Fiery “America First” Dakotan takes on Tar Heels

The controversy between isolationists and interventionists became an unusually rugged affair with no holds barred on either side. . . . The name-calling, mud-slinging, and smearing on both sides made the foreign policy debate a poor place for the sensitive or fainthearted.  Each side welcomed almost any chance to discredit the opposition.

—Wayne S. Cole in Gerald P. Nye and American Foreign Relations

It was Armistice Day—Tuesday, 11 November 1941— and United States Senator Gerald P. Nye’s speech at the University of North Carolina, announced to the student body that day—was still a week away.  Despite the frivolity of Sadie Hawkins Day events during the weekend, peace was not on the horizon.  In the opening sentence of his front-page article of The Daily Tar Heel, writer Paul Komisaruk predicted the nature of the upcoming event:

National politics and policies erupt from the Memorial hall rostrum next Tuesday night as North Dakota’s Old Guard isolationist, Senator Gerald P. Nye, attacks New Deal measures before a Chapel Hill audience under the auspices of the CPU [Carolina Political Union].

On that same November 11th evening, Vichy France‘s ambassador to the United States, Gaston Henry-Haye, was the International Relations Club (IRC) speaker at Memorial Hall.  Appointed by Chief of State Philippe Pétain in 1940, it was to be Henry-Haye’s “first public proclamation” since his appointment.  The tone on campus had been and continued to be antagonistic.  The DTH editorial column, titled “Carolina’s Free Speech Continues,” asked that

. . . students who are antagonistic to the ambassador and what he stands for, refrain from showing him anything but the strictest courtesy throughout his address and the open forum.  Carolina’s tradition of freedom of expression is too old now to be violated by one night’s rudeness.

Gaston Henry-Haye

Gaston Henry-Haye, Vichy France’s ambassador to the United States (left) during his appearance at UNC Chapel Hill’s Memorial Hall on Armistice Day, 11 November, 1941. This scene is a severely cropped detail from a previously unidentified negative made by Hugh Morton. The student yearbook, The Yackety Yack, published this photograph cropped even tighter in its 1942 edition. The student at the podium may be Roger Mann, president of the International Relations Club; seated on right may be Kedar Bryan, treasurer.

Two thousand people attended the speech. There were signs of apprehension during the day, but Henry-Haye’s primary talking point was publicizing the need for aid for the French people, a topic he discussed the previous day with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull.  When asked a confrontational question by a “loquacious” student—”everyone knows the glory of France, but how do you explain Pétain’s alliance with Hitler?”—during an open forum in Graham Memorial after his speech, the audience was “immediately aroused to loud comments and mixed approval and disapproval.” To end the “disorder,” the ambassador took to the microphone and declared, “The answer is too easy.  Your comments are not true.”

The United Press account of Henry-Haye’s speech noted his call for a release of French funds frozen by the United States in order to purchase food and clothing for the French living in regions occupied by Germany who were “threatened to perish from starvation,” and for 1.5 million French prisoners.  Roosevelt, for his part on that Armistice Day, spoke at Arlington Cemetery, alluding to the current war in Europe while reminding his audience of the reasons America entered into the European War in 1917.  Roosevelt quoted the highly decorated World War I soldier Alvin “Sergeant” York: “The thing [people questioning America’s involvement in Word War I] forget is that liberty and freedom and democracy are so very precious that you do not fight to win them once and stop. Liberty and freedom and democracy are prizes awarded only to those peoples who fight to win them and then keep fighting eternally to hold them.”

Gerald P. Nye speaking at Memorial Hall

United States Senator Gerald P. Nye speaking at Memorial Hall on 18 November 1941. This is another previously unidentified negative by Hugh Morton. The student on the far left appears to be Helen Miram, member of the Carolina Political Union; the woman to her left remains unidentified.

During the fall semester of 1941, the University of North Carolina’s student-run Carolina Political Union (CPU) had thrice tried to bring Nye to campus, each thwarted by his senatorial duties negating their plans.  Nye’s outspoken isolationist views aroused “constant bitter attacks by both opposing forces” in Washington D. C., leading “observers on the campus to doubt the wisdom of promoting additional ‘hatred spreading material.'”

On November 13, five days before Nye’s visit, a DTH headline noted that “Verbal Onslaughts” had been prepared for Nye by campus organizations, and that opposition to Nye was anticipated to “manifest itself vigorously.”  Several professors and students were unwilling to have the campus serve as a platform for “bigotry and hatred.”  Nye was seen as the “backbone of Congressional opposition to New Deal measures” and as unwilling to “disassociate himself with the ‘fascist elements of the America First committee.'”  On that same day, Congress passed legislation that amended the Neutrality Act, permitting U. S. merchant ships to enter war zones.

Nye had been to UNC once before on March 17, 1937, also as a guest of the CPU.  His talk was titled, “Preparedness for Peace.”  The Daily Tar Heel characterized Nye as a “progressive Republican.”  He was an advocate for American neutrality in the burgeoning European War, “to guide us and to make it less easy to be drawn into other people’s wars as has been the case in the past.”  Among his points, Nye referred to an amendment then under consideration that “says that when the question of participation in a foreign war arises in this country, the question shall be decided by the people in a duly qualified referendum.”  Nye was referring to an amendment to the Neutrality Act of 1935, which evolved during hearings of the Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry” which he chaired and became known as the “Nye Committee.”  President Roosevelt led an effort to amend the act, passing The Neutrality Act of 1939 in November that repealed the previous law.  Roosevelt and others continued to chip away at the act for the next two years.

United States Senator Gerald P. Nye

Detail from another previously unidentified negative by Hugh Morton depicting United States Senator Gerald P. Nye speaking in Memorial Hall at UNC Chapel Hill.

Nye’s November 1941 trip to Chapel Hill was one of many he undertook throughout the country sponsored by the America First Committee, a movement to counter the efforts to repeal the Neutrality Act.  The America First Committee formed during September 1940, growing out of a student group formed at Yale University.  It formally announced its existence on September 4, comprised mostly of midwestern business and political leaders, with headquarters in Chicago.  Its financial support came mostly from the conservative wing of noninterventionists.  America First Committee’s tenets were:

  • keep America out of foreign wars;
  • preserve and extend democracy at home;
  • keep American naval convoys and merchant ships on the western side of the Atlantic Ocean;
  • build a defense for American shores; and
  • give humanitarian aid to people in occupied countries.

Nye’s involvement The America First Committee took the form of speeches, ramping up his activity during the summer and autumn of 1941.  Nye and the committee’s efforts, however, could not hold sway.  On October 9, Roosevelt once again urged Congress to repeal the Neutrality Act.  On October 29th, Nye delivered a major address on the Senate floor against the president’s call. Two days later the Germans torpedoed the American destroyer USS Reuben James.  It was the first loss of an American military ship.  As a result, on November 13 the United States House of Representatives narrowly approved, by a 212-194 vote, a revision to the Neutrality Act of 1939.  That same day, The Daily Tar Heel wrote again about Nye’s upcoming visit to campus.  An article in The Statesville Daily Record on November 14 also announced Nye’s appearance in Memorial Hall, in which the head of the Carolina Political Union, Ridley Whitaker, said the CPU invited Nye “because regardless of how we may feel about his views, we must recognize the fact that he definitely represents a viewpoint.”

