Majestic Kenan Stadium, A Priceless Gem

Wide-angle view of Kenan Stadium, circa 1997

Note from Elizabeth: This post was written by volunteer Jack Hilliard as a tribute to Kenan Stadium in honor of its recent facelift. For a great related article about Hugh Morton and Charlie Justice, check out this column by Lee Pace on

What two things do each of the following have in common: opera star Norman Cordon, Hollywood actress Georgia Carroll, CBS News correspondent Charles Kuralt, UNC Football Great Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, actor-comedian Andy Griffith, Rev. Billy Graham, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, Rameses VI, NC Governors Terry Sanford and J. Melville Broughton, Hall of Fame football coaches Carl Snavely and Jim Tatum from UNC and Wallace Wade from Duke, musician Arthur Smith, and Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy?

Need a clue?  There is a UNC-Chapel Hill connection . . . Each appeared and/or performed in Kenan Memorial Stadium, and Hugh Morton photographed them in that majestic venue.

The 1966 UNC Football Media Guide called Kenan “A Southern Showplace.” Built in 1927 for $375,000 on the outskirts of the campus, the arena now sits nearer center campus following 82 years of campus growth. Over those years, it has been the stage for July 4th fireworks displays, concerts featuring Bruce Springsteen; Blood, Sweat and Tears; Grand Funk Railroad; Joe Cocker; and Chapel Hill favorite James Taylor. In mid-May, UNC graduation ceremonies are held in the stadium with speakers like Bill Cosby, Madeleine Albright, and Desmond Tutu.

Air view of high school band competition at UNC's Kenan StadiumThe Stadium has played host to high school marching band competitions (see above), campus beauty contests, homecoming and reunion celebrations, and two U.S. Presidents (John Kennedy in 1961, and Bill Clinton in 1993). During World War II (when the entire campus welcomed the Navy Pre-Flight School), the Stadium was the home for military graduation parades. A memorial was held in the Stadium for FDR in April, 1945 and for JFK in May, 1964. Around that same time, a popular campus rumor was that the Stadium might need to be used for Dr. Robert B. House’s Classics 31 class and Dr. J. Primrose Harland’s Archeology 85 because they were so large!

But, most people think of Kenan Stadium as a football arena. It is indeed that — the home of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Continue reading “Majestic Kenan Stadium, A Priceless Gem”

Tar Heels are going bowling…again!

Note from Elizabeth: This post was written by someone whose name will be familiar to readers of this blog: our knowledgeable commenter Jack Hilliard. Hilliard is a North Carolina native, UNC-CH alumni (1963) and retired television producer/director (primarily for WFMY-TV in Greensboro). Hilliard got to know Hugh Morton through legendary UNC footballer Charlie Justice, and they worked closely together on the 2004 campaign for the Justice statue that stands in front of UNC’s Kenan Football Center. Hilliard now works as a volunteer for UNC Libraries, helping us identify Morton football images from the Justice era.

Butch Davis and his 2008 Tar Heels are headed to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte on December 27.  It will mark Carolina’s first bowl appearance since 2004, and will be their overall 26th. Hugh Morton covered several of those games over the years.

UNC’s first bowl game was the 13th Annual Sugar Bowl Classic (link to archival film of game) in foggy New Orleans on January 1, 1947.  That game was billed as the “Battle of the Charlies.”  Leading Coach Carl Snavely’s Tar Heels was freshman sensation Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, and leading Coach Wally Butts’ Georgia Bulldogs was senior All America Charley Trippi. The Bulldogs were unbeaten, untied and ranked number three in the country.  Carolina was 8-1-1 and ranked number nine. The game lived up to its advance billing.  Carolina led 7-0 at the half, but Georgia came from behind twice in the second half to take the game 20-10.

UNC 1947 Sugar Bowl startersThe game was not without controversy. Two second half calls (or really one no-call and one call) went against the Tar Heels. An interception-lateral play was allowed to stand and put Georgia into scoring position and a Carolina interference call nullified a Tar Heel touchdown. (The interception-lateral play would be reviewed today, but since there was no replay in 1947, the call stood). When the 16mm film was developed and shown the next week, both plays were shown to be questionable — too late to help the Heels.

When the game ended, 75,000 fans stood and cheered both teams as the two Charlies shook hands at mid-field. That friendship would continue as both Justice and Trippi would meet as opponents seven times during their NFL careers between 1950 and 1954 — Justice with the Washington Redskins and Trippi with the old Chicago Cardinals. (Ironically, Justice’s first and last games as a professional, on 10/22/50 and 12/12/54, would come against Trippi and the Cardinals).

