carolina Indian Association are expected to join in a second demonstration at 3 p. m. today.” In less than two weeks, the topic became part of the statewide political fray. Come May, Shirley Chisholm would visit the campus as part of her presidential campaign and speak from the steps of Old Main.

I’m not a politician. I’m trying to be one, but I’m not one yet.

Morton stated during his campaign speech that he was not yet a politician, but that he was trying to be one.  He certainly was a photographer, and as you would expect Morton made several exposures outside Old Main.  Surviving in the collection are six black-and-white 120 format negatives and six 35mm color slides. If my extrapolation from the photographic caption text published in the January 13th issue of The Robesonian is correct—that is, the second demonstration would be happening “today,” thus making the previous day’s demonstration on the 12th the first demonstration—then Hugh Morton captured scenes of the first day of the Save Old Main demonstrations on film, both in color and in black-and-white.

Four of the color images are already in the online collection of Morton photographs. The two that are not online are variant views of Old Main; the black-and-white images, however, have not been viewable online before this blog post.

Save Old Main demonstrators at Pembroke color slide

“Save Old Main” demonstrators, including Danford Dial (front left) at Pembroke State University, 12 December 1972.

Save Old Main demonstrators black-and-white

One of two of Hugh Morton’s black-and-white negatives made of the Save Old Main demonstrators, January 12, 1972. Please leave a comment below if you can identify others in the photograph.

Dr. English E. Jones, Pembroke State University.

Dr. English E. Jones, president and then chancellor of Pembroke State University from 1962 to 1979.

In addition to the two black-and-white negatives shown above (but not shown here), Morton photographed himself with Dr. English E. Jones, president and then chancellor of the university from 1962 to 1979.  He also photographed Jones alone twice, as he did in color (one of which is in the online collection). The sixth black-and-white is a variant of the above group of demonstrators.

Morton with Save Old Main leaders February 10 1972

Photograph of Hugh Morton meeting with members of the Save Old Main movement on February 10, 1972, published in following day’s issue of The Robesonian.

On January 27, The Robesonian published a statement issued to the newspaper by Morton:

I feel the same about the Old Main building as I do about the governor’s mansion. If it is practical and feasible to save it and make it useful, I would certainly like to see it preserved. I don’t personally know enough about its current condition to know the answer.

Morton also stated that he had not been invited to speak again to students at Pembroke, but would be glad to do so if asked. He also noted that he planned to visit Lumberton two or three more times. Two weeks later on February 10, 1972 Morton met with a group of Save Old Main leaders at the Old Foundry Restaurant. The Robesonian news story on February 11 about his visit quoted a Morton statement, which reads as an enhancement and refinement of his earlier statement:

Old Main is very much in the same category as the governor’s mansion. It is a beautiful and beloved building which should be preserved if it is at all possible. I hope that an alternative site can be obtained for the proposed new building in order that further architectural investigation can be made into the feasibility of saving and utilizing Old Main.

A week later, Morton withdrew from the political race. The preservation race to save Old Main, however, continued.  In July the university’s board of trustees approved relocation of the new auditorium to a parcel of land previously condemned. On March 18, 1973, an arsonist set Old Maid ablaze—a potential major setback that actually turned the tide in the building’s favor. Governor James Holshouser went to the campus that evening and pledged his support to restore Old Main. A year later a restoration plan was in hand. In 1976, the building gained acceptance onto the National Register of Historic Places. Old Main, completely rebuilt, reopened in 1979. Currently it is home to several occupants, including the Museum of the Southeast American Indian, the Department of American Indian Studies, and the student newspaper, The Pine Needle.

A sentimental journey and V2H times remembered

Jack Hilliard, frequent contributor as a Hugh Morton collection volunteer, reflects on his eleven years of writing blog posts for A View to Hugh. As we approach the end of the year, he looks back to see just how far we have come since he started as a volunteer with the Hugh Morton collection in December of 2008. As it turned out, that first post was based on an event that Hugh Morton didn’t attend—although, at the time, we thought he did. Weather conditions prevented Morton from getting to the 1947 Sugar Bowl game. Since we couldn’t find Morton pictures from the game, we did a brief look at the 50th reunion trip. That first post was titled, “The Tar Heel are Going Bowling…Again.”  Now—11 years and 141 blog posts later—Jack looks back at that reunion and his first “V2H” post from December 22, 2008.

