This year’s holiday post looks back at once longtime tradition in Hugh Morton’s hometown of Wilmington. We hope it will bring back special holiday memories for many of our readers. The credit for writing this post goes to Jack Hilliard, with a little bit of filler from my keyboard including the lyrical pun for the title. For that you can blame me.
On Christmas eve 1928 in Wilmington, North Carolina, a new holiday event took place in Hilton Park opposite the city’s water works. At that time, at that place, “The World’s Largest Living Christmas Tree,”—a live oak believed to be 400 years old, between 75 and 100 feet tall (depending on where you measure) and 110 feet wide decorated with 450 colored lights—launched a Wilmington tradition that would span more than 80 years.
Wilmington’s living Christmas tree took root during the autumn of 1928 when James E. L. Wade, city commissioner of public works, staged a contest to select a favorite tree to be lighted. Two school kids chose that live oak in Hilton Park, and each kid was awarded a five dollar gold coin. From there, according to the Christmas Day edition of The Wilmington Morning Star, Wade “evolved the plan of a bigger community tree and attendant celebration than Wilmington had previously known.” The Wilmington Morning Star Sunday edition published two days before Christmas noted that the extensive Christmas Eve program would include the singing of “thirteen beautiful carols,” and that the Atlantic Coast Line’s general office band would play many Christmas carols, too. Also planned for the program was a “Biblical sketch” by Mrs. A. M. Alderman “depicting the life of Christ from manger to the cross” and the appearance of Santa to “distribute hundreds of bags of candy, fruit, and toys.” WRBT would be broadcasting the entire program “providing officials of the broadcasting station have recovered from the influenza.”
Unfortunately, “Sickness among the city’s musically inclined and a light misting rain” curtailed the evening’s program at “the living community tree” to a reading of the nativity story by Mrs. Alderman, who “wore a robe of white satin.” The newspaper reported that “sickness among members of the various choirs that were to have had a part in the exercises and the Atlantic Coast Line General office band, coupled with too damp weather caused postponement of that part of the program that included the singing of carols.” Nonetheless, the wet weather “could not take the joy of the evening away from the hundreds of youngsters, boys and girls, who trudged to the end of Fourth street and every one of them received a stocking filled with candies, nuts, and fruit.” Some of the evening’s events were to be reschedule during the week, and others were to be delayed until New Years night when, the article stated, “all Wilmington is asked to assemble there and pledge their faith in and efforts toward a bigger and finer and better Wilmington.”
We don’t have any evidence that seven-year-old Hugh Morton was there for the first event, but he was often there during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Seven of his “World’s Largest Christmas Tree” scenes can be seen in the online collection, three of which are included in this blog post.
Here are a few quotes taken from the ‘Wilmington Outskirts’ section of Wilmington Through the Lens of Louis T. Moore by Susan Taylor Block that describe some of the early years of the living Christmas tree:
The Christmas Eve 1929 edition of The Morning Star reported that “Hugh MacRae’s Tide Water Power Company furnished all labor, most of the wiring and 750 light globes for the tree.”
“The moss in the tree, if it were carried away, would take three 2-ton trucks to do the work.”
“In 1930, the giant Hilton Christmas tree was declared ‘the most beautiful of its kind in the state and nation’ by the National Federation of Women’s Clubs.”
“On January 1, 1933, 5000 people gathered at the tree to hear ‘a program presented by African-American residents of the city.’ Participants from Williston High School Glee Club and St. Stephen’s, St. Luke’s and Central Baptist churches mesmerized the crowd; city fathers requested an encore performance the following evening.”
Susan Taylor Block was also there for the lighting ceremony often during the ‘50s and ‘60s. She recently shared some personal thoughts via email with me about how, as a little kid, she remembered the lighting ceremonies.
“People spoke softly or not at all – even in the parking areas which were distanced a bit.
“I think there was zero yelling or clapping. There was a reverence under the tree and around it.
“There was something happy and exhilarating about being there – but there also was a touch of something that made my hair stand on end, too.
“Every year, sometimes twice or 3 times, my father would drive my grandmother, mother, brother and me to see the Tree. . . Looking back again, I remember the glowing way the large Christmas lights lit portions of the hearty Spanish moss. Sometime carols playing softly in the background.
“For me, it was a private quiet religious experience that I cannot put into words. I have not experienced that exact feeling anywhere else…”
With the exception of the World War II years, Wilmington staged the tree-lighting event every year since 1928. By 1959, it was reported that 150,000 people turned out for the ceremony. From 42 states and 11 foreign countries they all came to marvel at the light show and to hear a 400 member choir.
By 1990, the old tree was supporting about 7,000 lights, using almost 4 miles of 12-gauge wire. Eighty years of ice storms and the like took a tremendous toll on the old tree and the final lighting ceremony was held in 2009. Amy Beatty, the superintendent of recreation and downtown services for the city of Wilmington, indicated several decisions prompted the tree’s retirement. “The tree itself was ‘very compromised,’ with a number of branches toppled by storms. Officials decided it could no longer support the light display. Also, the rerouting of Martin Luther King Boulevard to connect with North Third Street and made the (neighboring) water plant difficult to reach. Post 9/11 guidelines from the U. S. Department of Homeland Security outlining greater protection for water-treatment facilities added to the logistical difficulties.” Susan Taylor Block added, “The tree itself was enormous and beautiful then. The Hilton area had been well-known for its beautiful oaks. Then the city put offices and a plant nearby – and the dominos began to slant. . . A new highway configuration now makes it difficult to even find where the tree used to be.”
Sadly, the old oak that was “The World’s Largest Living Christmas Tree” for more than eighty years was taken down in November 2015. And though the live oak may be gone, it will always be remembered by those who saw it there . . . in that place . . . during this time of year . . . as a Christmas tree.
Diabetes Month is observed every November so individuals, health care professionals, organizations, and communities across the country can bring attention to diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans. A View to Hugh would like to relate an event from the past that raised about $20,000 for diabetes research while at the same time had some fun at the expense of a Tar Heel sports legend. But first, a bit of history . . . In 1970 a group of parents in New York City whose children had Type 1 diabetes founded an organization they called the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, or JDF. The group was defined by its commitment to research-funding and finding a cure for juvenile diabetes. In 2012, the Foundation changed its name to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, or JDRF, putting a greater emphasis on the need for research. No one in the celebrity world came close to doing what actress Mary Tyler Moore accomplished with JDRF. Her efforts were tireless. She had but one goal when it came to diabetes: to bring to the attention of the world the battle of diabetes and how important it is to one day cure it. She attended events, met with elected officials, testified before congress, and was always available to help local JDRF chapters with local fund raising by offering her celebrity. And that’s exactly how she helped the Charlotte chapter of JDF in 1984 when they staged their fifth annual JDF celebrity roast. Moore recorded videotape spots for the local television stations to air promoting the importance of supporting the Foundation. Mary Tyler Moore died at the age of 80 earlier this year on January 25, 2017, but she will always be remembered in Charlotte for what she did to make the JDF Celebrity Roast of Tar Heel football legend Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice a success thirty-three years ago. Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back to Monday, April 30, 1984.
A celebrity roast is an event in which a specific individual, a guest of honor, is subjected to good-natured jokes at their expense and it is intended to amuse the event’s audience and in many cases to raise money for a particular charity. Such events are intended to honor the individual in a unique way. In addition to jokes, such events may also involve genuine praise and tributes. The individual is surrounded by friends, fans, and well-wishers, who can receive some of the same good natured treatment as well during the course of the evening.
