There’s still a certain magic in the very name

On this day, May 18, 2014, UNC’s great All America football player, Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, would have turned 90 years old.  Justice was magical on the football field during the seasons 1946 through 1949 and that magic continued in his life after football.  He has been featured in many posts here at A View to Hugh, and currently there are ninety-nine images in the online collection of Hugh Morton photographs that include or relate to Charlie Justice.  Morton Collection volunteer and blog contributor Jack Hilliard looks at how the magic has evolved—and continues still.

A 1948 portrait of Tar Heel football star Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice in uniform at Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC.
A 1948 portrait of Tar Heel football star Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice in uniform at Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC.

When UNC’s classes of 1949 and 1950 held their respective 50th reunion celebrations in 1999 and 2000, they replicated their senior yearbooks, Yackety Yack.  As part of the yearbooks, the reunion committees sent out questionnaires and asked the question, “What experience, event, place or time during your years at Carolina brings back particularly fond memories?”  Of the 315 graduates who responded to the question, 126 mentioned the football team and 70 others mentioned Charlie Justice by name.
As part of the graduation ceremony on May 21, 2000, Charlie Justice was awarded the University’s highest honor, the degree of Doctor of Laws.  The award citation contains the following quote from Charlie’s dear friend Hugh Morton:

No person will ever know the benefits that have come to our University as the result of the loyalty which Charlie Justice kindled in thousands of our alumni.  The best thing about Charlie Justice, however, and the reason he deserves this honor, is that he has been a model citizen since college.  He has contributed his fame to hundreds of drives and worthy causes and has generally and consistently served as a wholesome example to impressionable youth.