Christmas card from Justices

As WFMY-TV photojournalist George Vaughn and I stood on the loading platform at the Greensboro train station at 11:30 AM, Tuesday, December 31, 1996 watching the 22-car Norfolk-Southern train pull out of sight, I remembered the Christmas card that I received from Charlie and Sarah Justice in mid-December that had a hand-written-note from Sarah telling me that Charlie would be a participant at the coin-toss before the 1997 Sugar Bowl game in the Louisiana Superdome. It was all part of the 50th anniversary trip for the 1947 UNC Sugar Bowl team. As car number 8 passed by our position, Charlie and Sarah Justice were at the window waving to their many friends and fans.

Greensboro News & Record feature writer Jim Schlosser was on the same platform covering the event. He did an interview with Hugh Morton who said, “Just like Michael Jordan is the most exciting basketball player I ever saw, Charlie Justice was the most exciting football player.”  Schlosser’s headline on January 1st read, “Choo Choo, Team Make Tracks for Sugar Bowl.”

Note from Gus Purcell

Vaughn’s videotape of the Tar Heels leaving Greensboro played back on the WFMY-TV evening news and I sent copies of the report to Morton, UNC All America Art Weiner, and 1946 Tar Heel Gus Purcell. I received thank you notes from all three and Morton and Purcell sent me pictures. I mentioned Morton’s letter in a post on November 4, 2015 titled, “A Game Fit to be Tied.”

Ninety UNC players, team managers, wives and special guests of the 1947 Sugar Bowl team would meet up with about 40 members of the ’47 Georgia Sugar Bowl team. Of course, Morton was one of those special guests.

The 50-yard-line, pre-game coin toss ceremony on January 2, 1997 included UNC’s Charlie Justice and 1946 UNC Co-Captain Ralph Strayhorn. Representing Georgia was their great All-America back Charley Trippi and 1946 Assistant Coach Bill Hartman.

A similar train had left from that same train station on December 21, 1946 and snaked south past the swamps and bayous of South Louisiana, headed for the same for the same “Big Easy” destination. That 13th annual Sugar Bowl game was played in cloudy, misty weather, in Tulane Stadium. It was a great game, played by two great teams, with memorable players making memorable plays—two of which were questionable. But when it was all over the two stars of the game sought out each other near midfield, and as Fred Russell describes in his 1963 book Big Bowl Football, (page 181) the conversation went like this: “Nice going, Charley, you’re a great back,” said Justice, as he clasped Georgia’s All America halfback Charley Trippi’s hand. Said Trippi, “thanks, that’s very nice of you, and I really think the same of you.” As the two All-America players stood shaking hands, the 75,000 in attendance stood and cheered the good display of sportsmanship.

Note from Hugh Morton

Fifty years to the date the two would meet again in New Orleans at the ‘97 pregame party and this time Hugh Morton would take the “two Charlies” picture that weather had prevented him from taking in ’47. We explained that weather situation in a post on December 28, 2012 titled “A(nother) Morton Mystery Solved.”

Morton note 2 Charlies

The 1997 Sugar Bowl was televised by ABC-TV Sports, but none of the estimated 25 million plus viewers got to see that pregame ceremony conducted by referee Randy Christal of the Big 12 Conference. Viewers did, however, get an extremely brief glimpse as they saw Strayhorn, Justice, and Morton walk behind the broadcast position as play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson, and analysts Bob Griese, and Lynn Swann did their pregame report. I remember how disappointed I was. I sent former Tar Heel and Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan a note the day after the game and he put me in touch with Sugar Bowl Media Relations. Joe Scheuermann sent me a tape of the ceremony, a treasured keepsake that I still have. Another treasured item from the reunion is a book prepared by artist Harold Styers titled Hark the Sound: A Time Remembered and a Sentimental Journey.