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Charles Justice has contributed his fame to hundreds of drives and worthy causes and has generally and consistently served as a wholesome example to impressionable youth.
—Hugh Morton, May, 2000
In early January 1984, it had been almost thirty years since Charlie Justice played his final football game with the Washington Redskins and almost thirty-four since he played his final varsity game with the Tar Heels. Nonetheless, when the Charlotte Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation approached him about being the honored guest at the Fifth Annual JDF Celebrity Roast, Charlie’s reply was yes, “these things are for a great cause and I enjoy them.” Charlie had been guest of honor for two other celebrity gatherings, one in Greensboro on October 29, 1980 called “Dinner of Champions,” sponsored by the Central North Carolina Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and one in his native Asheville on January 27, 1984 sponsored by the Western Carolina Children’s Foundation.
Justice was in great company at the fifth annual event. The four who preceded Justice were Clyde McLean of WBTV in 1979, Kays Gary of The Charlotte Observer in 1980, Eddie Knox, former Charlotte mayor in 1982, and famed basketball player and coach Horace “Bones” McKinney in 1983.
If you didn’t know better, you might think this was a UNC reunion. The event’s Honorary Chairman was Johnny Harris, UNC Class of 1969. Two other Tar Heels who worked behind the scenes were Erskine Bowles ’67 and Ray Farris ’62. Tar Heel roasters included newspaper publisher Orville Campbell ’42; Woody Durham, Voice of the Tar Heels, ’63; UNC President Dr. William Friday, ’48; and UNC All-America football star and Justice’s classmate Art Weiner, ’50.
With Master of Ceremonies Bill Hensley in control (sort of), the “roasting” fun began. Charlie was ushered into the Sheraton Center with the singing of “All The Way Choo Choo” to the delight of the 450 guests. The singing was led by Charlie’s daughter Barbara Crews. Roaster: Orville Campbell
Chapel Hill newspaper publisher and the man responsible for recording “All The Way Choo Choo,” Orville Campbell then stepped up to the mic. “We always liked to take our songs over to Mr. W. D. Carmichael, then acting University President, and get his opinion. So when Hank Beebe and I finished All The Way Choo Choo, I went over to Carmichael’s office. He was extremely busy that day, but I went in anyway. His desk was covered with papers and he didn’t even look up.
“What do you want, Orville?” said Carmichael.
“I just wanted to know if you had heard our last song.”
“I hope the h— I have,” was Carmichael’s reply.
“Back in 1958,” Campbell continued, “I published a book which was written by Bob Quincy and Julian Scheer called Choo Choo: The Charlie Justice Story. We still have a warehouse full of those books over in Chapel Hill and I brought a few of them over here tonight to see if anybody here would pay $25 for a copy and if so, we’ll donate that money to JDF. And after we’re finished here, we’ll lock the door so Charlie can’t get away and have him sign ‘em.”
Campbell, who had been Charlie’s friend and fan since he arrived in Chapel Hill in 1946, then took out a letter that UNC Head Football Coach Carl Snavely supposedly wrote to Justice following that famous 1948 Texas game in Chapel Hill.
“In discussing your touchdown pass to Art Weiner, Charlie, Coach Snavely reminded you that, ‘Your wobbly pass to Art Weiner would have never been caught except that Art made a great catch and Texas had a poor pass defense.’”
Campbell then put on a number 22 college all-star jersey and modeled it for the crowd. Justice had donated the jersey to be auctioned with money going to JDF. The jersey went for $1,000. Roaster: Woody Durham
Next up was “The Voice” of Tar Heel football and basketball, Woody Durham. Woody told the story of how Justice had decided to go to the University of South Carolina, when his brother Jack talked him out of it and convinced him he should go to UNC. Durham then turned to Charlotte JDF Chapter President Cassie Phillipi and asked, “Cassie, how much money do you think we could raise if we were holding this gathering in Columbia tonight?” Then Durham said he wanted to relate a recent story from his visit to Atlanta and added, “This is the only story I’ll tell from that Atlanta trip . . . I promise.”
“I was in Atlanta covering Dean Smith’s 1984 Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament. The morning of the game, I was in the hotel room preparing for that night’s radio broadcast. The TV set was on but the sound was turned down real low and I wasn’t paying any attention to it. Then something caught my attention. The CBS program The Price is Right host Bob Barker had introduced a contestant form North Carolina. Then Barker said, ‘Who was the great All America football player from North Carolina back in the 1940s?’ Immediately someone in the audience shouted out, “Choo Choo.” Barker quickly added, That’s right, Choo Choo Charlie Justice.’”
“Folks it’s been 35 years since Charlie played for Carolina, but his name is still magic.” Roaster: Bill Friday
Up next . . . University of North Carolina President Dr. William Friday spoke of “the rightness of all he symbolizes in American Sports.”
“When thirty years pass, a haze often settles over memory but not the recollections of Charlie Justice on the football field. He could do it all and he did. . . . All of the adulations and publicity never increased his hat size. An unassuming and cheerful manner always has characterized this man of extraordinary gifts. He has been greatly blessed in another way, he has Sarah.”
The 52-page souvenir program book for the 5th Annual JDF Roast is, in reality, a Charlie Justice scrapbook with dozens of Hugh Morton photographs included. The book was designed by George Van Allen of G.V.A. Associates and the Justice cover-caricature was done by Gene Payne of The Charlotte Observer. Charlie must have approved of the caricature; there was a huge version of it on the wall of his Cherryville office. Also included in the book is a beautifully written Justice profile by Observer columnist Ron Green. Roaster: John Fraley
John L. “Buck” Fraley, President and Chief Operating Officer of Carolina Freight, was next up. Fraley’s company was a prime client of the Justice-Crews Insurance Company in Cherryville and had been so for many years. Fraley, a NC State graduate, talked about Charlie’s brief 1964 venture into politics. Also in the audience was Ken Younger who would take Fraley’s place with the company in 1985 following Fraley’s retirement. And if memory serves me correctly, it was Younger who bought the Justice All-Star jersey and then presented it to Charlie’s daughter Barbara. And by the way, Ken Younger, is a 1949 Duke graduate, who played football against Charlie and the Tar Heels. Roaster: Art Weiner
Hugh Morton and the Charlotte JDF Chapter had prepared several large Charlie Justice action pictures and offered them for sale—the profits, of course, going to the Diabetes Foundation. So when Justice’s friend, teammate, and business partner Art Weiner stepped up to speak, he commented on the pictures.
“Did you ever wonder why there are so many fantastic Hugh Morton action pictures of Charlie Justice? Well, Hugh Morton was a world class, fantastic photographer, but there is another reason. We had one member on our team who never touched the ball . . . never made a tackle . . . never threw a block. His only purpose in life was to let Charlie Justice know where Hugh Morton was on the sidelines.”
“Where do you suppose he had his first heart attack? At halftime at the Carolina-Pitt game a few years back. They were carrying him out on a stretcher and everybody was looking and there was Charlie, waving to the crowd.”
Weiner then looked over at Orville Campbell. “I didn’t know the ball was supposed to spiral until I got into pro ball. Charlie always threw it end-over-end.”
“I lived beside Charlie for four years and he got new Cadilacs all four years. There was always trucks backing up to his door and unloading things.”
“My scholarship was a piece of wood with a nail on it, and I was told that I could keep anything that blew across my yard.”
When the laughter died down, Weiner got serious.