Reunion of 1947 UNC Sugar Bowl Team, at Greensboro Train Station, 12/31/1996At 11:30 AM on Tuesday, December 31, 1996, a 20-car Norfolk Southern train pulled out of the station in Greensboro (the same way it had done on December 21, 1946) headed for New Orleans and this time for the 63rd Annual Sugar Bowl.  90 UNC players, managers, wives and special guests of the 1947 Sugar Bowl team would meet up with about 40 members of the ’47 Georgia  Sugar Bowl team. . . including the two Charlies.  Justice, Trippi, and Carolina’s 1946 Co-Captain Ralph Strayhorn took part in a pre-game 50-yard-line ceremony at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 1997.

Reunion of 1947 Sugar Bowl Teams, January 2, 1997The outcome of the 1947 Sugar Bowl was settled a long time ago, but for one final time, Justice and Trippi would replay that game played 50 years before and add their own “what ifs.”  The reunion trip was truly “A Time Remembered and a Sentimental Journey,” and of course, Hugh Morton was there with his camera.

— Jack Hilliard

Turkey and Football

Turkeys in snow
I have often heard it said that turkey and football are the best parts of Thanksgiving. Hugh Morton loved to photograph both of them, so I’m sharing a few prize shots with you in honor of this week’s holiday.
The next image was identified as one of “Hugh Morton’s Favorite Ten” in the 10/1/1968 issue of The State magazine (along with this one and this one). The text that accompanied the image is included below (note that I cropped it roughly as it appeared in The State, on page 10).
Bill Dudley (UVA #35) touchdown run, UNC-UVA football game, Kenan Stadium, 11/20/1941

Morton’s most significant sports action picture is probably this one of All-America Bill Dudley running 80 yards in Kenan Stadium at Chapel Hill in November 1941 for what some University of Virginia alumni say was the greatest individual performance ever given by a “Cavalier” athlete. The picture was taken for the “Charlotte News,” and Sports Editor Burke Davis titled it “I’m coming, Virginia.”

Justice's prayer

On an overcast November day in Yankee Stadium in 1949, UNC’s injured and idled All-American running back huddled to the ground and pulled his rain cape over his body.  Hugh Morton pulled out his camera and trained it on Justice—Charlie “Choo-Choo” Justice—praying undercover for the Tar Heels, who were leading Notre Dame 6-0.  It may be Morton’s most widely published photograph from that notable contest, whose final outcome was a 42-6 defeat for Carolina.
As I mentioned in my post on Friday, I just could not dampen the festive atmosphere for Saturday’s game by posting this photograph.  Justice’s prayer was shattered in New York, but the Tar Heel victory this past weekend in Chapel Hill was “just deserts.”
Today I found a few more negatives from the 1949 game and I have scanned several of those found thus far. I hope to put up a selection in the next day or two.

The Tar Heels against the Fighting Irish in the Big Apple

Tomorrow afternoon, Kenan Memorial Stadium on campus will be in the hub of excitement that accompanies UNC football, magnified by the mystique of its opponent, Notre Dame University.  Earlier this week I wrote a blog post for our sister blog, North Carolina Miscellany, featuring photographs in the Photographic Archives made by Bob Brooks in 1949 when UNC first played Notre Dame.  That game took place in New York City’s Yankee Stadium.  And if you didn’t already know or deduce . . . Hugh Morton was there.
I cannot bring myself to include in this entry Morton’s most memorable photograph from that contest.  It’s just too heartbreaking to post amidst the anticipation and excitement of tomorrow’s game.  I promise to publish it on Monday.  Instead, here’s a festive pre-game photograph made of UNC’s mascot Rameses and fans in the lobby of a New York hotel:
Group gathered for Nov. 1949 UNC-Notre Dame football game
As usual, we’d love to hear from you with identifications if you can.
I spent a good portion of today tracking down negatives from the game (I’ve found some) and trying to confirm that a group of them are from Yankee Stadium.  The day escaped from me in the process, so I’ll post the game photographs on Monday.

Battle for the Victory Bell

1957 Press PassIt’s that time of year, and in honor of this Saturday’s UNC-Duke football game, we thought we would revisit the same event 50 years ago: the dramatic November 23, 1957 face-off at Wallace Wade Stadium. UNC coach Jim Tatum had suspended quarterback Dave Reed a few weeks earlier in the season (prior to the Wake Forest game), and “Dook” was expected to win . . . making the Heels’ surprise 21 to 13 victory all the sweeter.
Hugh Morton was on the sidelines, of course, and we have his press pass (above) to prove it. After the game, Morton made a well-known photograph of Coach Tatum embracing an emotional Reed. That photograph is featured on page 168 of the 2003 book Hugh Morton’s North Carolina. The image below shows an enthusiastic but unidentified UNC fan in the stands that day, wearing buttons that read “Beat Dook” and “I Told You So.” Do you know who this is?

Unidentified UNC fan