Our time with Woody

It was one year ago today, March 7, 2018, that we received the sad news that Woody Durham had lost his gallant battle with primary progressive aphasia, a neurocognitive disorder that affects language expression.  On this first anniversary of his passing, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back on our time with Woody.

Prolog
If you search the online collection of Hugh Morton photographs, you will find two dozen Morton photographs that include Woody Durham.  If you search the collection finding aid, you will find many more.  Woody was a favorite Morton subject, so when Bob Anthony and Stephen Fletcher, of the Wilson Library’s North Carolina Collection, put together a panel at Appalachian State in October of 2013 to discuss Morton’s work, Woody was an important participant.

Woody Durham interviews King Rice following win over Duke in the 1991 ACC Tournament.

Tar Heel Sports Network play-by-play announcer Woody Durham interviews King Rice following win over Duke in the 1991 ACC Tournament. Also in the frame is #32 Pete Chilcutt, and Rick Fox (right). Jim Heavner, Tar Heel Sports Network and CEO of The Village Companies of Chapel Hill can be partially seen in extreme left of the frame.

As the 2010-11 college basketball season turned into that famous March Madness, it looked like Carolina might be headed to yet another final four.  With wins over Long Island, Washington, and Marquette, they were in the “Elite Eight”® and playing Kentucky for another Final Four trip.  It was Sunday afternoon, March 27, 2011 . . . Number 2 seed UNC against Number 4 seed Kentucky . . . at the 18,711-seat Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  Woody Durham was calling game number 1805 as the Tar Heel “Voice.”  The winner would capture the East Regional bracket and advance to the Final Four in Houston.  A Tar Heel win would give Woody an opportunity to call his fourteen Final Four.  But sadly for those of us listening to Woody and watching CBS Sports, it wasn’t to be.

The Tar Heel Nation was stunned as Kentucky came away with the win, 76 to 69.  We didn’t know it at the time, but we suffered another loss that afternoon: it would be Woody Durham’s final play-by-play broadcast after forty years as the “Voice of the Tar Heels.”  The official announcement came twenty-four days later.  After calling 1,805 football and basketball broadcasts, Woody Durham was signing off.

***

From 1971 until 2011, Woody Durham was the soundtrack for Tar Heel football and basketball.  During that span

  • the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association selected Woody as the North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year thirteen times;
  • he was the voice for six national championship games and thirteen Final Fours;
  • he called twenty-three football bowl games; and
  • he interviewed six Tar Heel head football coaches and four head basketball coaches.

His game-day-preparation was legendary and his attention to detail with his color-coded information charts became famous.  But Woody Durham was much more than the voice of his university.  He often headed up life-long-learning programs for UNC’s General Alumni Association and was a program fixture during Graduation-Reunion weekend each May.  He traveled across his native state speaking to Tar Heel alumni groups.

Following his retirement, Woody and his wife Jean attended most of Carolina’s football games, and were always seated in Section 212 Row C in the Smith Center for Tar Heel basketball games.  Then, in 2015, Woody began to lose his ability to speak. The following year, came the diagnosis: Primary Progressive Aphasia.  But as you might expect, Woody took up the cause and became a leader educating his many fans about the disease.

On March 7, 2018 came the news report that Woody had lost his battle.

I think UNC Head Basketball Coach Roy Williams said it best when he issued this statement:

“It’s a very sad day for everyone who loves the University of North Carolina because we have lost someone who spent nearly 50 years as one of its greatest champions and ambassadors. . . . My heart goes out to Jean, Wes, Taylor and their entire family. . . . It’s ironic that Woody would pass away at the start of the postseason in college basketball because this was such a joyous time for him. He created so many lasting memories for Carolina fans during this time of year. It’s equally ironic that he dealt with a disorder for the final years of his life that robbed him of his ability to communicate as effectively as he did in perfecting his craft.

Woody Durham will forever be “THE Voice of the North Carolina Tar Heels.” Others will broadcast the games and will do a really good job, but Woody will be the one we all remember.