“I can honestly say Charlie Justice is not only the best friend I ever had, but in my opinion he is greatest athlete North Carolina ever had.” Charlie Justice
When Justice finally got to the mic, he denied all, then thanked all for attending, and poked a little bit of fun at his “roasters,” telling his dear friend Art Weiner, “at least you had a scholarship at Carolina. . . I didn’t even have a one. . . Sarah had the scholarship in our family. And as for those four Cadilacs you mentioned . . . was really one ’48 Chevy.” He then related the importance of the fund-raising for diabetes research. At the end of the evening’s festivities, more than $20,000 had been raised for that research.
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Ron Green, writing in the May 2, 1984 edition of The Charlotte Observer under the headline “Highest Praise To Choo Choo,” said, “They came not to praise Charlie Choo Choo Justice but to roast him. They did both Monday night at the Sheraton Center. . . Others of his era are yellowed memories now, but Justice shines on, brightly, like a star . . . the long, rambling touchdown runs . . . the winning passes . . . the record-setting punts that took North Carolina out of danger. Almost campy. Almost as if he were playing himself in the lead role of a low budget movie with the title ‘Justice Rides Again.’ So good. So right.”
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WFMY-TV in Greensboro recorded the JDF roast in Charlotte on videotape for filmmaker David Solomon, the President of David Solomon Productions in Winston-Salem. Portions of the roast appear in Solomon’s Sports Extra TV production of All The Way Choo Choo. I had the honor of directing and editing the program, along with Larry Fitzgerald, the late WFMY-TV photojournalist. North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame Broadcaster Charlie Harville narrated the program. And once again, Charlie Justice’s popularity across the entire state was shown when the TV documentary was sponsored by “Goody’s” of Winston-Salem. The President of Goody’s, Duke University Class of 1949 football player Tom Chambers, was an opponent of Justice’s during their college days. In addition to the “Goody’s” commercials, the program also included JDF-Mary Tyler Moore public service announcements.
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In closing, I would like to revisit words from Bill Friday:
“(Charlie Justice) is loyal. He has been on call when his alma mater needed him. He has lent his name in time and talent to a host of worthy causes since his jersey went into the trophy case.”
“He has shown in his personal life the same quality of courage and determination he exhibited in athletics. Charlie Justice was voted All-American for his exploits on those memorable Saturdays of another era.”
“I want to say, Charlie, that in the eyes of your legions of friends today, you are an All-American every day of the week.”
On Tuesday, June 7, 2016—one year ago today—a special memorial service was held at the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery on Raleigh Road. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had lost one of its strongest supporters. Three days before, Ralph Strayhorn Jr. had passed away in Winston-Salem. He was 93-years-old. On this anniversary, Morton Collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back at Strayhorn’s amazing list of accomplishments.
Ralph Nichols Strayhorn Jr. at one time or another served his university as
cocaptain of the varsity football team;
member of UNC Board of Trustees;
President of the General Alumni Association;
General Counsel for the Rams Club;
chairman of the search committee charged in 1987 with finding a replacement for Head Football Coach Dick Drum (he and his committee found Mack Brown);
President and General Counsel of the Educational Foundation, Inc.; and
As you will see later in this post, this list will continue.
A native of Durham, Strayhorn was recruited by UNC assistant football coach Jim Tatum and played three seasons with the Tar Heels before he entered the United States Navy and served in the Pacific theater from 1943 until 1946, completing his active service as a sub-chaser commanding officer. He served twenty years in the U. S. Naval Reserve, retiring in 1962 as a lieutenant commander.
He returned to Chapel Hill in time for the 1946 football season where he was a cocaptain along with Chan Highsmith. In a 2010 interview, Strayhorn described his returned: “It was a delightful time to be in Chapel Hill. Everyone was glad to be home from the war, back in school where they belonged.”
The 1946 Tar Heels under Head Coach Carl Snavely won eight games during the regular season while losing only to Tennessee and tying VPI (formally Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known today as Virginia Tech). That record was good enough to earn a Southern Conference championship and Carolina’s first bowl game, the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1947. Strayhorn’s trip to New Orleans was not a joyous occasion as it should have been. His father had suffered a heart attack back in Durham and was unconscious.
“My mind wasn’t focused on the game, needless to say. I thought about not going. My first cousin was a doctor and was very close to our family. He said my father would want me to go and play in that game. I stayed behind when the team left and then caught the last train to New Orleans. . . I was on the first train back out of town. I returned to my father’s bedside but he never recovered.”
Strayhorn could have played one more season with the Tar Heels. The 1943 season didn’t count against his eligibility because he had gone off to World War II; he chose, however, to graduate with the class of 1947 with a degree in commerce and enter law school. He got his law degree in 1950 and joined the firm of Newsom, Graham, Strayhorn, Hedrick, Murray, Bryson and Kennon as a senior partner. He held that position until 1978 when he assumed the executive position of general counsel of the Wachovia Corporation and the Wachovia Bank and Trust Company. Strayhorn retired from that position in his 1988 retirement. He then joined the law firm Petree Stockton & Robinson.
Throughout his professional career, Ralph Strayhorn remained active in the life of his alma mater, especially its athletic programs and his beloved football Tar Heels. From 1973 until 1981 he was a member of the UNC Board of Trustees, serving as chairman in 1979 and 1980. Additionally, he served on the Central Selection Committee of the Morehead Foundation, the Board of Visitors, and the NC Institute of Medicine. In 1989 the UNC Board of Trustees awarded Strayhorn the William Richardson Davie Award.
Over the years, Strayhorn kept in touch with Coach Jim Tatum and in 1955 he wrote Tatum a four-page letter asking him to return to Chapel Hill to take over the football program. “The football situation at Chapel Hill seems to have reached an all-time low,” Strayhorn wrote. The following year Tatum returned and led the program until his untimely death in July of 1959. Ironically, in 1957 Strayhorn had prepared Tatum’s will and delivered the document to him the week before the Tar Heel were to meet Maryland for the first time since Tatum left—the famous “Queen Elizabeth” game. As the coach was signing the document, he asked Strayhorn if he was going to the game on Saturday.
“I told him I didn’t have tickets, transportation, a room or a baby-sitter. He said, ‘Well, find yourself a baby-sitter. I’ll take care of the rest. You be at the airport Friday at 2 o’clock.’ We got to the airport and everything was arranged for us.”
In December 1996 Carolina’s 1947 football team celebrated the 50th anniversary of their ’47 Sugar Bowl game with a train trip to New Orleans for the 1997 Sugar Bowl game. An on-the-field pre-game ceremony included Charlie Justice and Ralph Strayhorn along with Charlie Trippi of Georgia. Hugh Morton was a special invited guest at the ceremony.
Seven years later, on November 5, 2004, Ralph Strayhorn and Hugh Morton were featured speakers at the dedication of Johnpaul Harris’ magnificent Charlie Justice statue which now stands just outside of Kenan Stadium.
The next time you visit the “Charlie Justice Hall of Honor” in the Kenan Football Center, notice the Harold Styers’ portrait of the 1947 Sugar Bowl coin toss featuring UNC’s Cocaptain Ralph Stayhorn #62, and Georgia’s Captain Charlie Trippi, also #62.
And oh yes . . . that list. Ralph Strayhorn Jr. was President of the North Carolina Bar Association in 1971-72, and a member of the
Legal Advisory Committee of the New York Stock Exchange;
American College of Trial Lawyers;
American Bar Association;
International Association of Defense Counsel;
Newcomen Society of the United States; and the
Board of Visitors of the Wake Forest School of Law.