Hark The Sound cover

When the train arrived on Wednesday, January 1, 1997 at its location next door to the Superdome, Tar Heel end Bob Cox was interviewed by the Associated Press. He described the 1946 trip saying, “It was a great time. The War was over and we were all so hopeful.”  We did a A View to Hugh profile of Bob Cox profile on September 19, 2019 titled “The Amazing Resume of Robert Vinsant Cox.”

Following that opening ceremony, the 63rd Sugar Bowl game between the Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles played out before 78,344 fans in the Louisiana Superdome—a Gators win 52 to 20.

The group returned to the Greensboro train station on January 4, 1997 with lots of stories to tell. 1946 UNC co-captain Ralph Strayhorn said, “This reunion trip, there’s absolutely no losing.” We have profiled Strayhorn in a Morton web site post on June 6, 2017 titled “Always on Call for His Alma Mater.” The post included two images from the Sugar Bowl reunion.

The 1946 UNC Tar Heel football team made a monumental step forward in Carolina football history and fifty years after they took a Sentimental Journey back in time.  The Chairman of the 1947 Sugar Bowl 50th anniversary was 1946 center, #63, Joe Neikirk. He made it happen. I hope to do his profile for a V2H post in 2020.

Hugh Morton retrospective at Blowing Rock Art & History Museum

Winter Exhibition Celebration 2019

Announcement card for the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum’s Winter Exhibition Celebration.

It’s been incredibly busy so I am a bit behind in announcing that the exhibition Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective is now showing at the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum through February 22, 2020. The museum’s Winter Exhibition Celebration takes place on Friday, December 13 from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. If you haven’t yet seen the exhibition, I hope you can make your way to Blowing Rock to see it.  The musuem is the ninth venue to exhibit the retrospective since its debut in Boone at Appalachian State University’s Turchin Center for the Visual Arts six years ago on August 27, 2013.

Why, you might wonder, has it been so busy here in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives? Well among several other things, the thousands of Morton negatives selected for the first phase of a preservation digitization project have been returned from the vendor—along with 1.7 terabytes of image files.  This topic will be a “Behind the Scenes” blog post for 2020.

A certain “electricity” in the air

When Carolina played its 2019 home opener on September 7th against Miami, there was a certain “electricity” in the air…Head Football Coach Mack Brown was back…the Heels had beaten South Carolina the weekend before and expectations were high. While the feeling was a bit unusual in Chapel Hill, it wasn’t unique. A similar event took place on November 8, 1997, and Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look back 22 years ago today.

I remember in a 1973 conversation I had with UNC Legend Charlie Justice how excited he was recalling the famous 1948 UNC – Texas game. “People in ten-gallon hats and flashing big money showed up on Franklin Street as early as Thursday before the big Saturday game on September 25th. Tickets were being bought and sold for more than a hundred dollars…big money in those days. There was an excitement in the air…kinda’ like ‘electricity.’ If you were in Chapel Hill for the ’48 Texas game, you will always remember it.”

I was not in Chapel Hill for that big game celebration in 1948, but when I came into Chapel Hill on the afternoon of November 8, 1997 for the Carolina – Florida State game, I sensed what Justice was talking about.

In the early afternoon, Franklin Street was crowded with fans from each team. This time tickets were selling for as much as $500. One downtown merchant was quoted as saying, “I think this is the biggest sporting event this town has ever seen.”

In the southeast corner of Kenan Memorial Stadium, ESPN’s “Game Day” team of Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, and Kirk Herbstreit was set to send the game out across the nation. Major publications like USA Today and The New York Times were represented in the press box along with Sports Illustrated. NFL scouts were there in abundance as were guys in Orange jackets representing the Orange Bowl.  Woody Durham and Mick Mixon were in place for the Tar Heel Sports Network. And of course, photographer Hugh Morton was in his place along the Tar Heel sideline.

By late afternoon, Franklin Street looked a lot like it does after a big basketball win. The gray skies and mild temps made for perfect football weather as the 7:30 kickoff approached. The Florida State Seminoles, undefeated under head coach Bobby Bowden, were ranked second in the country while the undefeated Tar Heels were ranked fifth.  The newspaper headline above the masthead of Carolina Blue on November 8 simply said: “TITANS COLLIDE AT KENAN.”

