During his seventy years with a camera, we believe Hugh Morton photographed eleven United States presidents—from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. Then, on January 20, 2021, we added a twelfth name to the list.
It was Wednesday, March 4, 1987: Hugh Morton and Smith Barrier, Greensboro News & Record Sports Editor, drove to Washington, D.C. Likely, Barrier was going to cover the 1987 ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament, to be played at Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, and Morton had arranged interviews and photo sessions with United States Senator Jesse Helms and Tar Heel newsman David Brinkley for his forthcoming book Making a Difference in North Carolina (published in 1988) with co-author Ed Rankin Jr. The initial link above will carry you to the first of a three-part series describing their trip.
Morton wrote in his 1996 book, Sixty Years with a Camera, “Ed Rankin and Jesse Helms were roommates when they got out of school and worked for newspapers in Raleigh. So when Ed and I authored the book, Making a Difference in North Carolina, the senator spread the red carpet for us in Washington.” Morton photographed Helms in different settings, including a hearing by the European Affairs subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on March 5, 1987. On that day the subcommittee debated Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Jack F. Matlock Jr. to be ambassador to the Soviet Union. Matlock was a native of Greensboro and a Duke University graduate. (The Senate confirmed Matlock’s appointment later that month.)
Morton also photographed other senators during the subcommittee hearing, one of whom was Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware. Biden began his first term in the Senate in January 1973, just thirty years old after being elected at the age of twenty-nine. Two years later, Biden’s fellow senators elected him to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Clairborne Pell was the committee’s chairman when Morton visited, having succeeded Indiana’s Richard Lugar (1985–1987). Two decades later, Biden and Helms would combine to chair that committee for ten of the next fourteen years, interrupted only by a second Lugar chairmanship.
- Jesse Helms: 1995–2001
- Joseph R. Biden Jr.: 2001–2003
- Richard G. Lugar: 2003–2007
- Joseph R. Biden Jr.: 2007–2009
Morton also photographed Lugar that day. A photograph of Biden, Helms, and Lugar by Morton appears on page 290 of Making a Difference in North Carolina. That negative is in the collection but has not been digitized, so here is a similar scene from the hearing:
Nearly thirty-four years after Morton made these photographs, on January 20, 2021, the United States inaugurated Biden as its forty-sixth president—thus bringing Morton’s list of presidential photographs to twelve. Here’s Morton’s presidential list, with links to online images:
- Franklin D .Roosevelt
- Harry S. Truman
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
- John F. Kennedy
- Lyndon B. Johnson
- Richard M. Nixon
- Gerald R. Ford
- James E. Carter
- Ronald W. Reagan
- George H.W. Bush
- William J. Clinton
- Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
In full disclosure, here is the full view of Morton’s negative used at the beginning of this post, without cropping.