He also argued a case before the Supreme Court of the United States and served in the North Carolina General Assembly in 1959.
Ralph Nichols Strayhorn Jr., a Tar Heel treasure like no other. UPDATE: caption for second photograph revised to reflect identification received in a comment on June 12. Previously the caption began with “THREE TAR HEELS.” UPDATE: On June 13, the caption was once again update with the discovery of more recent information about Charlie Carr. Mr. Carr was a member of the UNC Class of 1968 and he received a master’s degree from there in 1970. In 1971 he became a UNC assistant football coach. He also served in various roles at East Carolina, Mississippi State before joining Florida State in 1995. Carr left Florida State on October 1, 2007, when he became the athletic director at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. On May 17, 2017 Mr. Carr entered phased retirement from MSU, and he will officially retire on August 31. Also updated was the caption for the final photograph with the identification of Bill Hartman, the Georgia Bulldog’s team captain in 1937. (Thanks, Jack Hilliard, for new info on Charlie Carr and the identification of Bill Hartman!)
Another serendipitous discovery unveiled itself last Friday afternoon, and so another Morton Mystery has been solved. (Well at least partially, and not all by itself; I had to do some digging.) Yesterday and today just so happen to be the fifty-ninth anniversary of the event depicted, so I’m afraid there’s not time for me to do an extensive story. So I present the images “as is” with a bit of background. We can all contribute to the story and possible identifications in the comments for this post.
Last Friday while I was examining 120 format negatives in the Morton collection, I saw an envelope labeled “Gov. Hodges — Racine, Wisc. (factory visit)” with a date of May 2, 1958. As I looked through the negatives I immediately recognized one of the images as being very similar to a color slide (below), which happens to be in the online collection.
After looking at all the color slides in that group, a bit of sleuthing led to the discovery that the event was a trip taken by Governor Luther Hodges and several North Carolina businessmen to Chicago with a side trip to Racine, Wisconsin. Morton made the slide immediately above at the S. C. Johnson and Sons headquarters, probably inside The Administrative Building (built 1936 through 1939) or possibly The Research Tower (built 1944 through 1950). The buildings are on the list of United States National Historic Landmarks and the United States Register of Historic Places. Can anyone determine which building interior this? Any Frank Lloyd Wright experts out there who can help us identify the rest of these images with more specificity? I’m a Frank Lloyd Wright fan (but by no means an expert!) and it’s killing me that I cannot spend more time researching them.
There are twenty-two slides in the lot, and you may examine nine of the “Industry Mission” slides online. (The slide above is not in the online collection.) The slides also include scenes of the emissaries’ visit to the Case Corporation factory, also in Racine, where the company made Case-o-matic tractors. Below is a slide depicting some of travelers along with Governor Hodges, probably at Case. This image currently is not in the online collection.
Twenty-nine years ago the North Carolina coastal fishing and tourist industries faced a very real problem. As most often is the case, the Hugh Morton family stepped in to offer help. Morton collection volunteer and blog contributor Jack Hilliard looks back to January, 1988 and a unique gathering of loyal North Carolinians.
First, a little history . . .
In August 1987 off the coast of Naples, Florida, microscopic algae began to reproduce at a rapid rate, thriving and expanding in a matter of days into a large toxic bloom that dominated the Florida coastal environment. Two months later that same organism, Ptychodiscus brevis, had spread to the North Carolina coast—closing 170 miles of coastal fishing waters and affecting 9,000 commercial fishermen. North Carolina had never had a toxic algae bloom. In fact a toxic bloom had never been seen north of Jacksonville, Florida, about 800 miles to the south.
At the time, some scientists described the situation as a spreading global epidemic of toxic and nontoxic algae blooms called “red tides.” North Carolina’s bloom is believed to have traveled north in the Gulf Stream, bypassing other Southern states. Some of those scientists believed the causes of the red tide epidemic likely included climatic changes, natural growth cycles, and man-made pollution among others. Other scientists remained unconvinced. “I wouldn’t want to come down and say pollution is causing red tide expansions,” said Daniel Kamykowski, a professor of oceanography at the University of North Carolina. “I don’t think pollution is that well defined in terms of the cause of red tides.”
At this point it should be pointed out that commercial seafood found in restaurants and grocery stores is safe because it comes from red tide-free-water and is monitored by the U.S. government for safe use. That being said, in early 1988, North Carolinians were skeptical: they were not eating fish, and that was hurting the coastal fishing and tourist business in at least 600 restaurants, hotels, and seafood markets. At the time, Hugh Morton, Jr. was the Director of the North Carolina Division of Travel and Tourism, having been in that position since March of 1987.
When there was a North Carolina concern that needed attention, Hugh Morton, Jr., like his father, was always ready to help. So in early January, 1988, along with the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, Morton and Governor Jim Martin launched a campaign to aid the fishing and tourism industries that were facing the red tide scare.
On January 6, 1988, Governor Martin and Hugh, Jr. staged a seafood feast at the Governor’s mansion in Raleigh. The invited guest list read like a who’s who in the Tar Heel state: Jesse Haddock, Bill Friday, Kay Yow, George Hamilton IV, Captain Frank Conlon, Kyle and Richard Petty, Clyde King, Loonis McGlohon, Charlie Justice, Shirley Caesar, Bones McKinney, Tommy Amaker, Tommy Burleson, Miss North Carolina Seafood Evonne Carawan of Morehead City, Bob Timberlake, Bobby Jones, and Phil Ford, plus a variety of costumed characters from a variety of state travel attractions, like Daniel Boone (portrayed by Glenn Causey.) In all, more than thirty loyal North Carolinians participated.
They all ate North Carolina seafood, and Hugh, Jr. put to work his advertising agency skills and produced a number of TV public service announcements using this impressive group of North Carolina legends. Hugh Morton, Sr., as would be expected, was there with camera in hand. In his 2003 book, Hugh Morton’s North Carolina, he called the group “one of the most impressive groups of celebrities ever gathered in the state.” Some of the celebrities shared their own seafood recipes, like “Richard Petty’s Favorite Crabmeat Casserole,” and “George Hamilton IV’s Favorite Scallops and Shrimp.” Both of these favorite recipes appeared in the March, 1988 issue of The State (now Our State).
According to the Saturday, January 9 Wilmington Morning Star, the campaign was to begin on Monday. I recall vividly the day the reel of two-inch videotape announcements arrived at the WFMY-TV studio in Greensboro. One of my duties at the time was to pre-screen all incoming video material. The spots were magnificent. We were pleased to air them in the Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem television market. A letter enclosed with the videotape from Wade Hargrove, Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters explained the purpose for the TV project:
These announcements come at a time when the seafood industry (which is very important to the state’s economic health) has been hit hard by the “red tide” along the coast. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of everyone, there seems to be a widespread misconception that the red tide has had an adverse effect on the state’s fish and shrimp industry—which is not the case. . . These PSAs are designed to clear up that misconception in a positive, upbeat way.
I also recall that catchy phrase that ended each spot: “North Carolina . . . first in freedom . . . first in flight . . . and first in fish.”
In the weeks and months that followed, seafood consumption began the long road to recovery. Jesse Jackson visited Wilmington for four hours on January 27 during his presidential campaign, “focusing on the economic plight of shell fishermen,” according to Janet Olsen, staff writer for the Wilmington Morning Star. On February 2 Governor Martin launched “Operation Red Tide,” a $120,000 relief fund for those fishermen who suffered losses during the epidemic. She reported that the red tide “put almost 11,000 commercial fishermen out of work in North Carolina.” On February 12 Bryson Jenkins, Public Information Spokeswoman with the North Carolina Division of Environmental Management, announced that algae counts were at 5,000 cells per liter, down from “hundreds of thousands.”