Carolina Blue cover

Cover of the November 8, 1997 issue of Carolina Blue.

Then, just before the start of the game, a very light mist fell on the 62,000 who had jammed into Kenan Stadium.  It didn’t last long, however, and all was in order for the game. Newly elected Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford greeted both head coaches just prior to the kickoff.  When the clock said 7:30 PM, they began to play the game. Soon, the Seminoles pulled the plug on all that “electricity” from a week of hype and excitement.

Florida State quarterback Busby

Eleven minutes into the game, Florida State had its first score, an eight yard pass from quarterback Thad Busby to tight end Melvin Pearsall.  Then at the 4:27 mark of the second quarter it was Busby again—this time a fourteen-yard pass to wide receiver E.G. Green. And just seconds before the end of the first half, Sebastian Janikowski kicked a thirty-two-yard field goal that made the halftime score 17 to 0.

During the halftime break, Coach Bowden told his offensive coaches if Carolina didn’t score on its first drive of the second half, concentrate on the running game and eat some clock. The Tar Heels did not score on its first drive.  The teams traded field goals during the remainder of the second half, making the final score 20 to 3.  Florida State’s dominance was reflected in the final stats. The Seminoles finished the game with 334 net yards of offense with 19 first downs compared to Carolina’s 73 and 7.

North Carolina running back Dré Bly

North Carolina defensive back Dré Bly, most likely during one of his four punt returns in the game.

After the two head coaches shook hands at midfield, Coach Bowden turned and walked toward the southeast corner of the stadium where many of the Seminole fans were standing. Just then the Florida State band struck up Happy Birthday, as Bowden waved to the crowd. He had turned 67 on this day in Chapel Hill.

Coach Brown in his post-game news conference said, “I thought the week was a win. All the attention will really help our program. It will help in recruiting. Even though we lost tonight we’ll gain a whole lot out of this.”

The Tar Heels fell from fifth in both national polls to eighth in the AP Media Poll and ninth in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll.  Florida State jumped to number one in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll and remained number two in the AP Media Poll.

As the 62,000 fans filed out of Kenan Stadium that night in ’97, there were at least two who had been there in ’48: Charlie Justice and Hugh Morton. But the ’97 outcome was nothing like the one in ’48.

______________________________________________

Epilog:

Following a home win against Wake Forest on November 15th and a three-point-loss on November 22nd to Florida, Florida State finished the season 11 and 1 and a national number three ranking.  Bowden would remain the head coach at Florida State until 2009 and win a second national championship in 1999.

Carolina would close the season with a win at Clemson and a home win against Duke. They finished the season at 11 and 1 and ranked number six. Following the 1997 regular season, Mack Brown left UNC to become the head coach at Texas.  He remained there through the 2013 season, winning a BCS National Championship for the Longhorns in 2005. He returner to UNC in 2019.

Location scouting for The Last of the Mohicans

A View to Hugh marks a dozen years today.  We published our very first post on November 1, 2007.  Casting about for subject matter to mark the occasion, I took to Hugh Morton’s executive planners with hopes that he would have been up to something interesting on one of the November firsts represented within the years covered by the planners.*  Thankfully, on November 1, 1990—twenty-nine years ago—he was.

Morton planner November 1 1990

Hugh Morton’s executive planner entry for November 1, 1990: “Lin. Falls – G Mtn – Mike Bigham and Michael Mann – ‘Last of the Mohicans'”

On that day, Morton accompanied movie director Michael Mann and his North Carolina locations manager Michael Bigham on a scouting trip for Mann’s film The Last of the Mohicans. According to an October 27, 1989 article in The Asheville Citizen, Mike Bigham was a member of the Western North Carolina Film Committee.  Information surrounding Morton’s involvement with Mann’s trip for his film is limited to the above entry in Morton’s planner and the negatives Morton made during their search.  Morton’s negative envelope description is “Lost Cove Cliffs, Scouting for ‘Last of the Mohicans.'”

Hugh Morton's negatives made during location scouting.

Hugh Morton’s negatives (inverted as positives) made during the location scouting trip for The Last of the Mohicans (P0081 2.6.452-6-1). Several scenes suggest part of their trip was airborn.

