Gen. Westmoreland: Keeper of the Hearth

General Westmoreland, Sept. 1984
Hugh Morton cultivated many relationships in his various roles as photographer, publicist, land developer, and civic pillar. He became friends with paragons of athleticism (Michael Jordan, Ted Williams), beloved celebrities (Charles Kuralt) and, in the instance that is relevant to this blog post, people of great geopolitical significance. One of these people, General William Westmoreland, first met Morton on November 11, 1963 during a Veterans Day Celebration for the USS North Carolina.  A few months after, he was appointed by President Johnson as commander of the U.S. Military forces in Vietnam, a post that lasted until 1968.

Military Man

Gen. William Westmoreland and others at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, circa 1980s

Westmoreland is known primarily as a military man, and his public image was a stern one—sharp features, piercing eyes, powerful eyebrows, and a visible discomfort in plainclothes. He is shown here looking as natural and imposing as a granite cliff in his formal military attire at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Given his military demeanor, then, it must have seemed a daunting task to Hugh Morton when he was asked by Westmoreland’s Public Relations firm to take pictures of him living an entirely domestic life. Westmoreland needed PR assistance with a $120 million libel suit he filed against CBS in response to their 1982 documentary, The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception. This documentary, narrated by journalist Mike Wallace, accused Westmoreland of manipulating military intelligence to claim there were fewer communists in South Vietnam, thereby creating the impression that the war was being won. Westmoreland was upset at this assault on his character, and mounted a lawsuit against CBS and Mike Wallace.
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John D. Loudermilk, “incredibly erratic” musician

It’s been well established on this blog that Hugh Morton was a huge music fan, and there are many images in the collection that relate to music, musicians, and music history: swing, jazz, gospel, folk, and other traditional music from a variety of traditions. Continuing in this series of entries, I would like to present the Durham-born musician John D. Loudermilk.

The cousin of Ira and Charlie Loudermilk (better known as the Louvin Brothers), John Loudermilk was born in Durham, NC in 1934. Also known as “Johnny Dee” and, occasionally, “Ebe Sneezer” (of Ebe Sneezer and the Epidemics), Loudermilk has been involved with music as a singer, songwriter, and ethnomusicologist. He has written and performed within the context of several genres, including 1950s teen rock and roll, blues, and country music (a biography on calls him “incredibly erratic” and “one of the weirdest figures of early rock & roll,” in part due to his ability to evade classification).

Our fellow Wilson Library occupant, the Southern Folklife Collection, holds the definitive John D. Loudermilk Collection of sheet music, correspondence, memorabilia, recordings, and other materials. They kindly provided us with an audio clip of “Tobacco Road,” below. As says of the song, “if he’d written nothing else, Loudermilk would have been worth a footnote in any history of popular music.” Recorded in 1960 as a folk song, it soon became a cross-genre favorite, performed by such disparate acts as The Nashville Teens, Jefferson Airplane, David Lee Roth, and Eric Burdon & War.

>> PLAY “Tobacco Road” by John D. Loudermilk <<

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UNC vs. Villanova: 1982 and 1985

This Saturday night, the #1 seeded UNC Men’s Tar Heels face the #3 Villanova Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament Final Four. I imagine here in Chapel Hill more than a few TVs and radios will be tuned to the 8:47 p.m. live broadcast.

While we wait for the outcome to unfold in Detroit, perhaps instead of imagining every possible permutation of player match-up, we should explore the historical, photo-documented precedents of Saturday’s game.

In the Morton collection two (and maybe more — I haven’t yet seen any photographs from the 1991 or 2005 tournament games) significant meetings of UNC and Villanova are captured. Both were in the regional semi-finals (Elite 8): one in 1982, the other in 1985.

There is much talk in the sports media about how Villanova is reaching the Final Four for the first time since 1985, and how they arrived in that year only after defeating North Carolina 56-44 in Birmingham. It was a disappointing and unexpected loss for the Tar Heels, and the hangdog expression of forward Dave Popson, sitting in the locker room after the game, gives every indication of this.