If we do not start treating our environment with more respect—giving it time to replenish itself—we are in for trouble in the future. —John H. Glenn Jr., October 12, 1971 at Douglas Municipal Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina
Ah that tantalizing question mark . . . another Morton Mystery!
For those who don’t know, many newspapers on microfilm held by the North Carolina Collection have been digitized by newspapers.com. They can be viewed for free if you are on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, otherwise you need to have a paid subscription. Searching the website quickly revealed that the conference occurred on October 12, 1971. On that day, the North Carolina Jaycees and possibly the North Carolina Conservation Council (only one source mentioned that organization) sponsored rallies in four airports across the state, capped off with an environmental conference that evening at eight o’clock in the Greensboro Coliseum. More time consuming, however, was piecing together various (sometimes conflicting) news reports to form a coherent picture of the day’s events. I don’t believe what follows, however, is the whole story so I encourage you to leave comments to help complete it. I sense that this post could lead to more on the topic of the environmental movement in North Carolina . . . and maybe even turn up more Morton Mysteries.
In North Carolina, the statutes that implemented . . . resource management programs at the state level contained policy statements that encouraged management and use of resources in contrast with the preambles of environmental-era statutes that stressed protection and preservation.
Hugh Morton’s life straddles that transition. His career includes a decade of service as a member of the North Carolina Board of Conservation and Development under governors W. Kerr Scott, William B. Umstead, and Luther H. Hodges from 1951 to 1961. It is during those years, too, that Morton begins to conserve and develop Grandfather Mountain.
The very first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. Before the end of the year, on December 2, the United States Government established the Environmental Protection Agency. The new agency was a consolidation of several entities within the federal government. This accomplishment stemmed from the recommendation of President Richard M. Nixon as part of his “Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1970,” which he proposed to the Senate and the House of Representatives on July 9th. In that document Nixon noted, “Our national government today is not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that grows our food. Indeed, the present governmental structure for dealing with environmental pollution often defies effective and concerted action.”
North Carolina Legislation
Nearly one year after the first Earth Day, on April 8, 1971, North Carolina Governor Robert Scott sent the General Assembly an environmental message accompanied by several related bills. The year saw the enactment of the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act of 1971, also known by the acronym “SEPA” (State Environmental Policy Act), and the state’s Environmental Bill of Rights, introduced by State Senator Hargrove “Skipper” Bowles. The latter was enacted on June 21, 1971. According to Heath and Hess, “the bill as introduced was drafted at Senator Bowles’ request by University of North Carolina Law School Professor Thomas Schoenbaum. The voters of the state approved the proposed constitutional amendment in the general election on November 7, 1972.”
The October 12, 1971 “Environmental Emphasis Day” (a phrase used by two of the newspapers consulted for this post, but only the Charlotte Observer used capital letters) took place during the very early phase of the campaign season for the upcoming 1972 North Carolina primary elections on May 6. Hugh Morton announced his gubernatorial candidacy for the Democratic Party on December 1, 1971.
On September 23, 1971 North Carolina Jaycees president T. Avery Nye Jr. announced that Colonel John H. Glenn Jr. would be a keynote speaker at an environmental rally at 8:00 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum, Nye noted that other speakers would include Oregon’s Republican United States Senator Robert Packwood and former United States Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. The Jaycees described the upcoming event at the coliseum as the “first of its kind in the nation.” The Greensboro Daily News reported that the day would start with Glenn and Udall, “accompanied by announced candidates for governor of North Carolina,” making a “whistle-stop tour” of the state “traveling by private, executive-type aircraft” to rallies at airports in Asheville, Wilmington, Charlotte, and Raleigh-Durham. Packwood would unite with Udall and Glenn in Greensboro after the tour for the evening rally. North Carolina’s United States Senator B. Everett Jordon “and most other members of the state’s delegation to Congress and members of the state’s General Assembly” were expected to attend. Nye also encouraged the general public to attend, noting that no admission or parking fees would be charged. The rally, Nye said, “is being staged to give North Carolinians an opportunity to show their support for good environmental legislation.” Attendees were going to be asked to complete a questionnaire on state environmental problems, with the results to be distributed to legislators and members of Congress.
The choice of John Glenn, the celebrated astronaut who nearly a decade earlier had become the first American to orbit Earth, to be a keynote speaker for an environmental conference may seem puzzling to us today, but it was not so at the time. Glenn had recently chaired Ohio’s Citizens Task Force on Environmental Protection, a bipartisan task force announced by that state’s Governor-elect John J. Gilligan on November 25, 1970. The panel issued it’s final report in June 1971. After its publication, Glenn toured around the country promoting Ohio’s study as a model for other states.
Three subsequent articles provided more details about the upcoming event: one in the Asheville Citizen on Monday, October 4, the second in a Daily Tar Heel article published on October 8, and the third in the Asheville Citizen-Times on Sunday, October 10. The Asheville Citizen article’s headline read “Environment To Be Frequent Topic During October In North Carolina.” The article described several activities scheduled for the month, including the “statewide environmental rally” in Greensboro that would be preceded on the same day by four airport rallies in Raleigh-Durham, Wilmington, Charlotte, and Asheville. (This order would be the actual order of the tour.) In addition to listing the expected speakers and invited individuals for the evening rally, the article stated that a “30-minute brand new movie on North Carolina and its environment” would be shown that night.
According to the Daily Tar Heel article, the Jaycees’ event was now co-sponsored with the North Carolina Conservation Council—no other resource, however, mentions this. The day was to begin in Washington D.C., where Governor Bob Scott, Bowles, Udall, and Glenn would fly to Raleigh-Durham Airport for the first of the four airport rallies. Later in the day in Greensboro, all but one of the state’s congressmen would fly to Greensboro from Washington for the evening’s rally. According to the October 12 issue of the News and Observer, however, Governor Scott met the Glenn-Udall party at Raleigh-Durham Airport and then traveled with them to the subsequent rallies. Scott did not attend the Greensboro event; instead, he returned to Raleigh to celebrate his wife’s birthday.
The Citizen-Times article published just two days before the eventful day stated that the North Carolina Jaycees “put about a year of planning and hard work” into the event. Thad Woodard, the Jaycees’ state environmental chairman, said,
The rally provides an opportunity for people of the state who have been expressing interest in environmental problems to show the strength of conservationists and environmentalists in North Carolina. We believe these problems have to be approached both on a legislative and on an educational basis . . . and our legislators and educators need to know that people are genuinely interested in the environment.
The Citizen-TImes also informed readers that the airport visits were to be made in two six-passenger planes provided by First Union National Bank and Northwestern Bank.
News coverage from the host cities’ newspapers shed light on some of the activities for the rallies held on October 12. The News and Observer assistant city editor Daniel C. Hoover covered the day’s events, but he did not describe much about the Raleigh-Durham airport rally. Hoover only wrote that Governor Scott “called on official in coastal counties to declare a moratorium on all permits to destroy dunes for development pending a study authorized by the general Assembly.” Hoover then quoted Scott, who said he would “propose, in the near future, to call together all county and municipal officials of our coastal counties, along with appropriate state officials, to explore solutions to existing and potential coastal problems.”
