A View or Two of Hugh

Note from Elizabeth: In honor of what would have been Hugh Morton’s 89th birthday today, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard wanted to offer this tribute to Morton’s life and work.

Hugh Morton has been called the dean of North Carolina photographers. During his career he  photographed 11 Presidents of the United States, the Queen of England, the future King of England, dozens of governors, senators, congressional representatives, generals, movie stars and ordinary folks.  His work appeared in national magazines…Life, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, and Collier’s.P081_NTBR0_003101
For almost 70 years he was a fixture on the sidelines of Kenan Stadium and courtside at Woollen, Carmichael, and the Smith Center.  From Justice to Jordan . . . McKinney to McCauley . . . Weiner to Worthy . . . he was there and he photographed what he saw. His sports photography can be found on magazine covers, post cards, calendars, bubblegum cards, the facade in the west end of Kenan Stadium, and tabletops in Lenoir Hall.  His classic shot of Charlie Justice leaving the field at Kenan for the final time has “become” a statue on the UNC Campus. That list could go on.

Along the way he photographed the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the World Series, the Final Four and the Kentucky Derby, as well as Democratic National Conventions and NASA space shots.

His photographs of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Arnold Palmer, Mia Hamm, Bill Dudley, Catfish Hunter, Billy Joe Patton, and Dale Earnhardt are just part of his sports portfolio. That list could go on as well.

Dr. William Friday introduced Hugh Morton at a Charlotte gathering of UNC alumni and friends in November of 2004 as “a  man who can move battleships, make Grandfather Mountain the greatest attraction in the world . . . (and) defy the federal government and build a viaduct around the mountain.” The May-June, 1941 issue of Carolina Magazine called him “Rembrandt with a camera.” CBS News Correspondent Charles Kuralt once compared his work to that of Van Gogh.

The manner in which Hugh Morton lived his life defined the term “public service.” Again, in the eloquent words of Dr. William Friday;

“His good works were many, and the great joy of his life, after his family, was his camera and those thousands of moments he captured that help us all define ourselves and our great state and nation. He was a true patriot.”

P081_NTBS4_003090Hugh Morton’s place in history is secure and I choose to believe he is looking down on us today, his 89th birthday, as we work with the photographs and films that have become his legacy. So, if I may, let me close with Dr. Friday’s words from June 9, 2006 as he concluded his eulogy at Hugh’s memorial service at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro.
“We shall remember, old friend, we shall always remember.”


— Jack Hilliard

15 thoughts on “A View or Two of Hugh”

  1. Thank you, Jack, for that lovely tribute to Hugh. He would probably have replied that he had been “over-introduced”.
    Regards, Julia

  2. You’re right, Julia. I recall that beautiful November afternoon in 2004 when we dedicated Johnpaul Harris’ magnificent statue of Charlie Justice. UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour introduced Hugh by calling him “Mr. North Carolina.” Hugh’s first words: “Dick, you just over introduced me. There are a lot of folks up here that know better than that.”

  3. On this day five years ago, June 9, 2006, a celebration took place at Greensboro’s First Presbyterian Church. It was a gathering of 850 people, including North Carolina’s Governor, two former governors, the president of the UNC system and three predecessors, Tar Heel basketball legends Dean Smith and Phil Ford, then football coach John Bunting, “Voice of the UNC Tar Heels” Woody Durham, ACC Commissioner John Swofford, and former New York Yankee manager Clyde King, all gathered to celebrate the life of Hugh Morton. At Morton’s request it was a happy occasion and the hymns and scriptures brought to mind Morton’s love of the North Carolina outdoors…”America the Beautiful,” and Psalm 121 (“I lift up my eyes unto the hills…”). The flowers decorating the church included azaleas to symbolize his love for his native Wilmington and the festival that he help start in 1948.
    During his eulogy, Dr. William Friday said “(Morton) walked through life with humility, a good man symbolizing the Greatest Generation.” Friday described several of Hugh’s famous photographs and added that “they’ll be available in the Hugh Morton Collection in the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.”
    Patrick Murphy, organist and church music director, closed the service with “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

  4. During the 1992 football season, UNC’s athletic department invited a guest columnist to write an essay for each of the six home football game programs. On October 17th, for the UNC vs. Virginia game, the guest was Hugh Morton. He began his essay with the following quote:
    “When you leaf through a publication and see a Carolina sports picture that you made 50 years ago, there’s a voice that seems to be saying ‘you are over the hill.’ That voice has been talking to me frequently in recent days, yet there is real delight in being a survivor, and being able to look back at the long list of sports personalities you have photographed and known.”
    The voice may have told Morton that he was over the hill, but that was not the case. He would photograph UNC sports for 13 more years.
    On this day six years ago, June 1, 2006, Hugh Morton passed away at his Grandfather Mountain home. Today, we have the honor of looking back at the body of work Hugh left us. It’s all in the North Carolina Collection at UNC’s Wilson Library.
    Hugh Morton would have been in his 91st year today.