Due to his declining health, Justice was not able to attend the graduation ceremony, but his Tar Heel teammate Paul Rizzo accepted the honor for him.
In 1999, forty-nine years after he played his final varsity game as a Tar Heel, Charlie Justice was honored as “athlete of the century at UNC,” by readers of The Daily Tar Heel.  Ten years later in 2009 he was declared the “Mount Rushmore of Tar Heel Football” by ESPN and was inducted in the inaugural class of the Southern Conference Hall of Fame.
Two days after Justice’s 70th birthday, on May 20, 1994, Ron Greene, Sr., writing in The Charlotte Observer, said, “None has worn the mantle of hero more gracefully. . . . His name remains magic.”
Thirty-seven seasons had come and gone since UNC freshman Justice led his Tar Heels over Navy 21 to 14 in Baltimore Stadium on October 19, 1946; however, when Navy came into Chapel Hill on September 15, 1984, the Midshipmen’s radio network had only one request of Carolina Sports Information Director Rick Brewer.  They wanted Charlie Justice as a halftime guest.
Hugh Morton and Ed Rankin, in their 1988 book Making a Difference in North Carolina, included the following quote from Legendary Tar Heel broadcaster Woody Durham:
“In all my associations in sports over the years, I have never known a person to wear the mantle of fame any better than Charlie Justice has. His story to me is one of the most amazing stories in all of sports when you think about the fact that it was 40 years ago when he achieved the stardom that he did, and today his name is still magic.”
Author Bob Terrell, in the 2002 edition of his Justice biography All Aboard: The fantastic story of Choo Choo Justice and the football team that put North Carolina in the big time! says, “Charlie Justice became a legend because of talent but also because of character and sportsmanship.”
In 1950, after his magical four years at Carolina, Charlie wanted to offer some kind of payback to his University, so he took a job with his friend and admirer Billy Carmichael at the North Carolina Medical Foundation.  At the time, the Foundation was raising money to complete North Carolina Memorial Hospital. (That would be accomplished the following year).  During his time at the foundation, Justice was pursued by George Preston Marshall of the Washington Redskins.  At one point Marshall offered to send Justice a signed, blank check.  “Fill in the amount,” he told Charlie.  But Justice turned down the offer, saying he owed his University.  Justice later joined the Redskins, but for a modest salary.
On the weekend before the 1979 football season kicked off, Tom Northington of the Greensboro Daily News interviewed Justice in his Greensboro office.  Justice talked about how the game had changed during the 30 years since he played his final season as a Tar Heel.
“Something is missing,” said Justice.  “Team spirit is not what it once was, there’s too much of this ‘I’ thing, too much individualism.”
When Charlie Justice scored a touchdown, there were no “look-at-me” celebrations . . . no throwing the ball into the stands . . . no dunks over the goal post—and in those days, spikes were things that fastened railroad ties.  I recall a 60-yard Justice touchdown in the 1950 College All-Star game before 88,885 fans at Soldiers’ Field in Chicago.  After he crossed the goal line, he handed the ball to the official, and then trotted back up the field to shake hands with guard Porter Payne from the University of Georgia who had thrown the block that made the play possible.
On October 18, 1986 Charlie and Sarah Justice, along with some family members and friends, were in Kenan Stadium for a sold-out NC State game. As the group walked around the stadium other friends joined in and by the time they got up to the gate, Charlie realized he was one ticket short. At that point Justice could have made one of those signs that reads “Need One,” but Charlie didn’t do that.  According to UNC General Alumni President, Doug Dibbert, Justice “could have walked into the stadium without tickets or placed a call to any number of people who would have provided him tickets, but Charlie would never want to impose upon anyone.”  So, Charlie Justice made sure that all in the group got seated in section 19B, row AAA, and he then returned to the Carolina Inn and watched the game on TV.
On September 28, 1996 the actual 50th anniversary of the beginning of the “Charlie Justice Era” at Carolina, A.J Carr of Raleigh’s News & Observer, wrote a three-page profile of Justice.  Said Carr: “He walked humbly on campus but ran historically on the football field, lifting the spirits of a school, a town, and an entire region.”
Carr interviewed then UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker who said: “There was a quality of magic about his name as I was growing up.”
In 1949, the Christian Athletes Federation honored Justice for his “humility in the face many honors.”
The 1973 football season marked the 25th anniversary of the magical Tar Heel season of 1948, a season that saw the Heels ranked number one in the country for the first and only time—an undefeated season with wins over Texas, LSU, Tennessee, and Georgia plus wins over NC State, Wake, Duke, Maryland and Virgina.  Justice and Art Weiner were consensus All America with Justice as first runner-up for the Heisman Memorial Trophy and named national player of the year, and a team invitation to the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1949 in New Orleans.
To celebrate that 25th anniversary, Ed Hodges did a Justice feature in the Durham Morning Herald on July 22nd.  In the piece, Hodges said, “he (Justice) has in some magic way interwoven the past with the present.”
Woody Durham, then Sports Director at WFMY-TV in Greensboro, presented a two-part Justice documentary on September 16th and 23rd. That program not only aired on WFMY, but was also broadcast on WRAL-TV in Raleigh.
And Ron Fimrite, writing in the October 15, 1973 issue of Sports Illustrated, described the reaction to the famous 43-yard Justice TD run in the ’48 Duke game:

(As Justice crossed the goal), a fan, in the temporary end-zone seats was so excited by the amazing run that he fell forward onto the field.  The crowd was alive, roaring, slapping each other.  Coach Snavely, normally an impassive man, rushed from the bench to grab Charlie by both shoulders and shake him. ‘Great,’ he kept saying. ‘Great.’  Charlie could hear only the cheers—‘Choo Choo, Choo Choo.  He knew then that for him they would never really stop.  And . . . they have not stopped.  They never will.

One of those 1950 graduates who responded to the revised Yackety Yack survey question back in 2000, Walter Hobson Kirk, Jr. from Durham, said it best: “Charlie Choo Choo Justice – accepting fame with honor and humility.”

19 thoughts on “There’s still a certain magic in the very name”

  1. I always wanted to go to caerolina but neveer got opporrunity. I still love rthe univeersity because of Charlie and Bill Friday. I did get to meet each of them

  2. George: Thanks. I hadn’t seen this. Remember, Jo was at UNC this late ’40s years. I have book or something that shows Choo Choo in despair on Redskins bench. He only played couple seasons there due to frequent injury.

  3. UNC’s football great, Charlie Justice, played his final game with the Washington Redskins on December 12, 1954…four months after the birth of “Sports Illustrated” magazine. That ‘54 Redskins team won only three games, so Charlie never had to deal with the “Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx.” However, on this day forty-one years ago, October 15, 1973, SI long-time writer the late Ron Femrite wrote a great nostalgic look-back article about Justice and his days at Carolina. Femrite traveled to Chapel Hill, where he rode around campus with Charlie and Sarah and talked about the “best of times.”
    The piece was so well received that “Sports Illustrated” continued to print letters-to-the-editor for three weeks following publication of the story. In fact, the story inspired a book in 1977 called, “Remembering Their Glory…Sports Heroes of the 1940s,” by James V. Young and Arthur F. McClure.