At the next stop, Ronald G. Dunn, staff writer for the Wilmington Morning Star estimated their airport crowd to be seventy-five people. John Glenn drew upon his experiences as an astronaut. He told those gathered that Earth is “in effect a spaceship on which the warning lights are on, so therefore, as spacemen we should take action immediately to save our environment.” He described the obviousness from space that Earth’s atmosphere is a very shallow layer and that America was likely among the world’s worst polluters. He also urged involvement, saying “People interest in the United States gets action, so get interested.” An accompanying UPI photograph with caption depicted Scott, Glenn, Udall and “gubernatorial aspirant Hargrove Bowles” at Raleigh-Durham rather than a scene from the Wilmington airport rally. Bowles was able to join the group because, as of the environmental emphasis day, he was the only officially declared candidate for governor.
Only thirty people attended the rally in Charlotte according to Charlotte Observer staff writer Susan Jetton. Perhaps as a result of the sparse attendance, Governor Scott said “efforts of decision-makers are not very successful without the active support of the people.” Glenn again drew attention to the “warning signals” of pollution that were appearing “on this space ship earth.” He added, “If we do not start treating our environment with more respect—giving it time to replenish itself—we are in for trouble in the future.”
The Asheville visit drew more than one hundred people, according to staff write Connie Blackwell. Glenn used the “warning lights” metaphor here, too, but Blackwell added that Glenn did not see himself as “one of the doom and gloom boys.” Bowles urged the approval of the Environmental Bill of Rights. Udall and Scott each addressed proposed aspects of the Tennessee Valley Authority project in western North Carolina, the Mills River Dam and Reservoir. Udall, noting his many visits to western North Carolina during the previous ten years, said he was there that day because “I don’t want to see North Carolina go down the same road” as California. He noted that his “attitudes have made about a 180-degree turn in the past ten years. It used to be if a dam was mentioned, I automatically thought it was a good idea. Now, my reaction would be that it should not be built.” He continued,
Industrialists came into these valleys years ago and said. “We’ll give you jobs, but we’ll ruin your mountain streams and stink up your pure air.” They accepted because jobs were so badly needed. Now we are beginning to realize that it didn’t have to be that way.
Several newspapers and the Associated Press (AP) reported on the evening conference. David S. Greene of the Greensboro Daily News, report that the first speaker was Udall, who wrote that Udall described “North Carolina as a leading state in maintaining ‘the standard of living,'” but also one that needed to prevent further “despoilment of the environment.” Udall encouraged attendees to “Hold on to what you’ve got.” Udall referred specifically Bald Head Island, which he had seen during a flyover earlier in the day. The AP reported that private developers wanted to build a “plush resort” there and that environmentalists had asked the state to purchase it and maintain its natural state. Greene noted that the audience applauded when Udall “urged American to listen to young environmentalists.” Quoting Udall: “If they have something to contribute let them contribute. It’s their world.”
The News and Observer reported that Udall, as “the keynote speaker,” suggested that Bald Head Island be added to the existing Cape Lookout National Seashore. He added during a press conference following the rally that there was “a hang-up” on how to pay for the acquisition. Hoover wrote that Udall continued by offering a few options “as prospective gubernatorial candidate Hugh Morton hovered at his shoulder snapping pictures.”
Senator B. Everett Jordan then introduced John Glenn, first noting legislation to reduce automobile exhaust and the problem of “one hundred million automobile tires lying around our countryside” plus twenty-eight billion bottles, a like number of cans, and millions of tons of paper products. Jordan then encouraged the audience to increase the recycling of products that have been seen as waste.
Recalling his orbital spaceflight John Glenn observed, “We do have closed loop systems that have to refurbish themselves, but we are, in fact, in danger of overtaxing our systems.” He said nature was waving “red flags” of warning and that “people power” was causing industry and government to take notice. That, in turn, he said “can generate the heat to get something done. People power, you bet.” He then dismissed the saying “the solution to pollution is dilution.” Glenn said, “We see the red flags going up . . . we better do something about it.”
Roy Sowers, director of the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources introduced Republican Senator Robert Packwood of Oregon, the concluding speaker. Packwood drew much attention and applause as he addressed measures that could advance population control. “I am committed,” he said, “to stopping this population binge, and reducing it, turning it around.”
Despite the presence of so many politicians, the North Carolina Jaycees tried its best to keep the event from being political, according to Nat Walker in his “Political Notebook” column for the The Greensboro Daily News with the headline “Environmental Rally Becomes Political Gathering—Naturally.” Walker said, “They succeeded—sort of.” Only three North Carolina politicians got to speak from the rostrum—Bowles, Sowers, and Jordon—leaving the remaining “real or potential” candidates to “rely on mingling with the crowd or finding some excuse to stand in front of the audience.”
Mid October was an interesting time in Hugh Morton’s life. A month earlier, Morton attended the Governor’s Down-East Jamboree as a undeclared candidate for the 1972 Democratic Party primary. He would officially declare his candidacy on December 1. This meant that on October 12 Morton was still an “unofficial” candidate, and was not invited to participate in the flights to the airport rallies. Two newspapers reported specifically about Morton on that day. The Charlotte Observer characterized Morton as “unhappy.” In Charlotte, Morton said that he had, “done more in an environmental way than anyone now running for governor.” He acknowledged that being an unannounced candidate prevented him from participating. The Greensboro Daily News painted Morton as being in a different mood at the evening’s conference. Bowles, as an “announced” candidate for governor, got to introduce Udall because C. C. Cameron, a member of the state Board of Natural and Economic Resources, did not attend. Walker wrote that Morton “appeared miffed” and “pointedly noted that the Jaycees had extended him an invitation to attend the coliseum function.” Walker then recounted a scene where a “woman reporter” asked Morton when he would announce for governor. Morton snapped, “When I get ready.” Walker concluded that the reporter “Apparently couldn’t think of a follow up question and left red-faced.”
In our previous post, Jack Hilliard recounted President Harry S. Truman’s participation in the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Winston-Salem campus of Wake Forest College. We used the photograph below was to illustrate the story, and I mentioned in a parenthetical statement that we would look more closely at the subject in our next post. On this day with a presidential visit to Chapel Hill, I hereby fulfill my campaign promise.
Seven weeks after President Harry S. Truman visited Winston-Salem for the groundbreaking ceremony for Wake Forest College on October 15, 1951, LIFE published a tightly cropped version (see below) of the Hugh Morton photograph shown above in its December 3, 1951 issue. Morton’s photograph accompanied photographs by other photographers in an article titled, “Warmed Over Again: Politicians turn the Dixie flag into a Sour Gag.” The brief article paired two other photographs depicting the Confederate flag used in the design of a necktie worn by Alabama Senator Harry Byrd, and as a conductor’s baton in the hand of Atlanta mayor William Hartford directing the city’s symphony playing Dixie. LIFE published “Warmed Over Again” in a Sequel column as a follow-up to its 15 October article, “The Flag, Suh!” LIFE‘s caption for Morton’s photograph reads, “DUCKING HIS FLAG behind his back, bystander waves loyally at Harry Truman when the latter’s car passes him on its way to Winston-Salem, N.C.” The photograph illustrated a one-paragraph story which concluded with the sentence, “But in Winston-Salem, N.C. one flag waver felt suddenly silly enough to hide the rebel banner when his president passed by.” On face value that is was appears to be happening. Can Morton’s other negatives made during Truman’s visit provide some additional insight? First, some background . . .