Morton made two snapshot-like portraits of Mann (one can be seen at the end of this post) and one photograph as he walked on boulders just upstream from some rapids or a small waterfall.

Inspecting rapids, camera in hand.

Michael Mann walks along a stream, camera in hand.

The movie’s United States debut was on September 25, 1992 at Asheville’s Beaucatcher Cinemas.  On October 4, the city’s Sunday newspaper The Citizen-Times featured an article on the movie titled “Mohican madness.”  Written by Connie Mixson, the article explored the making of the film based upon an interview with Bigham, a UNC Chapel Hill Class of 1980 graduate.  Six years after Mohicans, Bigham would become the location manager for Patch Adams released in 1998—filmed in part on the UNC Chapel Hill campus including Wilson Library.

Mixson reported that Bigham had just finished working in Winston-Salem as the assistant locations manager for James Orr’s movie Mr. Destiny in October when he received a call from Mann’s office.  They told him to rent a copy of the 1936 black-and-white movie version of James Fenimore Cooper’s story.  Two days later Mann went to Asheville and met Bigham, “then they boarded a helicopter and scouted Western North Carolina.”  They “toured lakes in five states from the air, land and water, taking pictures . . .”  Mann selected Asheville and vicinity for his movie, set in upstate New York.  Part of the film was shot at Linville Falls.

Do you have more you can add to the story?  How did Hugh Morton become involved in the locations search?

Michael Mann during his scouting trip of the Linville River.

Michael Mann during his scouting trip of the Linville River.

  • Morton’s executive planners in the collection cover the years 1972–1978, 1981–1985, 1987, 1991–1992, 1995–1997, 2000, and 2002.

A ho-hum-season-ending-game becomes a Tar Heel thrill

On this day, October 26, 2019, Carolina’s football Tar Heels will meet Duke for the 106th time, plus it is homecoming on the UNC campus. The winner will capture the Victory Bell.

Earlier this season, when Carolina beat Miami in Kenan Stadium with masterful play in the 4th quarter, the game became one of Kenan’s greatest wins…along with the ’48 Texas win, the ’57 Navy win, and the ’63 Georgia win (among others). One of those “others” was the 1978 Duke game—Coach Dick Crum’s first encounter with the Blue Devils from Durham. What transpired that afternoon is the stuff of legends, as Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard recalls.

Famous Amos Lawrence

“Famous Amos” Lawrence rushing during the 1978 Duke versus UNC football game.

The 1978 UNC football season was head football coach Dick Crum’s first, which he would later call “a season of considerable adjustment.” The season got underway with a 14-10 win in Kenan Memorial Stadium against East Carolina. Then came three losses: Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Miami of Ohio. A win at Wake Forest on October 14 snapped the losing streak, but on October 21, rival NC State came into Chapel Hill and dominated the Heels, 34-7. Three road games followed: a win at South Carolina, followed by losses at Richmond and Clemson.

Hugh Morton joined a full house in “Death Valley” to witness a memorable game against Clemson on November 11. The Tigers were picked as an easy winner. After all, their record was 7-1 thus far in the season while Carolina was 3-6. But through the first three quarters, the Tar Heels led 9-6. Then with 9:43 on the clock in the fourth quarter, Clemson finally got its first touchdown of the game to take a 13-9 lead—a lead that lasted.

Two home games in Kenan followed the Clemson contest: Virginia on November 18 and Duke on the 25th.  A 38-20 win against UVA set the stage for the famous 1978 game against Duke. Following the Virginia win, Coach Crum reminded his team about the importance of the Duke game.  He offered a very special win-incentive, one that I choose to believe changed the outcome of the game. (More about that later.)

Saturday, November 25 was an average fall day with temperatures in the high 40s.  At historic Kenan Memorial Stadium, 45,000 fans witnessed the 65th meeting between Carolina and Duke. On the sideline was photographer Hugh Morton in his usual position. Both teams had identical 4-6 records.

The first three quarters were ho-hum, with Duke dominating play.  In the opening quarter, Carolina scored first with a Jeff Hayes field goal, then Duke followed at the 8:05 mark with a Scott McKinney field goal. McKinney added two more 3-pointers in the second quarter, and Duke led 9-3 at the half.