  4. On this day 64 years ago, October 22, 1950, UNC’s great All America football star Charlie Justice played his first game as a professional when the Washington Redskins played the Chicago Cardinals in Griffith Stadium in Washington, DC. An estimated 6,000 Tar Heel fans made the trip for the Justice debut.
    On this day 36 years ago, Justice was in Rockingham where he was scheduled to be the Grand Marshall at the North Carolina Motor Speedway for the American 500 NASCAR race. However, in the early morning hours of October 22, 1978, Justice experienced chest pains and was admitted to Moore (County) Memorial Hospital in Southern Pines about 7:30 AM. Attending Physician Dr. H. V. Austin determined that Justice did not have a heart attack, but indicated that he did have some heart problems. Justice had suffered a heart attack four years earlier during the UNC – Pittsburgh game on October 5, 1974.
    On November 14, 1978, Justice had by-pass surgery at Duke Hospital…it would be the first of three such surgeries he would undergo during the next 16 years.

  5. Carolina will meet Duke tonight in Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham in a nationally televised game on ESPN. On this day 66 years ago (November 20, 1948) the two teams met in Kenan Stadium in a game that some old-time Tar Heels still like to talk about. On that Saturday afternoon, Charlie Justice made one of his most famous runs. In fact, Bob Berghaus is talking about it in today’s Asheville Citizen-Times.
    One of Hugh Morton’s most reproduced images shows Justice being carried off the field after that ’48 game.

  6. When Charlie Justice played football for the University of North Carolina in the late 1940s and the Washington Redskins in the early 1950s, he brought to the game a sense of quiet dignity and respect that is almost extinct in today’s sports world. There was no “look at me celebration dancing,” no spiking the ball into the ground or the stands, no pointing to himself, and no simulated dunks over the goal post. When he made a great play, he would simply look for the blockers that made the play possible.
    Charlie Justice was the quintessential professional—dignified and gracious…a true hero, but a quiet one.
    On this day, May 18, 2015, Hugh Morton’s dear friend Charlie Justice would have turned 91 years old.
    I choose to believe that Hugh and Charlie will be together on this special day.

  7. Frank Leahy was the legendary head football coach at Notre Dame from 1941 to 1953, except for the years 1944 and 1945 when he was in the Navy. His teams at Notre Dame won 107 times during his coaching career at South Bend.
    One of those wins came on November 12, 1949 in New York’s Yankee Stadium…a win against the UNC Tar Heels. On that chilly, cloudy day, Carolina’s All-America football star Charlie Justice wasn’t able to play due to an ankle injury he had sustained the weekend before in a game against William & Mary in Williamsburg.
    There are sports writers even today who say, had Justice played in that Notre Dame game in NYC in front of the “Big Apple” media and had just an average “Charlie Justice day,” he probably would have won the Heisman Memorial Trophy as college football’s best for the year 1949. Instead he was first runner-up.
    Nine days after that Tar Heel loss, Justice received a letter from Coach Leahy. It said:
    “Just a note to let you know how sorry I was that you were unable to play against Notre Dame. I say this, even though I know that your presence would have caused the score to be different, because I know how much it would have meant to you to be able to play in New York.
    “I have long been one of your strongest admirers because when a young man can receive as much publicity as you have for four years and remain as level headed as you have, he becomes a tremendous credit to intercollegiate football.
    “Thus every college football team in America has benefited by the marvelous representation you have made as a gentleman-athlete.”
    Twelve years ago on October 17, 2003, Charlie Justice passed away peacefully at his home in Cherryville, North Carolina, joining the Hall of Fame Coach, who had died almost thirty years before, on June 21, 1973. On June 1, 2006, legendary photographer Hugh Morton joined Leahy and Justice in that larger life.
    So on this day, I choose to believe the two football legends are once again talking shop…Justice extolling the virtues of the single-wing-down-field-pass and the old coach celebrating the famous Notre Dame box-off-tackle-slant…as Morton, with his ever-present camera, adds more historic images to his ever-growing collection.