A golden celebration

Clipping from the Asheville Citizen

Clipping from The Asheville Citizen, November 24, 1943, page 11.

Prolog:

Ten days after future UNC football legend Charlie Justice led his undefeated Bainbridge Naval Training Station football team to a 46-to-0 win over the University of Maryland, he went on a well-deserved leave. At the same time, Sarah Alice Hunter took a brief leave from her job at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D. C.  The two headed back home to Asheville, North Carolina where they were married at Trinity Episcopal Church.

During the next 59 years, 10 months, and 23 days, Charlie Justice would be interviewed numerous times.  During most of those interviews, he would, at some point, say “the best thing I ever did was to ask Sarah to marry me.”

Intro:

They played the 80th meeting between Carolina and Duke on November 26, 1993—a chilly, gray Friday morning—at 11 o’clock.  My guess is that ABC-TV wanted it played on that day at that time.  As it turned out, that was a good thing because the game ended about 2:30 PM, in plenty of time for a very special celebration in “the living room of the University” across campus.

Today, on the day Charlie and Sarah Justice would have celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back 25 years at their 50th celebration.

A few minutes after Carolina beat Duke 38 to 24 in the 1993 edition of their annual in-state rivalry, (thanks to freshman running back Leon Johnson’s 142-yard-and-4-touchdown day), many of us headed across campus to the historic Carolina Inn, where family and friends of the special couple were gathering.  Although Charlie and Sarah Justice’s fiftieth wedding anniversary was actually on November 23rd, game day on the 26th seemed like a good time to celebrate the storybook event of November 23rd, 1943.

In addition to celebrating the Justice’s fiftieth anniversary, the event also honored the memory of their son Charles Ronald (Ronnie), who had passed away on Friday, June 11, 1993 at their home in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

This is how the Justice’s chose to invite their guests:

Invitation to Justice's 50th anniversary

There were family members, teammates, friends, and fans in attendance.

The Carolina Inn ballroom provided the perfect backdrop for the elegant event and the many guests surrounded a large buffet table with roast beef, salmon, fruits, and cheeses. The centerpiece was a large ice sculpture depicting a locomotive celebrating Charlie’s football career when he was called “Choo Choo.”

Morton negatives of Justice anniversary

A view of Hugh Morton’s negatives placed on a light box, inverted so they can be seen as positives, that he made during the Sarah and Charlie Justice 50th anniversary celebration. The image in the foreground is an ice sculpture of a “Choo Choo” train.

At the right side of the room was a video player and large screen where highlights of Charlie and Sarah’s fifty years together were shown.  I had the honor of producing that video presentation which was narrated by North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame broadcaster Charlie Harville.

Following a family toast by Barbara (Justice) Crews, Charlie and Sarah’s daughter, head football coach Mack Brown added his congratulations and then offered an additional toast. He then spoke of the importance of Carolina’s football history and heritage.  After Brown concluded his words about Carolina’s Golden Age during the late 1940s, Justice stepped forward and thanked the coach for restoring football respectability “for my University.”

During the entire celebration, photographer Hugh Morton was there documenting every phase of the event: from a group shot of the Justice team mates to a funny shot of Charlie and Sarah holding up special tee shirts prepared for the party, a shot that appeared in the February, 1994 edition of The University Alumni Report newspaper on page 34.

Sarah and Charlie Justice holding tee shirts, with Art Weiner

Sarah and Charlie Justice display their “wears” as Charlie’s UNC teammate Art Weiner stands by with a supportive hand.

So, on this day, November 23, 2018, I choose to believe that Charlie and Sarah Justice are once again celebrating their storybook life together on their 75th wedding anniversary. Joining the celebration is son Ronnie, and just as he was 25 years ago, Hugh Morton is there with camera in hand.

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.

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.”

Hugh Morton: a North Carolina treasure

Hugh Morton wearing "cap from Jack"

Hugh Morton wearing “cap from Jack” on the day after his 73rd birthday, February 20th, 1994.