The third quarter was scoreless, as was most of the fourth, but with 4:20 remaining on the game clock, Duke quarterback Mike Dunn got loose on a keeper for a 29-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but Duke was in control 15 to 3. At this point many of the fans wearing light blue chose to head home. Like Woody Durham use to say, “They must be giving something away in the parking lot.”

UNC Duke score 3 to 15

But Carolina wasn’t finished. Starting at the Tar Heel 23 yard line, quarterback Matt Kupec completed six of eight passes—covering the needed seventy-seven yards in ninety-six seconds.  The final ten yards was a pass to end Bob Loomis. It was his seventh touchdown of the season, tying a record set by legendary Hall of Famer Art Weiner in 1949. Jeff Hayes converted the extra point, and cutting Duke’s lead to 15-10 with 2:46 remaining on the clock.

touchdown pass

Kupec readies his soon-to-be touchdown pass with Loomis in sight.

Carolina’s ensuing kickoff pinned Duke deep in their own territory. The Tar Heels defense held forth. They used their final two timeouts to stop the clock and forced Duke to punt. With 1:42 remaining and starting at the Carolina 39-yard-line, the Tar Heels were able to run ten plays during the next 89 seconds. During that 1:29, it was running back Amos Lawrence for 18 yards, then 4, then 21 more.  With the ball at the Duke 18, Kupec passed to end Jim Rouse who stepped out of bounds at the Duke 11.  At this point Duke lined up expecting another Kupec pass, but instead it was “Famous Amos” again who shook off tacklers and raced into the east end zone. Kupec’s pass for a 2-point conversion failed, but Carolina led 16-15 with the game clock at 13 seconds. During that final Tar Heel drive, Amos Lawrence was able to top the 1,000 yard mark for his second season in row. Following the scoring drive, the Carolina defense took over and preserved the win.

End zone celebration after scoring the winning touchdown. “Famous Amos” Lawrence is elevated by teammates in the middle of the pack. Is that the game winning ball on the left? Maybe, or it may be one in the hand of a “ball boy.”

In his post game interview, Crum said, “That was simply one great football game.”

On Thursday, March 29, 1979, Crum made the 55-minute drive from Chapel Hill to Greensboro where he was the guest speaker at the Greensboro Kiwanis Club meeting. In addition to his speech notes, he also carried with him a very special piece of memorabilia.

Spring football practice was underway in Chapel Hill, so the first part of Crum’s presentation was about those things that define spring practice…momentum, fundamentals, and recruiting. In the audience was a Kiwanian who was also a former UNC football player who understood all that spring practice stuff: Charlie Justice.

This day was Charlie’s first club meeting since his open heart surgery. Back on October 22, 1978, Justice was in Rockingham at North Carolina Motor Speedway where he was scheduled to be the Grand Marshall for the American 500 NASCAR race. But in the early morning hours he suffered chest pains and was transported to the local hospital. About three weeks later, on November 14, the legendary Tar Heel won his greatest victory: successful open heart surgery at Duke University Medical Center. He would later say, “that’s probably the best place for me to have serious surgery. . . You don’t think they would let me die on their watch, do you?”

At the Kiwanis meeting, after all was said about spring football practice and the upcoming UNC season, Crum took out a football that was signed by the 1978 UNC team members. “[In 1978], we had a season of considerable adjustment and needed a little incentive,” said Crum. “We had the Duke game coming up. If you’re not winning at Carolina you want to beat Duke to make things more peaceful in Chapel Hill for the winter. Charlie Justice was in the hospital . . . so after the Virginia game, I told the team if we beat Duke, we’d sign the ball and give it to Charlie.”

“To our players Charlie Justice is a legend.”

“You know what happened? With four minutes to go and trailing 15-3, I call the team in a huddle around me and tell them ‘we’ve got to win this one, remember, for Charlie Justice.'” Crum then called Justice to come forward and accept the game ball—the ball Famous Amos” Lawrence carried across the goal line for a victory over Duke from a ho-hum-game that became a Tar Heel thrill.

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 west 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.”

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.