American political milestones and European military events continued to unfold.  Roosevelt signed the repeal legislation on November 17, the day before Nye’s speech in Chapel Hill.  Nonetheless, as The Daily Tar Heel headline had predicted, Nye faced a jam-packed auditorium with an audience that listened to “the fiery Dakotan on tenterhooks.” After Nye concluded, attendees released “alternating waves of boos, cheers, and hisses.”  The following morning, The Daily Tar Heel headlines read, “Stormy Verbal Onslaught” and “Spontaneous Outbursts Threaten Real Disorder.”  During his speech, the senator “vigorously maintained that ‘propaganda of the most criminal order has been practiced and lack of frankness by American leaders and downright deception have brought the United States to the brink of war.”  After his uninterrupted speech, audience members “flung questions at the rostrum in quick, violent succession.”

Just three weeks later, all the contentious debate became moot.  The America First Committee held its last meeting in Pittsburgh on 7 December 1941—as Japan simultaneously bombed Pearl Harbor.

For more on Senator Gerald P. Nye, see Wayne S. Cole’s Senator Gerald P. Nye and American Foreign Relations, published by the University of Minnesota Press in 1962.

A priceless gem for only ten bucks

Spangler with Justice's torn jersey

UNC President C.D. Spangler standing outside the President’s house on UNC-Chapel Hill campus, February 23, 1988, holding a ripped #22 jersey worn by UNC football player Charlie Justice during the 1948 game against Virginia.

Today, October 27th, UNC head football coach Larry Fedora leads his 2018 Tar Heels into historic Scott Stadium for a continuation of “the South’s Oldest Rivalry.”  This game between the University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia marks the 123rd meeting between the two old rivals. Over the years, since the first meeting between the two in 1892, Carolina has won sixty-four times while UVA has won fifty-four; four games ended in a tie.  Of the fifty times Carolina has played UVA on the road, the game in 1948 not only provided Carolina with a highly significant win, it also provided an interesting sidebar story.  Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look back at the game in Scott Stadium on November 27, 1948 between the Tar Heels and the Cavaliers.

Arguably the best UNC football team was the 1948 squad that finished the season undefeated and ranked third in the Associated Press poll. The ’48 Tar Heels started off the season at home with a historic win over the University of Texas, 34 to 7. (Many old-time Tar Heels still like to talk about this game.)

The weekend following the Texas win, Charlie Justice had his best day as a Tar Heel down in Georgia with a win over the Bulldogs. Then came wins over Wake Forest, NC State, LSU, and Tennessee.  A tie with William & Mary on November 6th was the only blemish on the ‘48 schedule.  Following wins over Maryland and Duke, it was time to close out the historic season—a season that had seen Carolina ranked number one for the first and only time.

With bowl talk in the air, Head Coach Carl Snavely took his team into Scott Stadium for that finale.  An overflow crowd of 26,000+ turned out on November 27, 1948, a day that could have very easily been called “Charlie Justice Day.”  Here’s why:

  • He got off runs of twenty-two and eight yards in the initial Carolina touchdown drive.
  • He passed thirty-nine yards to receiver Art Weiner for the second Tar Heel score.
  • He cut off left guard on a delayed spinner and outran the field to cross the Virginia goal eighty yards away.
  • He passed thirty-one yards to end Bob Cox for Carolina’s fourth touchdown.
  • He returned a UVA punt, in a straight line, fifty yards for Carolina’s final touchdown of the day.

In summary: Justice carried the ball fifteen times for a net total of 159 yards—that’s almost 11 yards per carry. He completed four of seven passes for 87 yards.  He returned two punts for sixty-six yards. He punted five times for a 40.8 yards per punt average. And oh yes, he intercepted a Virginia pass, had a 49-yard touchdown pass called back as well as a 21-yard run. Needless to say, Carolina won the game 34 to 12 and went on to play in the 1949 Sugar Bowl.

Among those 26,000+ fans in Scott Stadium that afternoon was an eleventh grade student at Woodberry Forest, a prep school in Madison, Virginia.  His name, Clemmie Dixon Spangler, Jr. from Charlotte, North Carolina.  Spangler, along with several of his school buddies, had made the trip over to Charlottesville for the game. (Clemmie Dixon Spangler, Jr. would become known as C.D. Spangler, Jr. and would lead the University of North Carolina system from 1986 until 1997.)

On one of those great Charlie Justice plays mentioned above, Justice’s #22 jersey was torn. He came over to the Carolina sideline where equipment manager, “Sarge” Keller, quickly got out a new one . . . tossing the torn one over behind the bench into an equipment trunk.  In a 1996 interview with A.J Carr of Raleigh’s News & Observer, Spangler described the 1948 Charlottesville scene:

“Charlie was a hero of mine.  It was one of his greatest college games.  On one play, a linebacker grabbed him, but he twisted away as he often did, ran another 10-15 yards and his jersey was torn.”

“He came over, the trainer helped him put on another and they put the torn one in the trunk. I said: ‘That old jersey would be nice to have.’”

After the game, Spangler got the attention of a Carolina cheerleader and explained that he wanted the Justice jersey.  He then offered the cheerleader ten dollars to go and get the jersey out of the trunk. The deal was completed and as Spangler walked out of the stadium, some Carolina fans offered him one hundred dollars. Spangler said, “No deal.”

He displayed the jersey on the wall while in high school and after graduation he kept it in a “safe place.”

“I wouldn’t take anything for it,” Spangler continued. “It’s a piece of history that meant something to me.”

“My mother offered to wash it and sew it. But I said we would not wash it, that we’d keep the lime marks and grass stains and leave it torn.”

“(Charlie Justice) is very symbolic of someone who did well, was a hero and he lived a really good life.  He lived up to all expectations and has been a fine representative for North Carolina,” Spangler added as he closed the interview.

contents of Machine Print Envelope 2.6.398-10-9

Photographs of Charlie Justice and C.D. Spangler stored in Machine Print Envelope 2.6.398-10-9. One of the prints has a caption typed on the back with the ubiquitous stamp, “PHOTOGRAPH BY HUGH MORTON.”

Spangler kept the prized memento for more than fifty years. Then, on November 18, 1989, during halftime of the Carolina–Duke game, he presented the jersey to then UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour.  It is now on display in the Charlie Justice Hall of Honor at the Kenan Football Center.

Justice and Spangler autographed photograph

A mounted color photograph autographed by Justice and Spangler, located in Oversize Box 2 in the Hugh Morton collection

Morton also used the images in his slides shows, saying: “…the only university president who freely admits to bribery and stealing.”