LIFE‘s The Flag, Suh!”—a one-paragraph article with the subtitle “Confederacy’s banner reaches a new popularity”—stated that “the Confederate Flag last week was enjoying a renascence.” As examples, the magazine published eight photographs depicting the Confederate flag, including
members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy pledging their allegiance;
Miss Dixie of 1951 wearing three flags combined to make a blouse;
a University of Maryland student’s car as wind-blown decorations as it drives along;
a southern division of the U. S. Army parading it along with other colors; and
as part of the design of a necktie, worn by southern United States senators’s employees.
The article surmised, “Some interpret all this as an anti-Truman gesture, others possibly more intellectual as a revival in states’ rights. Most people, however, recognized a fad when they saw one.”
News reporters describing the president’s visit to Winston-Salem offered several nuggets of evidence that give credence to LIFE’s anti-Truman interpretation. Under the headline, “Confederate Flags Furnish Off Note In Truman Visit,” W. C. Burton, staff writer for the Greensboro Daily Record, described the scene along the presidential route from the airport to Reynolda where the presidential luncheon was to be held:
Crowds lined both sides of the cavalcade’s route through Winston-Salem and the people were is such high spirits that some of them cheered the press busses. Several of the spectators waved small ten-cent-store United States flags. A small rebellious, but hardly subversive and probably waggish note, was observed in the Confederate flags which not a few of the onlookers waved. It may or may not be significant that as the procession moved into the residential section of the better heeled the number of Dixie banners increased. In any case the secret service men made no move and a hawker who was peddling the Confederate flags admitted that business was not exactly booming.
The Associated Press correspondent assigned to cover Truman, Ernest B. Vaccaro, wrote two articles covering Truman’s trip. In one, Vaccaro observed that, “Many of the school children along the president’s route waved American flags, but here and there were some Confedete flags.” Other reporters also took note. Simmons Fentress of Raleigh’s News and Observer‘s wrote, “There were children by the scores and there were little Confederate flags, dozens of them. One boy, in a high school band uniform, waved his flag vigorously and shouted, as the cars would pass: ‘The South will rise again.'” Fentress also wrote, “At one point probably a hundred children were collected. Perhaps 25 of them had little American flags. Perhaps 35 of them had little Confederate flags.”
Marjorie Hunter of the Winston-Salem Journal, describing the crowd along the road to Reynolda wrote, “Hundreds of persons waved United States flags as the presidential car passed by. A few jumped up and down with Confederate flags in their hands.” Bob Barnard, also with the Winston-Salem Journal described many onlookers including “several little girls waving Confederate flags.” United Press correspondent Merriman Smith mentioned that “Children and adults waved flags at [Truman’s] car—many of them Confederate banners.”
On a similar note, the Statesville Daily Record recounted the efforts of two young boys who wanted to meet Truman despite the “tight cordon about the President’s party, not allowing anyone to get too close.” One lad, Charlie Wineberry, “dashed up to the president, proudly wearing his Confederate cap and got a nice handshake from the chief executive. However, he turned down an offer by newsreel cameramen for a picture with Charlie and the Confederate cap.”
Not limited to the parade route, Confederate flags made their way to the dedication ceremony, too. The Charlotte Observer noted that “Confederate flags as well as the Stars and Stripes were flying around the grandstand from which President Truman made his address.” Only United States flags, however, can been seen in Morton’s negative depicting an overview scene of the platform (shown in the previous post). Perhaps Durham Morning Herald reporter Russell Brantley’s picturing the scene explains it better:
The President, stocky and natty in a double-breasted blue suit, had nothing to say about past squabbles with Southern Democrats over civil rights. And an estimated crowd of 20,000, many of them Baptists and a number of them sporting Confederate flags, responded with enthusiasm.
Additionally, certain versions of an Associated Press article include a sentence that begins, “The president told the crowd, dozens of whom carried Confederate flags, . . .” So perhaps it was in the grandstands were where the crowd sat, not where the president stood, where the Confederate flags flew.
Does Brantley’e description also shed light on why there were so many Confederate flags that day, namely a displeasure with Truman’s efforts to ensure civil rights for all citizens? Among Truman’s initial undertakings to this end was the establishment, by Executive Order 9808, of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights in 1946. The committee had a North Carolina touchstone: Frank Porter Graham, the first president of the consolidated University of North Carolina from 1930 until Truman appointed him to be a member of the committee. In 1949 Governor W. Kerr Scott, a pro-Truman Democrat (pictured in the photograph above seated next to the president), appointed Graham to complete the term of United States Senator J. Melville Broughton after he died in office after serving only a few months. In the 1950 race for the seat, Graham lost a primary runoff election to anti-Truman Democrat Willis Smith that was tinged with anti-segrationist sentiments from Smith’s supporters.
Returning to the Morton collection, what else did Hugh Morton photograph that day? In the collection there are four negatives depicting a man holding a Confederate flag behind his back while waving or possibly saluting Truman. Morton labeled two of these negatives; both include the name “J. D. Fitz” and “Confederate Flag.” In addition to the motorcade negative shown above, Morton made three exposures at the airport, similarly posed, one of which is below.
Did Morton encounter this scene, too, with the same person at two different locations? From the news articles we know this man wasn’t the only person carrying a Confederate flag that day. Considering Morton’s labeling of the negatives, the “flag waver” mentioned in the LIFE caption is likely J. D. Fitz. The existence of that many negatives suggests that Morton either preplanned these photographs, encountered Fitz during the event and then staged the similar scenes, or followed Fitz to two locations and then photographed Fitz and his antics.
And who is J. D. Fitz? I have only a few clues thus far, based upon a United States Census search. In the 1940 census, there is a John D. Fitz, age 24, who lived in Shelby, North Carolina with wife Lina or Lena, who stated his occupation was “Sports Editor” for a “Daily Newspaper.” The census also provides Fitz’s 1935 residence as Reidsville in Rockingham County. The Shelby city directory for 1939-1940 lists a “Fitz Jos D (Lena T)” as sports editor for the Shelby Daily Star, but he is not listed in the previous or subsequent Shelby directories. There is a “Fitz Jos D” listed as a clerk at Kroger Grocery & Baking Co. in 1932 Reidsville city directory, and again as a clerk at Piggly Wiggly in Reidsville’s 1935 city directory. Given Morton’s love of sports and sports photography, did he know Fitz?
There are two other clues to consider. In the above photograph, note the reporter-style notebook in the left pocket of the man on the right. Was he also a reporter? And finally, notice the box at his feet. Could that have been Morton’s camera box?
Are there other possibilities? What do you think?
June 5, 1950 was a very special day on the old Wake Forest College campus in Wake Forest, North Carolina. It was commencement day but it was also the day the College Board of Trustees met and selected Wake’s tenth President. Near the end of commencement ceremonies, Dean of the College Dr. Daniel Bryan announced that the Board had selected Dr. Harold Wayland Tribble as the new President. Wake’s college yearbook, Howler, closed its year-end summary for 1950 with these words:
Dr. Tribble enters his new service at the crucial time in both the world and local history. One of his chief jobs during the next few years will be to complete the proposed campus move to Winston-Salem; a move that could presage a new era of Wake Forest service to the South.
October 15, 2016 marks the 65th anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Reynolda Campus at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. The special guest and keynote speaker that day was President Harry S. Truman. The special ceremony received national media coverage. Like so many important events in North Carolina’s history, Hugh Morton was there with camera in hand to document the proceedings. On this special anniversary, Morton Collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back to that day in 1951.