The one benefit of that ’85 UNC loss was that it created a notable NCAA tournament “Cinderella Story,”  due in part to charismatic Villanova head coach Rollie Massimino, who took the #8 ranked Wildcats to the championship with the ingenious idea that a team had to “play to win instead of playing not to lose.” Here is a Morton picture in which some of that charisma is on display:

This picture is not from the 1985 game, but instead dates from around 1987. We know this because Jay Wright, the assistant coach of Villanova beginning in 1987, can be seen at the right of the frame holding a clipboard. If you watch tomorrow, you might be surprised by how little now-Head Coach Jay (Robot?) Wright has aged in those two decades.

Let’s forget about this 1985 loss, however, and focus on the general pattern which still shines favor on UNC, as their overall tournament record against Villanova is 3-1. Here’s an inspiring picture from one of these three wins:

With Michael Jordan, James Worthy and other standout players on the 1981-1982 team, UNC was difficult to overcome, and they of course ended up winning the tournament (the 70-60 Regional semi-final victory over Villanova was just a step along the way). The jubliation in the face of Jim Braddock is unmistakable, as is the strand of net hanging out of James Worthy’s mouth.

I imagine the Carolina coaches and players will be too busy practicing drills and eating healthy, vitamin-rich meals to read this blog entry, but I hope for all the Heels fans out there that this post provides some inspiration for your cheering and well-wishing tomorrow night.

Presidents’ Day picks

Today, Monday, February 16, is Presidents’ Day (or “Washington’s Birthday,” in Virginia). Though most of America will be preoccupied with the Lincoln Bicentennial or stupefied by the great deals at their local auto dealerships, I would like to use this day to celebrate (or at least acknowledge) some Presidents who typically do not have bargains associated with them.

There are photos in the Morton Collection that depict Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. I have selected four to share.

First, one that I scanned last fall, and stored away for this very holiday. It was found between some images of athletes standing outside, and women posing with flowers — you just never know where this guy will show up.

Richard and Pat Nixon, eating at unknown event, circa late 1950s-early 1960s
It’s a young, barely-jowled Richard Nixon in a tent, eating an unidentifiable platter of food in a most aggressive fashion. His wife, Pat, sits beside him and appears characteristically patient. Why is he here, and what is he doing (besides aggressively eating)? Pat Nixon appears in many other pictures that are probably from the annual Azalea Festival, and we know that the Nixons attended the 1958 Rhododendron Festival at Roan Mountain, TN. Perhaps one of these events explains why this young, earnest couple is featured in this picture.

Here is a picture of another President, this time fully vested in the title of Commander in Chief, and in a more Presidential pose.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower and southern governors, 1957

Yes, Dwight David Eisenhower, smiling grimly as the possibility of a national crisis looms: the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School and the subsequent unwillingness of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. That’s why Hugh Morton’s friend and NC Governor Luther Hodges is there — the President summoned a crack team of five Southern Governors to try and uphold the ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education in Arkansas while preventing riots.

Besides Eisenhower, Hodges, and a man that is most likely Faubus himself (second row, far right), the identities of the other men are unconfirmed. Who wants to help identify them?

President Jimmy Carter on the campaign trail, with NC Gov. Jim Hunt, Tanglewood Park, 1980

Here’s something more cheerful: a beaming President Jimmy Carter, on the 1980 re-election campaign trail in Winston-Salem’s Tanglewood Park hosted by the applauding Governor Jim Hunt. But all the good will couldn’t help Carter overcome the fuss over the Iran Hostage Crisis, a flagging economy, and a 28% approval rating . . .

Ronald Reagan and Debra Paget at the 1959 Azalea Festival, Wilmington, NC

. . . and Carter instead had to vacate his post in 1981 for this affable, handsome Californian. Ronald Reagan, seen here in April 1959 at the Azalea Festival with Love Me Tender actress and Azalea Queen Deborah Paget, was at the time on the payroll of General Electric, hired to make motivational pro-G.E. speeches at various venues.