Contents from Machine Print Envelope 2.6.398-10-6.

Photographs and negatives from Machine Print Envelope 2.6.398-10-6. The envelope contains negatives from two rolls of film, one of which is seen here on the left. The negative for the print with Justice and Spangler standing next to the torn jersey exhibit case is not in the envelope. It would fit sequentially in the space seen next to the upper right corner of the print. Above that print, on Spangler’s right is Julia Morton; to his left is Betty Kenan.

On April 30, 1984, the Charlotte chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation staged a Charlie Justice Celebrity Roast and one of the roasters was Justice’s dear friend, teammate, and business partner Art Weiner.  One of Weiner’s roast stories went something like this:

We knew that Charlie was competing with SMU’s great All America Doak Walker for the 1948 Heisman Memorial Trophy.  When we read in the papers that Walker had a jersey torn up during one his games, we decided, in the huddle, to tear up one of Charlie’s . . . just to make things look equal.  But on November 27, 1948, the tear was for real and C.D. Spangler, Jr. got a “Priceless Gem for Only 10 Bucks.”

Mack Brown’s return to Kenan Stadium

Mack Brown, September 14, 2002.

Mack Brown, University of Texas head football coach, at Kenan Stadium on September 14, 2002.

Last month, on August 11, 2018, former UNC head football coach Mack Brown revisited Chapel Hill and Kenan Stadium, where he had roamed the sidelines for ten seasons from 1988 through the 1997.  The occasion for Brown’s recent return was a celebratory dinner with about fifty Tar Heels from his UNC days, held in the stadium’s Blue Zone, in honor of his selection into the College Football Hall of Fame.  The hall announced its 2018 College Football Hall of Fame Class announced back in January, and will hold its induction ceremony on December 4 in New York City.

Brown’s August visit was not first time back to Chapel Hill after his final UNC football season. Morton Collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back to September 14, 2002—a visit by Brown that many Tar Heel fans still recall.

The headline in the Saturday, September 14, 2002 edition of the Greensboro News & Record read “Tar Heels hope to catch Texas off guard again.”  Sports writer Larry Keech recounted the famous Carolina–Texas game from 1948 when the Tar Heels beat the Longhorns 34 to 7.  Keech interviewed Tar Heel All-America Art Weiner and he recalled that day in September of 1948 when he and teammate Charlie Justice made UNC history.  Keech closed his story by saying, “If history is to repeat, it will be up to UNC quarterback Darian Durant and receiver Sam Aiken to do their best Justice and Weiner impersonations.”

When Texas head coach Mack Brown and his nationally ranked #3 Texas Longhorns took the field shortly before 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 14, 2002, a few boos were heard from the Tar Heel faithful in the Kenan crowd of 60,500—the second largest in Kenan to date. I remember my disappointment at those boos.  I chose to believe they were directed at a Tar Heel opponent, not at Coach Brown.  It was estimated that there were 5,000 Texas fans in the sold-out crowd.

Kenan Stadium during Texas versus UNC football game

Kenan Stadium during the the second quarter, the scoreboard showing Texas with a 17-to-0 lead over UNC.

By the end of the first quarter, and trailing 10 to 0, the chances of that “repeat-history” seemed to be getting farther away.  Carolina finally scored in the second quarter but trailed 24 to 7 at the half.  That “repeat-history” was now . . . history.  There was just too much Texas.  Each team scored in the third quarter, but Texas poured it on with 21 points in the fourth.  The final score was 52 to 21, Texas.

Following the win, Coach Brown hugged his players and looked toward those Texas fans as he held up the famous “Hook ‘em Horns” sign. The Texas band then played “The Eyes of Texas.”  The Tar Heel hype for this game by now was forgotten. Texas was ranked #3 for a reason.  They were that good.

Following the Mack Brown–John Bunting handshake at midfield, Coach Brown walked into the atrium of the old Kenan Field House at Kenan Stadium, a room in which he was totally familiar. He was set to address the media.

“I’ve never seen a team play that hard down 31 to 14.  The crowd was in it, it was an unbelievable atmosphere.  For myself, I’m really proud that North Carolina football is in John Bunting’s hands and moving forward.

“I was impressed with the crowd. I’m proud to be a part of the two biggest in school history. I’m just on the wrong side in one of them . . . .  There was way too much talk about me coming back here. . . . We had our struggles and I’m proud of what we did here.”

Mack Brown’s position in Tar Heel history is secure with ACC Coach of the Year honors in 1996, three ten-win-seasons, and a number four national ranking (Coaches’ Poll) for the 11-1 1997 team.

Brown would go on to lead the Longhorns for eleven more seasons, winning the National Championship in 2005.  You can see why he will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December.

Epilog

During his most recent campus visit, Coach Brown talked with the 2018 Tar Heel football team and told them it is a “privilege” to play in a historic and winsome venue like Kenen Memorial Stadium.  He then added that he was pulling for them each Saturday from his ESPN studio vantage point where he is a network analyst each weekend during football season.

Lath Morriss: the cheerleader they called Tarzan

With the 2018 football season kickoff tomorrow on the west coast against the University of California, Berkeley, many Tar Heel fans are ready for their annual rite of autumn.  An important part of that rite is fan participation—cheering, it’s called.  And no one in Carolina history cheered like the rotund man from Farmville, the unofficial UNC cheerleader they called Tarzan.  He was not only famous on the UNC campus.  Tarzan was a familiar face and voice at Duke as well as other schools across North Carolina. A View to Hugh awakens from its summer doldrums to the beat of Hugh Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard, who takes a look at the life and times of Lath Morriss.

Author’s Note: In researching this post, I found numerous spellings of the main character’s name—from Lathe to Lath, and from Morris to Morriss.  In a Daily Tar Heel story published on December 12, 1946, the man himself says his name is Lath Morriss. So that’s what I will go with throughout this post.

Lath Morriss cheering

Lath Morriss, UNC’s unofficial cheerleader during the 1930s and 1940s, with a cheer and cigar in hand. Hugh Morton’s photograph includes plenty of sky, possibly with hopes that a magazine title and issue information could be printed in that area without encroachment into picture area.

When Duke University’s Blue Devils traveled to Pasadena, California for the 25th annual Rose Bowl game on January 2, 1939, the opponent was the University of Southern California.  Many Duke fans across North Carolina were not able to make the long trip to California for the game, so they listened to sportscaster Bill Stern’s coast-to-coast broadcast on NBC radio. Not only did they get Stern’s play-by-play account of the famous game, but another well known voice was heard during the broadcast.  It was that of Lath Morriss cheering on the opposite side of the field from Stern’s broadcast booth.

Lath Morriss was born in Brenham, Texas on February 15, 1904 and spent his early years in and around that small town.  He had a love for the game of football.  He played fullback on his high school team and quarterback on his college team.