North Carolina’s lead story on March 25, 1946, was that the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem’s had offered $350,000 a year in perpetuity to Wake Forest College, if it would move from Wake Forest, North Carolina where it had been since its founding in 1834, to a new campus in Winston-Salem. Included as part of the deal was 300 acres of land in the Reynolda area from Charles H. Babcock, a Winston-Salem investment banker. Also in the package was a $2 million challenge grant from William N. Neal and his niece Nancy Reynolds Babcock to cover building expenses. The Reynolds Foundation offer and the Babcock land deal would increase substantially by October, 1951.
Although Wake Forest’s medical school had made the move to Winston-Salem in 1941, (now the Bowman Gray School of Medicine,) and set up on the Hawthorne Campus about four miles from the Reynolda site, there was still some opposition to the move. Over its long history, Wake Forest College always seemed to have the right president in place when crucial events were at hand. That was never truer than on a spring day in 1950 when university leaders selected Dr. Harold W. Tribble to head the Baptist institution. Dr. Tribble knew how to fuel the challenge-grant drive and quell the opposition. He was able to do both with extensive travels to address alumni groups, preach sermons, and address gatherings such as Gordon Gray’s inauguration as University of North Carolina system president on October 10, 1950.
The university set a groundbreaking date for October 15, 1951. Dr. Tribble knew the groundbreaking ceremony had to be special, something that would send a signal that the “move is on.” He was able to utilize special contacts that Gordon Gray had made during his time as a White House assistant, along with the influence of alumnus Gerald Johnson, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun. Dr. Tribble sent a special invitation to President Harry S. Truman to join in the groundbreaking ceremony. On the afternoon of October 2, 1951, he received word from Matthew Connelly, one of Truman’s White House aides, that the president had accepted the invitation.
Conservative Baptists weren’t exactly thrilled with the choice of Truman because of his rough language from time to time and his pro-civil rights inclinations. But the importance of a Truman appearance would bring national media coverage and send that clear signal that Tribble wanted: this move is going to happen.
October 15, 1951 was declared a holiday for the 1,800 students on the old Wake Forest campus. In the early morning hours, buses were lined up and ready to transport the students to Winston-Salem for the groundbreaking ceremony. All four of Greensboro’s radio stations were in place to broadcast Truman’s speech, plus there was also a nationwide radio hookup. And the market’s only TV station at the time, WFMY-TV in Greensboro planned to film the proceedings for later broadcast in their news programs. By late morning, a threat of rain had disappeared leaving a perfect day for the presidential visit and some serious ceremonial spadework.
A crowd estimated at 4,000 was waiting for the president’s arrival at Smith Reynolds Airport. The Mineral Springs High School Band entertained the crowd with the march “Our Director” and “The Washington and Lee Swing.” At 10:13 North Carolina Governor W. Kerr Scott arrived from Raleigh, accompanied by Hugh Morton, member of the state board of Conservation and Development, and Joseph Crawford, former warden at Central Prison.
Two four-engine-planes preceded that of the president: the first carried North Carolina’s congressional delegation while the second carried the Washington press corp. That second group brought the total number of press members to over 200, including the David Brinkley crew from NBC-TV. Brinkley, a North Carolina native, had recently joined NBC News in the nation’s capital. Then, at 11:29 AM the president’s plane touched down. At that moment, President Harry S. Truman became the first United States president to visit Winston-Salem since George Washington’s visit during his Southern tour of 1791. On this day, Truman was aboard a four-engine Air Force transport; his private plane, called the “Independence,” had experienced engine problems and had been left in Washington.
At the foot of the landing platform, Governor Scott, Tribble, Gray, and Winston-Salem Mayor Marshall C. Kurfees greeted Truman, who was accompanied by his aides from each of the military services. Scott, Tribble, and Truman then made their way across the tarmac where special limousines were waiting. Crowds lined both sides of the six-mile route to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Babcock, where the president was honored with a special luncheon. Winston-Salem Police Chief James I. Waller led the motorcade followed by a car of secret service officers. Along the route, several in the crowd waved small United States flags, and a few others waved the old Confederate flag. In its December 3, 1951 issue Life published a Hugh Morton photograph of a person holding a Confederate flag behind his back as Truman’s automobile passed by. (Our next post will look at that subject in more detail.) About 240 North Carolina State Highway Patrolmen, assisted by Greensboro and Winston-Salem police officers patrolled the route. The presidential motorcade arrived at Reynolda at noon.
At 1:55 PM, the motorcade reformed and headed to the future home of Wake Forest College where a crowd of about 20,000 was already in place. The ceremony began at 2 PM with an invocation by Dr. Ralph W. Herring, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. Dr. Herring was followed by the formal presentation of the land on which the new college would be located, by Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Babcock. Dr. Casper Warren, Chairman of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention’s fund-raising committee, then presented a one-million-dollar gift for construction of the first campus building, which was to be a chapel. Accepting both gifts was Judge Hubert E. Olive, President of the Wake Forest College Board of Trustees. Gordon Gray then delivered greetings from the educational institutions of North Carolina.
At approximately 2:30, Tribble introduced the nation’s chief executive. Truman, a fellow Baptist, then delivered what had been billed as a major policy address. The president began with a tribute to the 117-year-history of Wake Forest College.
It is a privilege to join my fellow Baptists in rejoicing at the enlargement and rebuilding of one of our great institutions. It is a privilege to join the people of North Carolina in celebrating their devotion to freedom of the mind and spirit. . . Wake Forest College has given 117 years of distinguished service to education and religion in this state. Over the years, the college has sent thousands of graduates out through the land to positions of leadership and trust.
Truman then talked about the tense international situation, saying that many Americans oppose the present costly defense efforts, which he insisted were essential for peace. He made an offer to work out a plan of atomic weapons control with Russia adding, “I cannot guarantee that we will reach our goal. The result does not depend entirely on our own efforts. The rulers of the Kremlin can plunge the world into carnage if they desire to do so. . . . The only way they’ll respect and live up to any agreement is because they know someone is strong enough to carry it out.” This statement brought many in the crowd to their feet. Truman closed with this: “Armed with faith and hope that made this college and this country great, you may declare in the words of King David, ‘through God we shall do valiantly.'”
Following the Presidential address, a dedicatory prayer was given by Dr. George D. Heaton, pastor of Myers Park Baptist Church of Charlotte. Then it was groundbreaking time. The President was handed a decorated shovel and then yelled to the assembled photographers, “All y’all ready?” He then turned the first shovel full of dirt, followed by Judge Olive, then O. M. Mull, chairman of the college building committee. President Tribble then turned that final shovel full, thus making it official: the construction of the Reynolda Campus of Wake Forest College in Winston-Salem was underway.
The President headed back to the airport for his return to the Nation’s Capital. He would be home by 4:47 PM. It would be almost five years before the completion of the first fourteen buildings, in time for the first students who arrived on the Winston-Salem campus in the fall of 1956. Epilog:
Dr. Harold W. Tribble led Wake Forest College until his retirement on June 6, 1967. In his seventeen-year term as president of the school, assets increased from about $10.5 million to more than $91 million and the number of students grew from 1,800 to 3.000.
When Dr. Tribble took office in May of 1950 he had two dreams for the school. One of those dreams was fulfilled in the fall of 1956 when the first students arrived on the Winston-Salem campus. The second was to see Wake Forest College achieve University status, which it achieved on June 18, 1967—twelve days before Dr. Tribble retired.