  8. Last night, October 17, 2015, Carolina met Wake Forest on the gridiron for the 106th time…dating back to 1888. The game, in chilly Kenen Stadium before 50,500 fans, marked the 45th time the game has been played in that historic arena.
    Head Coach Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels dominated the game for the final three quarters…winning by a score of 50 to 14. Carolina now leads the series 69 games to 35, with two games ending in a tie.
    I was so very pleased to see the sideline hash marks at each 22-yard-line painted Carolina Blue in honor of Tar Heel Legend Charlie Justice, who passed away on October 17, 2003…exactly 12 years ago.
    Charlie Justice’s retired number 22 is almost as famous as his nickname… “Choo Choo.”

  9. It was December, 1942…Charlie Justice and his future wife Sarah Alice Hunter were on their way to a holiday celebration when on the car radio they heard that the University of Georgia’s Frankie Sinkwich had won the Heisman Memorial Trophy for the 1942 football season. Charlie turned to Sarah and said, “I want to win that trophy some day.” Well, Charlie never won the coveted award, but he came in 2nd in 1948 and again in 1949. There were sports writers who said that Carolina’s schedule was not strong enough in ’48, and some of the same writers said that if Charlie had been able to play in the 1949 Notre Dame game in New York’s Yankee Stadium in front of the “Big Apple” media and had just an average Charlie Justice day, the voting in ’49 might have been different. Well, we’ll never know, but here’s something we do know:
    “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” Let me emphatically say those last two words again… “WITH INTEGRITY.”
    I believe it’s safe to say that over the years, every Heisman recipient was an excellent football player, but that “integrity” part has failed a few winners. In fact one was forced to give his trophy back and another one is currently in jail. And there is the one who seems to turn up in the news often these days for all the wrong reasons.
    I remember Charlie Justice saying in an April, 1989 interview:
    “Once you become a public figure, you owe it to the public to conduct yourself in a way that sets a good example.”
    That 1989 interview was conducted during the groundbreaking ceremony for “The Charlie Choo Choo Justice Center” for youth and young adults with chemical dependency treatment needs.
    Justice continued, “This honor makes up for the Heisman Trophy I never won…because it is better than the Heisman.”
    So on this day, May 18, 2016, Charlie Justice would have turned 92-years-old. And on this special day, I choose to believe that he and Sarah are celebrating yet another day together, and I would not be surprised to learn that Hugh Morton is there with his camera.