The Eagle 28 Dec 1921

A clipping from a December 28, 1921 newspaper article about selecting the All Central Texas High School Football Team, written by Jinx Tucker of the Waco News Tribune and published in The Eagle—a newspaper for Bryan, Texas eighty-five miles away. Although Brenham was a bit too far south of the central Texas area covered by the all-star selection, Tucker noted that Morriss was all-state material.

After college, Lath took a job in Port Arthur, Texas with the Smith Construction Company, which had recently acquired a contract to build a highway between Farmville and Wilson in North Carolina.  When the construction company completed the road project, Morriss stayed in North Carolina and took a job in Farmville with the A.C. Monk Tobacco Company.  He was often seen at football games at Duke and attended his first game in Kenan Stadium in 1927.

His unusual voice often became a distraction in the cheering sections. During a Duke – Colgate game in Duke Stadium, university security asked him to leave.  The Associated Press, which covered the game, reported that Morriss had been evicted.  Students who were seated near him that September day, however, said he just went across the field and started cheering for Colgate.

Morriss soon found a “home” in Chapel Hill on football Saturdays.  He became known as the “Screaming Eagle” in The Daily Tar Heel but the students called him Tarzan.  In a 1935 interview in The Daily Tar Heel, Lath said, “I reckon you might call a voice like mine somewhat unusual, but I believe it has its good points.”

UNC’s 1937 season opener against the University of South Carolina ended in a 13-to-13 draw. The Daily Tar Heel blamed Tarzan’s absence for the tie.  S. R. Rolfe writing in the Sunday, September 26 issue said, “For the first time in memory . . . Tarzan was not at a Carolina ball game.  That may be the reason for the tie. The team probably missed his ‘15 rahs’ and shrill yell.”

At the UNC pep rally on Fetzer Field for the 1946 Duke game, Tarzan was one of the featured speakers, along with another famous Carolina Cheerleader, Kay Kyser.  A portion of the rally was broadcast on WPTF radio.  Tarzan was in rare form the next day when Duke came into Kenan Stadium for the thirty-third meeting between the two old rivals.  He led Rameses, the Carolina mascot, around the stadium to the delight of the photographers covering the game, as Carolina won 22 to 7 to cap off the first Duke–Carolina game of the “Golden Era” in Chapel Hill.

In a game billed as the “1947 Sugar Bowl Rematch,” the Tar Heels took on the Georgia Bulldogs in Chapel Hill on September 27.  Following a 0-to-0 first half, Morriss led the Tar Heels back onto the field for the second half.  With megaphone in hand; he shouted “Go, go, go, go . . . Care-lina.”  The students shouted back, “Go, go, go, go . . . Tarzan.”  Carolina came back in the second half to win 14 to 7 to the delight of the Tar Heel fans among the 43,000 in Kenan Memorial Stadium.

Tarzan’s picture was often displayed in The Daily Tar Heel, and in UNC’s yearbook, The Yackerty Yack (both the 1947 and 1949 editions).  Even the magazine The State carried a cover photograph of the man from Farmville in its November 22, 1947 taken by photographer Bugs Barringer of Rocky Mount.

Lath Morriss The State November 22 1947

Cover of the November 22, 1947 issue of The State, featuring Bugs Barringer’s photograph of Lath Morriss.

The year 1949 brought to a close the “Golden Era” of Tar Heel sports, but the Lath Morriss story continued in Chapel Hill.  When The Chapel Hill Newspaper printed its sixth “Town & Gown” edition in August of 1975, it included a picture of Tarzan.  And in 2016 when author and historian Lee Pace published his book Football in a Forest: The Life and Times of Kenan Memorial Stadium, he featured the following Hugh Morton image of Tarzan on pages 134-135.

Lath Morriss with Rameses

Lath Morriss encourages UNC mascot Rameses to pick up the pace and gain more yardage.

The sad news from Farmville on July 30, 1962 told of the passing of Lath Morriss. He was 58-years-old.

C.D. Spangler Jr: 1932—2018

C. D. Spangler, 1995

University of North Carolina President C. D. Spangler Jr. during University Day on October 12, 1995. Photograph by Hugh Morton

“What we are trying to do, after all, is something we North Carolinians believe we are good at: inspiring our citizens to become the best that they can be. Our mission for the future may have a familiar ring, to make the weak students strong and the strong students great.”

— C. D. Spangler Jr., inaugural address, October 17, 1986

Sunday, July 23, 2018 saw the passing of C.D. Spangler Jr., former president of the University of North Carolina. Clemmie Dixon Spangler Jr. was born April 5, 1932 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Among his many accomplishments, Spangler served as president of the University of North Carolina system from 1986, succeeding William Friday, to 1997.

Jack Hilliard shared with me this morning a story Spangler liked to share about Bill Friday.  Spangler was traveling in Gaston County when he saw the highway sign for Dallas, North Carolina and then remembered that Dallas was the hometown of Dr. Friday.  He decided to take the exit and see if he could find the Friday home.  When he arrived in Dallas he stopped at a country store where a couple of gentlemen were seated out front. He asked if they knew where the Friday home was. They said, “Oh! Yes, it’s just down the road a bit . . . you can’t miss it.” Spangler then asked if they knew Dr. Friday. “Sure, we knew him. He was a great baseball player; a catcher, and a good one.” After a brief pause, one of the old gentlemen then added, “You know, if he had continued his baseball career, he might have made something of himself.”

Closer to home here at A View to Hugh . . . in 1996, the C. D. Spangler Foundation contributed $335,00 to help create a $500,000 endowed professorship at UNC-Greensboro in honor of Julia Morton, Hugh Morton’s wife, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She served on the UNC Board of Governors for sixteen years.

There are several photographs of C.D. Spangler in the Morton collection, including twenty-six available in the online collection of Morton images.

Paul Hardin: UNC’s bicentennial chancellor

Chancellor Paul Hardin was a visionary leader who is remembered in North Carolina and across our nation for his dedication to promoting the life-changing impact and benefits of higher education

— UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt, July 2017

One year ago today, July 1, 2017, UNC lost a giant: Chancellor Emeritus Paul Hardin III.  Hardin led the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during its bicentennial observance, died at his Chapel Hill home after a courageous battle with ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He was 86 years old.  On this first anniversary of his death, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back at Chancellor Hardin’s time at UNC and his magnificent bicentennial leadership.

Paul Hardin and C. D. Spangler

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Paul Hardin talking with UNC President C. D. Spangler, circa 1990. Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the editor.

A Phi Beta Kappa from Duke University, Class of 1952, Paul Hardin led three schools—Wofford College, Southern Methodist University, and Drew University—before becoming UNC’s seventh chancellor on July 1, 1988.  He was officially installed on October 12 during a University Day installation ceremony, where Hardin told those gathered: “The future belongs to those institutions and persons who command it, not to those who wait passively for it to happen.”