Today, February 19th, is a special day in North Carolina history. On this day ninety-seven years ago, Hugh MacRae Morton was born in Wilmington.

Jack Hilliard recently asked a number of people if they knew who Hugh Morton was.  Each one answered yes and each described him in different terms.  Among the answers:

  • “The man up at Grandfather Mountain.”
  • “He started the Azalea Festival in Wilmington didn’t he?”
  • “Had something to do with the Battleship North Carolina.”
  • “Wasn’t he instrumental in getting the Linn Cove Viaduct built?”
  • “I remember seeing him at the Highland Games up in the mountains.”
  • “He was always taking pictures at the Carolina games.”

All of those answers are correct and there are dozens more correct answers that describe this North Carolina treasure.

Hugh Morton was one of the most well known advocates for North Carolina in the history of our state.  He was determined to make a difference in the growth and development of the Tar Heel state. According to his biographical profile on the Grandfather Mountain web site, he was president or chairman of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association, the Travel Council of North Carolina, the Southern Highlands Attractions Association, the North Carolina Botanical Garden Foundation, and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. That list could go on.

Following Morton’s return from World War II, he served as the first president of the North Carolina Azalea Festival in Wilmington in 1948.  In 1961, he led the charge to bring the battleship USS North Carolina home.  He took on the federal government when they wanted to build a highway high up on Grandfather Mountain.  The Linn Cove Viaduct around the mountain was the compromise.  He was a fixture with his camera at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Carolina football and basketball games for more than sixty years.

Hugh Morton served for more than ten years as a member of the North Carolina Board of Conservation and Development under Governors W. Kerr Scott, William B. Umstead, and Luther H. Hodges.  Morton’s influence in his native state can never be properly measured because he often worked behind the scenes and never wanted any credit.

On this day, the day Hugh Morton would have turned 97 years old, we encourage readers of A View to Hugh to check out his photographic legacy as a world-class photographer.  There are more than 7,500 images online and an estimated 250,000 items in the Hugh Morton collection of photographs and films in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, part of UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library.

 

 

Rollie Massimino (1934–2017)

Rollie Massimino photographed by Hugh Morton, image cropped by the author.

Rollie Massimino photographed by Hugh Morton, image cropped by the author.

In today’s news we learned of yesterday’s passing of famed Villanova University basketball coach Rollie Massimino.  Above is a detail from a photograph of Massimino made by Hugh Morton on March 17, 1991 during the NCAA East Regional played in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY.  A View to Hugh post from 2009 titled UNC vs. Villanova: 1982 and 1985 recounts two Tar Heel encounters against Massimino, and another post, “When Carolina’s Roy Williams and Villanova’s Jay Wright were assistants” includes another Morton photograph of Massimino made during the same game as this photograph.

A memorial tribute, twenty years ago

Early on the morning of Friday, July 4, 1997 we heard the sad news from New York that Tar Heel Charles Bishop Kuralt had died of heart disease and complications from lupus, an inflammatory disease that can affect the skin, joints, kidneys and nervous system.  Four days later, a memorial service was held in Chapel Hill. On this, the twentieth anniversary of Kuralt’s passing, Hugh Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard recalls that day when a group of North Carolina’s finest gathered to celebrate the life of “CBS’ poet of small-town America.”

"Chas Kuralt died"—Hugh Morton's entry for July 4, in his 1997 Executive Planner.

“Chas Kuralt died”—Hugh Morton’s entry for July 4, in his 1997 Executive Planner.

Charles really had the common touch.  He was so genuine and sincere.  I really believe he was the most loved, respected and trusted news personality in television.  —Hugh Morton

Shortly before noon on Tuesday, July 8, 1997 the old bell in South Building on the UNC campus rang for one minute. The bell is seldom used, reserved for marking such rare occasions as the installment of a new chancellor.  Earlier that morning Charles Kuralt was laid to rest in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, the place where he wanted to be buried on the campus he loved.  On July 2, two days before he died, Kuralt had sent his friend Dr. William Friday a note seeking help in securing the spot.