  10. It was mid-June, 2003…UNC football legend Charlie Justice and his wife Sarah were attending a Cherryville backyard cookout along with several UNC teammates and wives. The main dish for the evening was barbeque from Asheville teammate (Center, #21) Joe Swicegood’s “Little Pigs of America” Restaurant, while the main topic of discussion for the evening was the upcoming “Justice Era” reunion, planned for the weekend of October 18th in Chapel Hill. Carolina would be playing Arizona State in Kenan Stadium on that Saturday. The players from the 1946-1949 Era have held numerous reunions over the years going back to 1953.
    According to UNC football historian Lee Pace, writing in the August, 2003 edition of “Tar Heel Monthly” magazine, one of the Justice teammates, (End/Placekicker, #29) Bob Cox, said: “Like all of us gray-heads, Charlie doesn’t get in and out of chairs as well as he use to, but he stands erect and has a great appetite—particularly for (Sarah’s) pecan pie. He swears he’ll be at Chapel College for the reunion October 18.”
    At the time, Justice was battling Alzheimer’s, but did indeed plan to join his teammates in Chapel Hill for the reunion. As part of the celebration, a golf outing was scheduled for Friday, October 17th…but at 3:25 that morning, 13 years ago today, Charlie lost his battle with that cruel disease. Sixty-five of the “Justice Era” players gathered for the reunion, but each one knew that the reunions would never be the same.
    Charlie’s longtime friend, Hugh Morton, received a call from Charlie’s daughter, Barbara Crews, early on that morning with the sad news. Morton, in turn, called his friends at the Associated Press saying:
    “He was the best broken-field runner that has ever been as far as I’m concerned. There were all kinds of jokes and stories about his going by various locations on the field at least twice on the same play.
    “He could run, he could pass, he could kick, he could play defense. Usually someone does one thing well. He did everything.”
    In a very moving pregame ceremony on Saturday the 18th, Justice was honored with a moment of silence…then, Hugh Morton photographic images of Charlie were displayed on the video board while the Carolina Band played “Hark the Sound.” The picture of Morton standing in the press box, looking at the video board showing pictures he had taken of Justice over the years, is classic.
    In addition to the moment of silence, Carolina honored Justice by painting a blue 22 at each of the 22-yard lines.
    Once the game got underway, the Tar Heels played well, holding a 31 to 27 lead with two minutes to play. Things looked good for the Heels to finally get a win in Kenan, having dropped the previous 9 home games. But the lead didn’t hold up…Arizona State scored on the game’s final play to take a 33 to 31 win. The Kenan crowd of 42,000 was in shock.
    Tar Heel Head Coach John Bunting had just suffered quite possibly the worst loss of his career, but he walked proudly to midfield to offer congratulations to Arizona State Head Coach Dirk Koetter…but Coach Koetter was celebrating with his team and left the Tar Heel Coach standing alone with his Highway Patrol escort. After waiting more than a minute, Bunting watched as Koetter started running toward the opposite end of the Stadium.
    At that point, Coach Bunting began his long walk to the tunnel at the west end of historic Kenan Stadium as the October sun was setting. He paused behind the Carolina Cheerleaders long enough for the Marching Tar Heels to play “Hark the Sound.”
    Once he reached the Carolina locker room, Coach Bunting, in an emotional interview with Woody Durham, said:
    “I wish we could have won this one for Charlie. He was everything that Carolina stood for and everything I want our program to be–class, character, toughness, and tremendous, unbelievable competitiveness. There is no doubt he’s the greatest Tar Heel that ever lived.”
    It had been 53 years, 9 months, and 16 days since Charlie Justice played his final varsity game in a Carolina Blue uniform, but on that day, as it is on this day, he is the most loved Tar Heel of all.
    So, on this day, October 17, 2016…the 13th anniversary of Charlie Justice’s death, I choose to believe that Charlie, Sarah, Hugh, and several of those teammates have gathered once again to recall and celebrate the Golden Era of UNC sports, the years 1946–1949, “the Justice Era,” the very best of times…and perhaps they are even enjoying a slice of Sarah’s pecan pie.

  11. Since I posted my first V2H posts and comments back in 2008, I have said numerous times there must be as many Charlie Justice stories as there are people who ever saw him play, and on special occasions, I have related a few of those stories over the years. So, today, May 18, 2017, if I may, let me add yet another story to my ever-growing-list.
    Since UNC’s legendary All-America football player Charlie Justice led the 1947 Tar Heels to a an eight and two season, there have been many old-time-Tar Heels, including then Head Coach Carl Snavely, who believed that the ’47 team was the best of the “Justice Era.” But on a cool, cloudy day in October of ’47, it didn’t seem to be that way.
    The Tar Heels had started off the 1947 season with a revenge win over Georgia. (They had lost to the Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1947). The weekend following that win, came a devastating loss to Texas in Austin. So, on October 11, 1947, thirty-five thousand fans, including Photographer Hugh Morton, came into Kenan Stadium ready to see the 19th ranked Tar Heels get back on track as they took on “Peahead” Walker’s undefeated Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
    Carolina won the toss and things went downhill from there. By the start of the second quarter, Wake led 6 to 0. By the 8:30 mark in the 2nd, the score was 13 to 0. Carolina just couldn’t get anything right. Then, less than two minutes later, Wake had the ball at the Carolina 19. Wake tailback Tom Fetzer set up to pass… his receiver Jim Duncan appeared to be covered in the end zone by Justice and Johnny Clements, both of whom were in position for an interception. But Fetzer threw a high tight spiral. Duncan leaped high in the air and made a sensational catch for the score. The score was 19 to 0 at the half. Carolina managed to score once in the second half, but the final was 19 to 7.
    Carolina wouldn’t lose again until October 22. 1949.
    Now…fast forward forty-five years to early May, 1993…the annual North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame golf tournament was played before the thirtieth class of inductees was honored on the night of May 6th. Wake Forest football standout Jim Duncan was a member of the Class of 1993 and participated in the golfing event. Also, on the links that day was Hall of Famer from the Class of 1963, Charlie Justice. Following the final shots at Raleigh’s Preston Wood Country Club, the old footballers ran into one another in the dining room.
    “You remember taking that interception away from me for a touchdown in the end zone in ’47?” Justice asked the former Deacon pass- catcher.
    “I sure do,” Duncan replied. “But all these years, I’ve never understood what you were doing playing defense.”
    Justice responded with a laugh, “Neither do I.”
    On this day, May 18, 2017, Charlie Justice would have turned 93.
    (Sixteen days ago, on May 2, 2017, Jim Duncan would have turned 93 also).
    So, I would not be surprised to learn that Justice, Duncan, and Morton, on this day, are once again, talking football on that greater gridiron.