At UNC, Hardin established the Employee Forum, which gave non-academic university employees a greater voice.  He was an advocate for UNC-Chapel Hill and campaigned successfully for greater fiscal and management flexibility for the state’s public universities. He aggressively led UNC through some of its most important events. When he stepped down in 1995, Carolina was ready for its third century.

One of those important events was Carolina’s bicentennial observance.  On October 11, 1991, he officially launched the largest fund-raising effort in University history—the Bicentennial Campaign for Carolina.

“To command the future this university must compete successfully in the complex and highly competitive world of public higher education,” said Hardin as he announced that $55 million in gifts and pledges had already been raised.  The bell in South Building rang out to mark the announcement.

It was October 12, 1793 when the University North Carolina laid the cornerstone for its first building, now named Old East.  During the next two centuries, the university went from that single building to one of the nation’s most prestigious public universities.  And on October 12, 1993 UNC celebrated that growth in a very special way under Hardin’s leadership.

Bicentennial planning had begun on August 28, 1985 when then Chancellor Chris Fordham sent Richard Cole, dean of the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communications, a note asking him to chair an “ad hoc committee to assist in planning the forthcoming Bicentennial.”  During the next eight years, plans were carefully put into place for the observance.  Chancellor Hardin looked upon Carolina’s 200th birthday as an opportunity to “light the way” for Carolina’s future. “Dare to think big and to dream,” he told the numerous planning committees.  They did.

UNC-Chapel Hill Bicentennial University Day

UNC-Chapel Hill Bicentennial University Day ceremonies in Kenan Stadium. Former NC governor Robert W. Scott at podium; President Bill Clinton, Edward Fort, Richard Cole, Paul Hardin, Dick Richardson, Martin Lancaster also visible.

A predawn rain fell on the UNC campus on October 12, 1993, the actual 200th birthday of the university, but that didn’t deter any of the planned celebration.  As a crowd of 3,000 filed into McCorkle Place for a 10:00 a.m. rededication ceremony of Old East, the sun came out.  UNC President C.D. Spangler then stepped to podium.

“I want to thank publicly Chancellor Paul Hardin for the excellent leadership he is giving our university.  I feel quite certain that with such strong leadership now and in the future, 200 years from now in 2193 there will be an assemblage of people at this same location again celebrating this wonderful university.”

Following the Distinguished Alumni Awards presentations, President Spangler again came forward—this time to make an unexpected announcement.  Holding up a gold pocket watch that had belonged to William Richardson Davie, the university’s founding father, Spangler explained: “Emily Davie Kornfield in her will . . . bequeathed to the University of North Carolina the watch . . . having the letter ‘D’ inscribed on its back. . . Chancellor, I take great pleasure in presenting William Richardson Davie’s watch to you for perpetual care by the University of North Carolina.”  Chancellor Hardin accepted the timepiece that is now a part of the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library.

The University Day celebration continued with the planting of Davie Popular III from a seed of the original tree.  Also, 104 two-foot saplings from the original tree were distributed to sixth-graders representing North Carolina’s 100 counties and the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  UNC Head Basketball Coach Dean Smith handed out the twigs from a flat-bed truck.  The young students took the twigs back to each county for planting.

The University Day Bicentennial Observance culminated with a celebration in Kenan Memorial Stadium, with Chancellor Hardin leading the proceedings.  And just as he was thirty-two years before when President John F. Kennedy spoke on University Day 1961, photographer Hugh Morton was there to document the proceedings.

The University Day processional led by Faculty Marshal Ron Hyatt preceded the evening’s speakers: The Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr., Governor of North Carolina; Charles Kuralt, North Carolina Hall of Fame journalist; and Dr. William C. Friday, President-Emeritus of UNC.  Then at 8:24 p.m., C.D. Spangler introduced William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States of America.  Following Clinton’s thirty-five-minute speech, Chancellor Hardin conferred an honorary degree on the forty-second president.

Then Hardin closed the evening’s proceedings: “Tonight we have rubbed shoulders with history, and we stand with you—Mr. President—facing a future that baffles prediction but whose promise surely exceeds our wildest imaginings.  We are profoundly grateful for your message of hope and promise and humbled to share even part of your day alongside matters of vast global consequence. . . May we set as our goal that our nation’s first state university may also be its best.”

Twelve years after Hardin stepped down from his post as Chancellor, in March of 2007, he and his wife, Barbara, joined with then-Chancellor James Moeser and Chancellor Emeritus William Aycock and former Interim Chancellor Bill McCoy for the dedication on south campus of Hardin Hall, a newly built residence hall named in his honor.

Also on hand that day was Dick Richardson, a retired provost and political science professor who chaired the bicentennial observance while Hardin was chancellor.  Richardson said of his former boss, “There is no veneer to him. No pretense, no façade of personality to hide the real person. . . . If you scratch deeply beneath the surface of Paul Hardin, you will find exactly what you find on the surface, for this man is solid oak from top to bottom.”

A memorial service was held on Saturday afternoon, July 8, 2017 at University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill; and on that day the university rang the bell in South Building seven times, to honor Paul Hardin’s role in UNC history as the seventh chancellor. The ringing of the bell is used to mark only the most significant university occasions.

Correction: 2 July 2018

Linked to the correct blog post on William Richardson Davie’s watch on North Carolina Miscellany.  The previous link led to a post on Elisha Mitchell’s watch.

When Hope and Holshouser golfed at Grandfather

Morton's negative of Hope, Holshouser, Westmoreland, Roberts, and Kletcke.

Scan from Hugh Morton’s 35mm negative of Bob Hope, North Carolina Governor James Holshouser, General William C. Westmoreland, Cliff Roberts, and Robert Kletcke. The gentleman on the far left is unidentified. Can anyone identify him?

Earlier this month, Jack Hilliard wrote a post about the 1974 Singing on the Mountain and sent it to me for publication in time for this year’s Singing on Sunday, June 24.  As I began proofing and fact checking the text and looking for images, some of the then-known details about a particular photograph weren’t falling in line, so I decide to do a bit of research to set the matter straight.  What evolved is this parallel to Jack’s post. If you are arriving at this post first, it may be better to read his first (linked below).

As I discovered today, while preparing Jack Hilliard’s post about the 1974 Singing on the Mountain, that the above photograph by Hugh Morton was not made in June 1974 as was previously believed.  Several newspapers published the photograph in their Sunday editions for June 23, 1974, the day of the Singing.  One newspaper was the Greensboro Daily News as seen below.  Notice the cropping compared to the full-frame negative above.

Hope, Holshouser, and Westmoreland showing newspaper crop

Photograph as it appeared in the Greensboro Daily News on Sunday, June 23. The caption reads, “Bob Hope, Gov. James Holshouser, and former Gen. William Westmoreland play golf while awaiting the advent today of the 50th anniversary of the Singing on the Mountain held annually at Grandfather Mountain.”