“I seem to be recovering nicely; but this experience has given me intimations of mortality.  I know you have better things to worry about, but I thought I would ask if you have any way of finding out if there are a couple of burial plots in Chapel Hill . . . I should have thought of this forty years ago!  Sorry to ask you to look into such a bizarre question.”

Charles Kuralt's last letter, written to Bill Friday, in the Charles Kuralt Collection #4882, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Charles Kuralt’s last letter, written to Bill Friday, in the Charles Kuralt Collection #4882, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Before Friday got the note, he got a phone call.  It was 6:00 a.m. on July 4th.  Kuralt’s assistant Karen Beckers was on the line.

“I’ve called you because I must tell you that Charles is gone.”

Beckers told Friday about the note he would be getting.  Friday and Chapel Hill Town Manager Cal Horton met at the cemetery with a map and determined that Chapel Hill resident George Hogan had several plots.  Friday then called Hogan and explained his situation.  Hogan’s reply: “No, I won’t sell them, but I’ll give Charles two.”  Turns out Hogan had worked for the Educational Foundation at UNC when Kuralt was editor of The Daily Tar Heel.

Kuralt now rests in peace near the center of the old cemetery near the gravesites of former UNC President Francis Venable and botany professor William Coker.  Not far away lie the graves of others who made Tar Heel history: former UNC System President Frank Porter Graham, playwright Paul Green, and UNC Institute of Government founder Albert Coates.

Said Friday, “He’s where I felt, and the others felt, he would like to be.”  Friday then added, “While he’s here with former presidents, he’s also here with the home folks of Chapel Hill.”  Charles’ brother Wallace said: “This is home for him.”

Dan Rather. Photograph by Hugh Morton, as cropped by the editor.

Dan Rather. Photograph by Hugh Morton, as cropped by the editor.

Following the private ceremony at the gravesite, people filed past the site all day.  Piles of flowers filled the spot where a future marker would be placed.  A teary-eyed Dan Rather, then anchor of the CBS Evening News, left the burial site emotionally shaken.  “I’m here in sympathy and support of his family.  He gave himself to America, and he gave it everything he had.”

Interior of Memorial Hall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, during memorial service for Charles Kuralt. Photograph by Hugh Morton.

Interior of Memorial Hall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, during memorial service for Charles Kuralt. Photograph by Hugh Morton.

Shortly after the service at Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, more than 1,600 people packed Memorial Hall for a celebration of Kuralt’s life, with UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker presiding.  WUNC-TV’s cameras were there to send the signal out across the Tar Heel state. Television personality Charlie Rose and WUNC-TV’s Audrey Kates Bailey anchored the broadcast.

The Memorial Hall stage was filled with an illustrious group of North Carolinians who came to share their friendships with Charles.  The group included UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker, North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, Kuralt’s special friend Hugh Morton, former UNC presidents William Friday and C.D. Spangler Jr, and Kuralt’s friend, composer Loonis McGlohon.  The North Carolina Symphony’s Brass Ensemble was also on hand to perform segments from North Carolina is My Home, which Kuralt wrote and performed with McGlohon.  McGlohon performed “The Farmer” segment that he called his favorite.

William C. Friday during the memorial service for Charles Kuralt. Photograph by Hugh Morton, as cropped by the editor.

William C. Friday during the memorial service for Charles Kuralt. Photograph by Hugh Morton, as cropped by the editor.

“The world knew Charles as one of the most respected and trusted newsmen of this generation, a master storyteller and a tour guide to the back roads of our nation,” said Chancellor Hooker.  “The university knew him as a stalwart alumnus who never forgot his roots—whether it meant talking to our budding journalists or giving his time and effort on behalf of the School of Social Work to help promote his late father’s profession.  He was a kind and generous man who never hesitated to lend his alma mater a hand however and whenever possible.  He will be greatly missed.”