  5. I choose to believe that Hugh Morton is spending some special time with his dear friend Andy Griffith today. Griffith passed away this morning about 7 o’clock. He was 86 years old.
    In a interview in July of 1982, Hugh Morton talked about his long-time friendship with Andy Griffith.
    “I’ve known Andy for right at 30 years. We’ve been good friends right through it.” Morton then related a story about how in 1953 he needed an entertainer for a banquet at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill. “Someone suggested a UNC grad student who was active in the Carolina Playmakers.” So Morton hired the student for $25. The student was Andrew Griffith, and on that night he performed his now famous routine “What It Was, Was Football.” The crowd loved the performance, and within a few weeks the routine was recorded by Chapel Hill record producer Orville Campbell. Griffith was on his way to Broadway, movies and then to TV.
    Andy Griffith will be missed, especially by his North Carolina friends, but will be remembered by all as a North Carolina treasure.

  6. As I put out my flag this morning on this Veterans Day 2012, I couldn’t help but think of my dear friend Hugh Morton and his distinguished service during World War II.
    During recent times, we have lost so many veterans from that Greatest Generation. My concern is that I don’t see quality people stepping up to fill those positions.

  7. Eighty Seven years ago today, the state of North Carolina was given a treasure. On June 1, 1926, Andy Griffith was born in Mount Airy.
    Seven years ago today, the state of North Carolina lost a treasure. On June 1, 2006, Hugh Morton passed away at his home in Linville.
    Griffith and Morton were special friends, and, although they’re no longer with us, what they have left behind is truly special.
    Andy Griffith and Hugh Morton are two of the good guys who, in the words of Dr. William Friday: “We Shall Remember…We Shall Always Remember.”

  8. It was always a thrill to pick up the phone and hear the voice on the other end say, “Hello Jack, it’s your friend Hugh Morton.” My friend…yes, my very special friend, Hugh Morton. He passed away 8 years ago today on June 1, 2006. At the time of his death, the media folks called him a man of high character…a North Carolina treasure…a public servant of the highest order. When something needed to be done, Hugh Morton stepped up and made it happen.
    On June 6, 1996, he was presented the North Caroliniana Society Award for outstanding service to his state. On that occasion his friend Charles Kuralt offered this tribute:
    “Hugh Morton is North Carolina’s greatest promoter—always, however, of things that ought to be celebrated: the natural wonder of his mountain, the flaming beauty of Wilmington’s azaleas. Or of things that ought to be saved: the Battleship North Carolina, the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras. Or of things that ought to be changed: the laws which permitted disfiguring development on the mountain ridges, the laws which permit acid rain to fall, the constitution prohibition against our governors from succeeding themselves in office. Our famous promoter never promotes himself.”
    Those media guys back in 2006 were right on all counts. He was indeed a man of high character…a North Carolina treasure…and a public servant of the highest order.
    Hugh MacRae Morton set a standard for living his life so high that most of us will never come close to reaching it… no matter how hard we try.

  9. Eleven years ago this evening, the University of North Carolina lost a dear friend… and so did many of us. Hugh Morton passed away at his home at Grandfather Mountain. It was June 1, 2006, a day most of us will never forget.
    Morton family friend, Dr. William Friday, said it best at Hugh’s memorial service:
    “June First was a beautiful day up at Grandfather. A gentle breeze was blowing and nature was all about. As the sun went down on the Southern slope, a calm fell over the land, and Hugh slipped peacefully away from us all…
    “We shall remember old friend, we shall always remember.”

  10. It was 14 years ago today, June 1, 2006, that Hugh Morton passed away.

    I believe Hugh would be pleased at the way Stephen Fletcher and his team have cared for his magnificent collection of photographs.

    The man who pioneered the selection of All-America football teams, Legendary Walter Camp, was asked one time what it takes to make an All-America football player? His answer, “A 65-yard-run and a poet in the press box.” If I may, I would add a short phrase to Camp’s classic quote. “…and an artist with a camera on the sideline.” Hugh Morton was that artist for many Tar Heel All-Americas for more than 60 years.

    Rest in peace, Hugh, we admire your work every day.

  11. It was 15 years ago last evening that we lost Hugh Morton to esophageal cancer…a cruel disease that limited his ability to speak near the end of his life.

    Thanks to the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library on the UNC campus, the photographic images that Hugh captured during his 85 years continue to speak volumes about his life and legacy.

    So, in the words of Hugh’s dear friend Dr. William Friday:
    “We shall remember old friend, we shall always remember.”

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