While researching Jack’s post, the logistics of Bob Hope traveling back and forth between Asheville and Linville wasn’t making much sense to me.  So, I dug into newspapers.com to see if I could find any clues.  Yep, another Morton Mystery arose: the same photograph published in The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg, South Carolina had a much more explanatory caption:

Times and Democrat photograph and caption reveals date is 1973

The same photograph ran in several newspapers, but with different captions. This version in The Times and Democrat published in Orangeburg, South Carolina reveals that Morton made the photograph the previous year.

Turns out Morton made the photograph a year earlier!  Back to newspapers.com to solve this mystery!

According to The Asheville Citizens staff writer Jay Hensley in his June 13, 1973 article titled “Governor Meets King of Quips,” Hugh Morton arranged a golf match to be played on the back nine holes at Grandfather Golf and Country Club on June 12, 1973.  Morton paired North Carolina Governor James Holshouser and comedian Bob Hope to play against Clifford Roberts and Robert Kletcke—respectively, the president and golf pro of Augusta National Golf Course.

As cropped in the newspaper, one gets the impression that Hope, Westmoreland, Holshouser, and one other person identified only by a hand holding a golf club made up a foursome before, during, or after playing a round. (As we see from the full image, that hand belongs to Roberts.)

What was the purpose behind the outing? Hensley’s article does not say directly, but he does report the background around it.  Holshouser and Hope apparently had played a round of golf on some previous occasion with Vice President Spiro T. Agnew.  Hope and his wife Dolores were guests of General Westmoreland at the country club, there for a “short visit.”  Westmoreland wanted to offer his guests complete relaxation during their stay, but Hope enjoyed the outing nonetheless.  Hope’s wife Dolores, Hugh Morton’s sister Agnes, and Raleigh attorney Camelia Trot played in a group after the men.

Again according to Hensley, Holshouser “broke off from a Tuesday meeting of the Southern Regional Education Board” being held in Hot Springs, Virginia. Linville is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Hot Springs, so it was quite a break off unless traveling by air.

Westmoreland was nursing an injured right arm, so he didn’t even play.  Instead, he “restricted his activities to putting around the golf course.”  A caption in a photograph published in the June 15 edition of the newspaper described the group, however, as a fivesome.

Here are two quips Hope offered during the round:

  • “Smile and they’ll think we are winning,” he said to Holshouser.
  • “I thought this course was named for me until I met you,” he told Clifford Roberts.  Roberts was 79 year old at the time, Hope 70.

 

 

 

When Johnny and June sang on the mountain

On June 24, 2018, the ninety-fourth “Singing on the Mountain” will take place at MacRae Meadows at the foot of Grandfather Mountain.  This all-day gospel sing and fellowship goes back to 1925 when members of the Linville Methodist Church decided to have a Sunday picnic in this special western North Carolina location.  One hundred and fifty people attended that first gathering.  From that small beginning, the annual event has grown into the largest annual religious singing convention in the mountains of the South, and over the years many famous speakers and singers have participated.

To celebrate this year’s anniversary, I (unexpectedly!) teamed up with Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard to look back forty-four years to the Singing’s fiftieth celebration when Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash were featured guests along with a few other celebrities.

Johnny Cash, Maybelle Carter, and others performing at the June 1974 Singing on the Mountain

Johnny Cash, Maybelle Carter, and others performing at the June 1974 “Singing on the Mountain” gospel festival at Grandfather Mountain, with crowd in foreground and Grandfather Mountain peaks in background.

On their way to the fiftieth annual “Singing on the Mountain” at Grandfather Mountain, Johnny Cash and family staged a concert at Greensboro’s War Memorial Auditorium on Saturday night, June 22, 1974.  According to the Greensboro Daily News, the show’s line-up comprised Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, The Carter Family, the Cash daughters, and Carl Perkins, plus Johnny Cash’s backing band The Tennessee Three.

The Cash troupe then went on to Grandfather Mountain where it was cold, cloudy, and misty. The weather didn’t seem to keep anyone away: an estimated crowd of more than 60,000 turned out for the day, which began at 9:00 Sunday morning.  By mid-morning the North Carolina Highway Patrol halted all traffic into the area from the Blue Ridge Parkway because attendees had taken all of the parking spaces within three miles of MacRea Meadows.

Another one of the featured guests for the 1974 Singing was Bob Hope.  He, too, performed the previous evening as the debut performance for the new Asheville Civic Center.  It was the silver anniversary of his performance at the Asheville City Center to a crowd of 1,500 on April 24, 1949.  Joining Hope back then was “freckle-faced singer” Doris Day, who launched her film career the previous year; comedienne Irene Ryan, who appeared with Hope during his military tours and would become better known several years later for her role as Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies; the tumblers Titan Duo, and a local performer, “Skeeter” Byrant (whose findagrave.com entry currently displays a photograph of her on stage with Hope). Hope was then on a fifteen-state, twenty-city tour.  Twenty-five years later, Hope drew an audience of 6,000 for his 1974 performance.

Many Sunday morning newspapers on June 23 published a Hugh Morton photograph of Bob Hope, North Carolina Governor James Holshouser (a native of nearby Boone), and General William C. Westmoreland (a South Carolinian with a summer home near Asheville) including the Greensboro Daily News seen below.  Before Jack submitted his text for this post, the date of that photograph was believed to be June 1974, some time close to the Singing.  Preparing this post, however, led to a new yet unknown “Morton Mystery.”  For the story behind that photograph, made a year earlier in June 1973, see a twin blog post to this one titled, “When Hope and Holshouser golfed at Grandfather.”

Hope, Holshouser, and Westmoreland showing newspaper crop

Photograph as it appeared in the Greensboro Daily News on Sunday, June 23, 1974. The caption reads, “Bob Hope, Gov. James Holshouser, and former Gen. William Westmoreland play golf while awaiting the advent today of the 50th anniversary of the Singing on the Mountain held annually at Grandfather Mountain.” Morton actually made the photograph a year earlier.

Hope stated that his 1974 appearance at the Singing fulfilled a promise he had made to servicemen from North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia during his WWII troop entertainment days when he told them he would revisit their annual “homecoming in the hills” during peace time.  As Hope walked off the temporary rock stage, the crowd shouted his theme song, “Thanks for the Memories.”  Hope’s visit was also a reunion with Hugh Morton who had photographed Hope in the South Pacific during 1944 (and, as it turns out, in Linville at Grandfather Golf and Country Club in 1973).

Also on the musical bill was Arthur Smith and his Crossroads Quartet making their twenty-seventh appearance at Singing and on this day he brought along George Hamilton IV.  (A Hugh Morton photograph of Hamilton performing with Smith exists, but the actual date is uncertain.)

At 1:00 p.m., North Carolina Governor Jim Holshouser delivered the key note address.  His message was simple: “For fifty years now people have gathered here to sing and have fun but, maybe most of all, to experience that feeling of getting up here in the mountains and getting close to God.”