  12. Two days before the 1949 UNC vs. Duke football game, the sports page headline in the Thursday, November 17, 1949 issue of “The Greensboro Record” read:
    “Justice Always At Best Against Duke”
    The Carolina All-America had led the Tar Heels past the Blue Devils the past three years and the accompanying article posed the question, “could he do it again?”
    On Saturday, November 19th, we got the answer. It was “yes.” Justice accounted for 18 of Carolina’s 21 points that day with his running, passing, and receiving. The Tar Heels won 21 to 20 in a thriller.
    During the seasons 1946 – 1949, UNC scored 84 points against Duke in four games…Justice was directly involved with 60 of those points. He surely was “at his best.”
    Long after those glory years, Justice was an insurance executive in Greensboro in the late 1970s and he would graciously let me come over to his office on some Friday afternoons and we would talk about Carolina’s upcoming game the next day. But the conversation would always turn to those glory years and Carolina’s historic past.
    On one of those Fridays, I mentioned those four Duke game wins. Charlie paused for several seconds, and then added, “Jack, I look at it as five wins.” He then explained.
    At 10 am on November 14, 1978, he had open heart surgery at Duke University Medical Center. He would say at the time “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?” He fought and won his biggest battle with the help of the skilled surgical team at Duke, and on Thursday, November 23rd, Justice was able to go home to Greensboro and celebrate his 35th wedding anniversary.
    Of course he didn’t know it at the time, but he would have two additional open-heart surgeries at Duke…one in January of 1988 and one in April of 1994…both signatory wins with the help of the Duke surgical team.
    So, on this day, October 17, 2017, I looked back at the Charlie Justice – Duke University connection.
    It was 14 years ago this morning that Charlie lost his battle with Alzheimer’s. He was 79-years-old.
    It has been more than 67 years since he played his final varsity game at UNC, but back on August 30th of this year, UNC’s General Alumni Association historian Freddie Kiger delivered a magnificent presentation on the life and times of Charlie Justice. A full house at the Hill Alumni Center attended the program.
    The magic of the Charlie Justice story is alive and well.

  13. 68 seasons have come and gone since UNC’s legendary All America football star Charlie Justice played his final varsity game for the Tar Heels; and 64 seasons since he played his final game for the Washington Redskins.
    Last season, when Washington celebrated its 85th anniversary in the NFL, team officials asked fans to recall favorite memories.
    Charlie Justice is still remembered from his time in DC in the early 1950s.
    On this day, May 18, 2018, Justice would have turned 94 years old.

  14. Legendary Hollywood actor Burt Reynolds passed away on Thursday, September 6, 2018. He was 82 years old.
    I remember a quote from Reynolds in an Associated Press interview from Wednesday, September 5, 2001 when ESPN announced that Reynolds would narrate their football series “The Rites of Autumn.” The quote went like this:
    “As a youngster I never wanted to be a cowboy or an Indian. I wanted to be Doc Blanchard or Johnny Lujack. I wanted to wear number 22 like Charlie ‘Choo Choo’ Justice or Bobby Layne.”
    Burt Reynolds starred in two 1970s football movies…”The Longest Yard” in 1974, and “Semi Tough” in 1977. He wore jersey number 22 in both films.