These pictures, taken individually, provide explicit and implicit narratives, but as a whole, what do they say about the American Presidency and the people who held its office? It is easier, instead, to see the narrative they present regarding their photographer, Hugh Morton: that he had access available to few, and the photographic ability to make something of it.

Robert W. Scott, 1929-2009

Last Friday, Robert W. Scott, governor of North Carolina from 1969-1973, died in Alamance County, NC. He was 79. (See this memorial post from our partner blog, NC Miscellany).

As one of Hugh Morton’s many gubernatorial friends, he was photographed throughout the years in various outfits, scenes, and positions (you’ll see). In nearly all of the photographs, he wore a smile and often traded handshakes with many of North Carolina’s most prominent citizens.

Gov. Bob Scott and Hugh Morton shaking hands, at/near Grandfather Mountain?, circa 1971

Here Scott is administering one of these handshakes and laying on that trademark smile with none other than Hugh Morton, much to the crowd’s satisfaction.

Scott, famously the son of North Carolina Governor and U.S. Senator W. Kerr Scott, was one of the younger governors to have served in North Carolina, and presented the photographers who happened to be following him with photo opportunities a less vibrant occupant of the office would not.

Hugh Morton photographed Scott often, and featured him in a chapter of his 1988 book with Ed Rankin, Making a Difference in North Carolina (pages 222-227). As Morton/Rankin write, “Scott, a husky young man with boundless energy, enjoyed traveling across North Carolina and meeting its people. . . he had the ability to mix and mingle with average people and learned a great deal from their opinions and suggestions.”

Here Scott is mixing with some local young men outside a shop in Watauga County. Notice how he is able to blend in — one might even go so far as to say that he is ‘Hangin’ Around,’ in direct violation of the sign.

Gov. Bob Scott with young men outside Watauga County store, circa early 1970s

The picture below of Scott and a St. Bernard is another example of Scott’s youthful exuberance. Yet, this photograph also presents a minor archival mystery: according to an obituary of Boone-area photographer George Flowers, it was Flowers who took this famous image (or a very similar one), and was allowed by Scott to use it in print “as long as everyone knew it was a gag and if it was not run on a Sunday.” This is great context, but it doesn’t explain why the negative for this picture is in the Morton collection.

Gov. Bob Scott lying on his back beneath a Saint Bernard carrying a whiskey keg, circa early 1970s

The following photograph (by Hugh Morton) of Scott signing copies of the contested photograph lends credence to the notion that Morton did take the photo, or at least had a strong connection to it through Scott. Perhaps multiple photographers were on the scene at the time? Whoever took the picture(s), though, they captured and preserved for posterity the accessibility and warmth of Scott’s personal and political style.

Gov. Bob Scott autographing a photo of himself with a St. Bernard, circa early 1970s

Courtside Morton(s)

Tonight the University of North Carolina Tar Heel men play a game of basketball against UC-Santa Barbara.

My image scanning and processing this month has consisted of mostly basketball photographs,  and  according to a rough estimation they outnumber the usual celluloid suspects — bears, battleships, and pageant queens — by a significant margin. Therefore I have many pictures to choose from, and I feel slightly overwhelmed by all the options, all of which are excellent.

Thanks to a long tradition of basketball movies, I have been given the impression that basketball is about more than slam dunks and court-side gesticulations. Hugh Morton’s photos do not dispel this perception: in the collection there are a host of photographs from locker rooms, press conferences, dinner parties, and airplanes.

UNC men's basketball team returning from 1982 NCAA Championship win

Here is an optimistic photograph, to begin with: a very backstage shot of a very sleepy men’s basketball team returning home on an airplane after their 1982 NCAA championship victory in New Orleans. (Note the young Michael Jordan two rows back on the left, and that looks like James Worthy in the front right, cuddling with his pillow).