Johnny Cash during 1974 Singing on the Mountain

Johnny Cash and band members on stage during the 1974 Singing on the Mountain. Hugh Morton used this photograph in his book Making a Difference In North Carolina to help illustrate the chapter on the annual outdoor music festival.

Then at 1:30, it was time for Johnny Cash, his wife June Carter Cash, and the Cash family singers with Mother Maybell Carter to take the stage. For two and a half hours they entertained and inspired the assembled crowd. “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison,” and “The Orange Blossom Special,” just to name a few tunes that had the crowd shouting for more.  At one point, Johnny looked out over the huge crowd and marveled at how they stayed through the unfavorable weather.  He then turned to guitarist Carl Perkins and said, “My kind of people.”

Later Cash talked a bit about the fiftieth anniversary of the gathering and then told the crowd that it was his wife’s birthday.  The crowd went wild.  And in the crowd was Hugh Morton’s wife Julia, who immediately started planning a birthday party.

Following the performance, Cash was interviewed and said: “I enjoyed this day more than any concert in years.  First, because of such a cross section of America out there.  All ages, all walks of life. It was good for me as an entertainer to give my time, especially to such an audience.”

June Carter Cash cuts birthday cake

June Carter Cash smiles for Hugh Morton’s camera as she cuts her birthday cake, while Julia Morton stands ready to assist and Johnny Cash wonders if Time’s A Wastin’.

The birthday party on the deck at the Morton’s home on Grandfather Mountain Lake proved to be a fun evening with all the Cash family, the band, and many of Morton’s friends like Arthur Smith and his Crackerjacks.  Ten years later, Johnny Cash’s daughter Rosanne Cash recalled the Grandfather Mountain party as one of the happiest outings the Johnny Cash family ever had.  According to Morton, “Johnny Cash became enthralled by hummingbirds coming to the deck feeder.  Rarely have the tiny birds been so bold, flying within inches of Cash’s head as he sat on the deck railing.”  Cash also seemed to enjoy the bear habitat at Grandfather Mountain.  Morton made five exposures of him feeding the bears.

Johnny Cash feeding bears at Grandfather Mountain

One of five exposures made by Hugh Morton depicting Johnny Cash feeding the bears at Grandfather Mountain.

One of Hugh Morton’s often reproduced pictures is the one showing Johnny Cash holding the United States flag and in 1988 Morton told the story behind the famous image.

Johnny Cash, June 23, 1974

Johnny Cash, June 23, 1974

“As Johnny Cash and I were walking across the Swinging Bridge, he asked, ‘How many flags does the wind destroy each year at Grandfather Mountain?’ When I told him several, he said, ‘I do a recitation of a poem I wrote called That Ragged Old Flag, and I’d love to have the most ragged Grandfather Mountain flag you’ve got.’ Cash has it, and we are mighty pleased he asked.”

Morton used the famous photograph as the title page to the “people” section of his 2006 book, Hugh Morton: North Carolina Photographer.

Post script

A quick pic made from Hugh Morton’s executive planner for Sunday, June 23, 1974:

Hugh Morton executive planner entry for Sunday, June 23, 1974

Hugh Morton executive planner entry for Sunday, June 23, 1974

There are no entries for Saturday; “Cash party” is written in a darker pencil than “Sing on Mtn” and “Bob Hope” so Morton probably wrote it at a different time.

As mentioned in the above story, Bob Hope was the debut performance at the brand new Asheville Civic Center on June 22, the evening before the 1974 Singing.  What was that venue’s second act? The Johnny Cash Band on Monday, June 24.

Robert F. Kennedy attends Terry Sanford’s gubernatorial inauguration

On June 6, 1968—fifty years ago today—Robert Francis Kennedy died nearly twenty-six hours after being fatally shot by Sirhan Sirhan in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.  Seven years earlier—on January 5, 1961—Hugh Morton photographed Kennedy during a visit to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Robert F. Kennedy and wife Ethel

Robert F. Kennedy seated with his wife Ethel during the inauguration of North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford in Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium, 5 January 1961. (Note: this photograph links to the record for this image in the online Morton collection, where for many years it is has been incorrectly displayed, laterally reversed.)

On that day, Kennedy sat on the platform in Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium watching the inauguration of North Carolina’s sixty-fifth governor, Terry Sanford.  Fifteen days later, Kennedy’s brother John would be sworn in as the country’s thirty-fifth president.

Hugh Morton also attended Sanford’s swearing-in ceremony.  Morton had served as Publicity Director for the election campaign of outgoing governor Luther H. Hodges in 1956.  During Hodges’ administration, Morton served as the chair of the State Advertising Committee and as a member of the State Board of Conservation and Development.  His credentials provided Morton access to a likely restricted area for the event.

During the inauguration ceremony and Sanford’s ensuing address, Morton photographed with a 120 format roll film camera.  He worked predominately from a distance, positioned high up on stage left. He mostly photographed the audience and other officials taking their oaths of office, and Sanford from behind while centered amid the crowd.  There are ten negatives extent from the event.  In Morton’s negatives, you can see another photographer on the dais in front of the podium during their oaths.  Unbeknownst to Morton, his focus for those negatives was off badly.  On the very last frame of that roll of film (frame 12), he captured the above close up of Robert F. Kennedy with his wife Ethel.  They were seated on right side of the stage, suggesting Morton made the cross-stage trip specifically to make that photograph.

Outside, Morton switched to 35mm film.  There are forty-seven surviving 35mm negatives from that day.  Two depict Robert Kennedy, likely after the swearing-in ceremony but before Hodges and Sanford made their way into an awaiting convertible.  One of the two those two negatives is shown below.  Morton also made a 120 format color negative of the two governors seated inside the convertible (not scanned, but published in the book Making A Difference in North Carolina) that is also extant.

Robert F. Kennedy with Luther Hodges and Terry Sanford

Robert F. Kennedy (center) with Luther H. Hodges on his right and Terry Sanford on his left amid a crowd during Sanford’s inauguration.

Why was Robert Kennedy attending the inauguration of a North Carolina governor?  A four-part story in A View to Hugh from 2011 titled “A Spark of Greatness” recounts John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in North Carolina during the 1960 election, drawn mostly from John Drescher’s book Triumph of Good Will: How Terry Sanford Beat a Champion of Segregation and Reshaped the South.  A Spark of Greatness—Part 3 sets the stage for RFK’s return to NC for Sanford’s inauguration.  That account, however, is really only part of the story.  In terms of the presidential election, Robert Kennedy stated that “North Carolina was the most pleasant state to win for me.”  But he played a minor controversial role in Sanford’s election, too.