  15. The first football game in what would become known to some as “The Justice Era” was played on September 28, 1946…a game against VPI (Of course it’s Virginia Tech today.)
    On the 50th anniversary of that historic game, on September 28, 1996, “The News & Observer” of Raleigh did a look back profile of Justice titled “Charlie Justice: Into the Light.” As part of that profile, a number of prominent North Carolinians shared their thoughts of the Tar Heel football legend.
    On this day, October 17, 2018, the 15th anniversary of his death, I would like to recall a few of those comments.
    Gov. Jim Hunt
    “Charlie is truly a legend, not only in North Carolina but all across the country, for his outstanding performance on the football field. He is still the most famous football player ever to play in North Carolina. Charlie is a good friend and I admire all that he has accomplished on and off the field.”
    Hugh Morton, Longtime Friend
    “I don’t believe people realize what he’s meant in terms of instilling loyalty in the (UNC) alumni. And he’s been such a good citizen. He’s lent his good name to every worthy cause.”
    Dr. William Friday, UNC President Emeritus
    “Today we make celebrities out of a lot of people, but they don’t turn out to be heroes. I wish we had more heroes who would make themselves like Charlie. His whole life has been devoted to public service.”
    William Powell, UNC Historian
    “I don’t know of any other person (in North Carolina) whose reputation has lasted so long. People knew where the University was, who might not have otherwise, because of him.”
    Bobby Bowden, Florida State Head Football Coach
    “I loved Choo Choo Justice. I thought if I could just one time in my life run with a football the way Choo Choo could, I’d be the happiest guy in the world.”
    Michael Hooker, UNC Chancellor
    “Charlie Justice is the reason I’m at North Carolina. He was my dad’s hero… (My dad) took me to Chapel Hill and we followed the football and basketball teams. I became a Charlie Justice admirer. There was a quality of magic about his name as I was growing up.”
    If I had been asked for a comment to add to this story, I could have “borrowed” Chancellor Hooker’s story. My dad and I were Charlie’s fans and to this day, he is still my all time hero.
    So that’s why I choose to honor Charlie Justice on this day of remembrance.

  16. It has been 69 seasons since Tar Heel Football Legend Charlie Justice played his final varsity game with the Tar Heels. Although the spotlight may have dimmed a bit, the cheering has never stopped.
    Each Saturday when my wife Marla and I climb up to our seats in section 229 in Kenan, the first thing I do is look down at the 22-yard-hashmarks which are painted blue in Charlie’s honor. And it’s always a thrill just before the team comes out of the tunnel, when the video board shows a series of Tar Heel heroes and the first one in the series is Justice.
    It has been 16 years today since that Friday morning, October 17, 2003 when we got the sad news from Cherryville that Charlie had lost his gallant 5-year battle with Alzheimer’s.
    So on this day I choose to believe that Charlie and wife Sarah are with their dear friend Hugh Morton and most likely Hugh will take a picture or two to add to his remarkable Charlie Justice portfolio.

  17. On this day, 96-years-ago, a Tar Heel Legend was born. On May 18, 1924, Charlie Justice was born in the Emma Community of Asheville. Justice would become the greatest UNC Tar Heel athlete of the 20th century according to a 1999 “Daily Tar Heel” poll.

    During the 2019 football season, ESPN celebrated college football’s 150th anniversary and near the end of the season, they named their list of the 150 greatest players. I was a bit disappointed that they placed Justice down at #133 and a bit surprised that they listed Herschel Walker at #2.

    On Wednesday, October 22, 2003, five days after Justice died, “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” Sports Editor the late Furman Bisher wrote a beautiful column titled “Justice, Like a Vanished Breed.” In it he said:

    “An email correspondent the other day said, ‘He (Justice) was the Herschel Walker of his time.’ Sorry. Herschel never passed, never punted, never played defense.”

    I wonder if the ESPN selectors knew that.

    Rest in peace, Charlie. I choose to believe you are still the best.

  18. Today, May 18, 2021, is a very special day for old-time Tar Heels, like me. 97 years ago, on May 18, 1924, Charlie Justice was born in the Emma Community of Asheville.

    During his time at UNC, Justice set numerous records, most of which have now been broken, but on this special day, I would like to share a stat that over the years has seldom been published in the Carolina record book.

    At the end of the 1949 season, an All-Players Team was chosen for the Chicago Tribune by 127 players representing college football’s best. Widely-known football analyst Norman L. Sper, Sr. supervised the voting.

    When Norman, Sr. visited his son Norman, Jr. in Chapel Hill, he brought news that of the 127 players, 110 voted Justice as the best backfield player they had faced all year.

    So, on this special day, a tip of the hat to Charlie Justice,…still the “brightest star of all.”

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