Here is another off-court shot, of a very despondent, soda-drinking player in the locker room. The man, presumably a coach, assistant coach, or general father figure, is trying to encourage him in vain.

UNC men's basketball player being consoled in locker room

Moving on in the basketball summary, here is a highlight from the collection of on-court photographs. After seeing this, I wonder if maybe basketball really is just about slam dunks.

UNC basketball's Michael Jordan dunking in a game against Duke, early 1980s

Carolina, in a game against Duke, is trailing slightly (36-42 according to the scoreboard), but I wonder, did this momentous dunk-in-progress by Michael Jordan change things? Was this one of the seminal Carolina-Duke match-ups, or merely another entry in the tally of this legendary rivalry?

My idea on this photo is that, because it was taken in the Greensboro Coliseum, it might be from the ACC tournament on March 10, 1984. If so, then Duke ended up winning, 75 to 77. But I can never be sure, as the photos I process often come to me in the form of loose, undated and unlabeled film negatives, and I have no context for the picture aside from embedded details (nametags and calendars are always welcome!). Can anyone help me identify the particular game?

To close, I have a photo from Hugh’s grandson Jack Morton, who has apparently inherited his Tar Heel photographer’s pass, and is documenting the exploits of current UNC basketballers. More of Jack’s photos from the Nov. 15 Carolina-Penn season opener can be viewed here. It is pretty neat to see the family continuity, isn’t it?

UNC's Deon Thompson and Penn defender in season opener, 11/15/2008

A Whale of a Storm

“In North Carolina, the toll: 19 people killed; 15,000 homes or other buildings completely destroyed or with major damages; 39,000 homes or other buildings with minor damage. Total property losses: $125 million.”

This quotation comes from page 15 of the book Making a Difference in North Carolina, co-written by Hugh Morton and Edward L. Rankin. Though most of the pages are filled with intimate portraits of politicians and other influential individuals who operated on the state as well as national level, one chapter is devoted to Hurricane Hazel (arguably just as influential a figure as the others in the book).

Hazel visited the Coastal Carolinas as a Category 4 hurricane in the middle of October of 1954 after striking Haiti with deadly results. As we in the Carolinas are just coming out of the zone of influence of another H-named storm and, as a nation, are about to be assaulted by an actual hurricane, it seems appropriate to post some pictures that Hugh Morton took during the 1954 hurricane season. All of these pictures are from Carolina Beach, NC.

Let’s begin with an award-winning photo:

Julian Scheer wading through debris after Hurricane Hazel (1954), Carolina Beach, NC

This picture of Julian Scheer, a Charlotte reporter (and later NASA Public affairs Chief during the Moon race), won Morton the “first prize for spot news in the NC Press Photographers Association,” in 1954  (Morton, Rankin 15). The houses in the background are disappearing into the ocean, and the house in the mid-ground is on fire. Aside from these details, I don’t think it needs much of a caption, as it speaks, dramatically and clearly, for itself.

Some more pictures that were really interesting and are in need of identification are ones that appear to be the wrecked remnants of a boardwalk.

Hurricane damage at Carolina Beach, NC, 1954

I was able to identify one of the stores, the Ocean Plaza Bathhouse (that appears in the background of the picture, but gets more prominence in other ones in the series), a somewhat well-known institution of the time at Carolina Beach. Does this place still exist? Or did a hurricane and/or a decline in interest towards bath houses contribute to its closing? And how about the rest of the Carolina Beach boardwalk?

Woman walking next to Carolina Beach (NC) whale during/after Hurricane Hazel, 1954

This whale, probably a familiar symbol to those who visited and lived in Carolina Beach, seems to be faring better than some of the other structures. The woman standing to the left seems to be weathering the storm in her own right, but I wonder what she was doing out in the storm? Perhaps she was a local politician, a member of the chamber of commerce, or a friend of Hugh Morton.  I suppose everyone has their reasons for facing a storm; I suppose it still happens today.

If you are one of those individuals, until the hurricane season is over, be safe!