Sanford met with Robert Kennedy during his gubernatorial primary campaign—reluctantly, but he did so as a favor to Louis Harris, his pollster and a fellow UNC alumnus. (Sanford received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941, Harris received his BA in 1942, and Hugh Morton was a member of the class of 1943.)  Sanford had begun building a relationship with the Kennedys during the election season, but had not yet decided if he would endorse John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson.  Their meeting was to be private.  It took place during the first part of June in Raleigh at the College Inn.  Sanford was impressed with Robert Kennedy’s organizational skills.  Sanford left the meeting without making a commitment, but he was now convinced John Kennedy would defeat Johnson.

During a press conference on June 13, a UPI reporter asked Sanford if he had met with Kennedy.  Sanford said he had not.  Sanford thought the reporter asked about John Kennedy but realized he had meant to say Robert.  Within a week newspapers carried stories about the meeting between Sanford and Robert Kennedy.  Sanford later regretted that he did not give a more forthright answer, one that acknowledged that he had not met with JFK but had met with RFK.  The political news was soon filled with stories that questioned, among various other scenarios, if Sanford had something to hide—particularly a promise to endorse Kennedy at the Democratic National Convention.

In his book Terry Sanford: Politics, Progress, and Outrageous Ambitions, Howard Covington recounts how Sanford made his way into the White House prior to the funeral service for John F. Kennedy.  Sanford attempted to gain access to the White House, but police physically thwarted his attempt despite his being a governor.  He finally convinced the police to escort him inside as if he was under arrest.  Once inside, Sanford spoke briefly to Robert Kennedy, then left.

Three months before the JFK assassination, Robert Kennedy had written a letter to Sanford, according to Covington, “to commend him on his management of difficult times.”  Kennedy wrote, “You have always shown leadership in this effort, which could well be followed by many chief executives in the north as well as in your part of the nation.”  Kennedy had written a post script at the bottom of his letter: “I hope I am not causing you too much trouble down there.  Just deny you ever met me.  That is the only advice I can think to give you.  Bob.”  In a note back to Robert Kennedy, Terry Sanford wrote: “I haven’t denied you yet.”

The 1983 “Mello Yello 300”

A couple of recent media reports indicate that stock car racing as we have known it since the late 1940s might be undergoing some changes. It has been reported that NASCAR’s founding-family, the France family, is looking for a buyer. On a different track, a couple of weeks back on May 12th, NASCAR’s “King” Richard Petty sold, in his words, “a bunch of stuff,” (more than 170 items) from his memorabilia collection, including his iconic No. 43 Day-Glo red and Petty Blue 1974 Dodge Charger, considered one of the most historically important cars in NASCAR history. It sold for $490,000  So with changes looming overhead, NASCAR heads into its big 2018 twin bill weekend in Charlotte with the Alsco 300 on Saturday and the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday.

Back on October 10, 2014, A View to Hugh featured the 1971 “National 500” at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.  We noted that, while High Morton is famous for his sports photography, there aren’t many NASCAR events represented in his portfolio.

Then about this time last May, Jack Hilliard wrote a post about the 1983 “World 600” at CMS. While writing the post he thought there were images from that race in the Morton collection, but after careful study, I determined that the suspected “World 600” images were actually from a “600” preliminary race: the 1983 “Mello Yello 300.” Our post, titled “Back at the Track,” turned out to be a “Morton Mystery” solver.  Thirty-five years ago, on May 28, 1983, Morton actually was present to photograph a Late-Model-Sportsman race at the famous speedway.  Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look back at that rare occasion when Morton documented the 1983 “Mello Yello 300.”

Mello Yello 300

Dale Earnhardt in the yellow “Wrangler” is one car length ahead of Neil Bonnett in Car #75. Pole winner Morgan Shepard pilots the white car (#7) in the third position. In fourth, driving the white and green car (#28), is Harry Gant. The fifth is car (#17) is driven by Bill Elliott.

On Friday, May 27, 1983, Late Model Sportsman driver Morgan Shepherd (Car #7) from Conover, North Carolina literally dodged the rain drops to win the pole position for the 300 mile race to be run the following day. Shepherd’s speed of 161.565 miles-per-hour beat Neil Bonnett (Car #75), who would start on the outside front row with a speed of 160.598. Rounding out the top five qualifiers were Dale Earnhardt (Car #15), Harry Gant (Car #28), and Bill Elliott (Car #17). Twenty additional positions had been filled the day before on Thursday, May 26th.

The rain drops were gone on Saturday, May 28th as 75,000 race fans came out for the “Mello Yello 300.”  Dale Earnhardt (Car #15), from nearby Kannapolis, took the lead from Neil Bonnett (Car #75) on the second lap. Earnhardt held the lead for fifteen laps. Then, Bonnett, Earnhardt, and Harry Gant (Car #28) took turns sharing the lead until lap 50, when Earnhardt made an unscheduled pit stop under green.  His stop cost him a lap. He would say after the race, “I thought we had a tire going bad.”  But the problem was actually a handling issue which the Earnhardt team battled most of the afternoon.

Pole sitter Morgan Shepherd (Car #7) exited the race on lap 53, suffering a broken shock mount on the rear end of his Oldsmobile.  With Earnhardt a lap down, it was Bonnett and Gant playing leap frog with the lead. Then On lap 76, a crash took out the current Late Model points leader, Asheboro’s Sam Ard (Car #00). Three laps later, on lap 79, Earnhardt got his lap back.

On lap 93, Bill Elliott (Car #17) took over the lead for 26 laps before Gant got back in front on lap 119. But by lap 100, Earnhardt had gotten back into second place and then on lap 136 he took over the lead for good leading the final 64 laps to take the win, beating Neil Bonnett by about 5 seconds. The winning speed for Earnhardt’s yellow and blue Wrangler Pontiac was 117.724 miles per hour. For his win, he got $9,100 and overall he led 83 of the 200 laps run.

Mello Yello 300

Dale Earnhardt in his yellow “Wrangler” (#15) and Neil Bonnett in the white car with red roof (#75) coming out of turn four.

Earnhardt battled Bonnett a good part of the afternoon, which Morton captured from his position high above the track.  Bonnett, who led the race 7 times for 61 laps, said “I felt pretty good out there until the last restart when we felt a valve spring breaking.”  For Earnhardt, this particular victory was a breakthrough since he had never before won this race, having twice finished second. Neil Bonnett would go on to win the 1983 “World 600” the next day with Earnhardt finishing 5th.

Addendum by Stephen Fletcher

unknown race at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Want to help solve a “Morton Mystery?” The slide above is different from the rest of the slides in lot PTCM2_8894.  The first eleven slides in the set are in Kodak cardboard mounts numbered between 9 and 21; the slide above, however, is in a Pakon plastic mount with dot-matrix printing that reads, “D.H.  600-39” and [slide number] “29.”  The large infield logo seen above (detail below) is not in the infield seen in the opening image of last year’s post.  Can anyone identify the race in the above image?  Is it a different year of the 600?  Is “D.H.” the initials of another photographer? (There are several images in the Morton collection by other photographers.)  Please let us know what you think!

infield logo detail

Detail Skoal #33 and Quaker State cars