Morton told the standing-room only crowd at Memorial Hall, “I begged him to cancel everything and come to the mountains and sleep all day or fish all day, whatever it would take to restore his health.”  Kuralt said he had too much to do.

Left to right: James G. (Jim) Babb, then Executive Vice President at Bahakel Communications, with Loonis McGlohon, and Charles Kuralt at Belmont Abbey College, May 10, 1997. Babb is a class of 1959 alumnus of Belmont Abbey College.

Left to right: James G. (Jim) Babb, then Executive Vice President at Bahakel Communications, with Loonis McGlohon, and Charles Kuralt at Belmont Abbey College, May 10, 1997. Babb is a class of 1959 alumnus of Belmont Abbey College.

Morton wasn’t surprised when he got a call telling him that Kuralt had died.  Less than two months earlier on May 10, Hugh Morton met with Kuralt at Belmont Abbey College.  It was probably their last time together.  Kuralt was the commencement speaker and received an honorary degree.  McGlohon also received an honorary degree that day, along with Catholic theologian and author, the Reverend Terrence Kardong, and the Reverend David Thompson, Bishop of the Charleston diocese.  Kuralt had been diagnosed with lupus and his treatment regimen had taken a severe toll.

"Belmont Abbey / Loonis & Charles"—Hugh Morton's entry in his executive planner for May 10, 1997.

“Belmont Abbey / Loonis & Charles”—Hugh Morton’s entry in his executive planner for May 10, 1997.

Through his world travels, Charles Kuralt never forgot his North Carolina roots.  Governor Jim Hunt called Kuralt North Carolina’s storytelling ambassador, then added, “He was born on the coast, grew up in the Piedmont, loved the mountains, but he belonged to America. He was a fine reporter.  But when he started telling us America’s stories, we smiled and sometimes cried when we saw the goodness.”

In July 1997, television personality Charlie Rose was hosting an interview program on Public Broadcasting (PBS), so it was a natural for the North Carolina native to co-anchor the TV coverage of the Charles Kuralt memorial broadcast on the University’s Public Broadcasting station WUNC-TV.  Rose called Kuralt “a genuine American hero.”

“There was almost no one who didn’t know him. People would say ‘I was always wondering when you would show up.’” Then with a smile Rose added. “There was one exception, a woman Kuralt walked up to interview asked him to leave two quarts of milk, thinking he was the milkman.”

“All of us, when we heard the story (of Kuralt’s death) wanted to say ‘Stop—one more story, one more conversation. Introduce me to one more person that reflects America. Give me one more gentle reminder of who we are and what the great fabric of this nation is about.’ ”

Former UNC System President Dr. William Friday said, “No matter where he was in the world, he would call Chapel Hill and ask whether the dogs were still chasing the squirrels across campus and the flowers still blooming.”

When UNC System President C.D. Spangler, Jr. got to the podium to add his remarks, he opened with these words: “To Charles and all his family here, I say welcome back to Chapel Hill.”

Supplement

William C. Friday’s papers in the Southern Historical Collection contain the following letters between Friday and Hugh Morton, written soon after the Kuralt memorial service.

Epilog

On October 12, 2012 (University Day on the UNC campus), former UNC System President Dr. William Clyde Friday passed away.  He, too, is at peace in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.

Correction: A caption to a photograph in the original version of the story stated that the unidentified person on the left of the group portrait with McGlohon and Kuralt was thought to be Reverend David Thompson.  A reader’s comment identified the man as James G. Babb (7 July 2017).

Always on call for his alma mater

May 13, 1989 groundbreaking ceremony for the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (L to R): Ralph Strayhorn, fund raising chairman; George Watts Hill; Doug Dibbert, General Alumni Association Executive Director; Robert C. Eubanks, UNC Board of Trustees chairman; Tom Lambeth, chairman of the area campaigns; Chancellor Emeritus Christopher C. Fordham III; and Chancellor Paul Hardin.

May 13, 1989 groundbreaking ceremony for the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (L to R): Ralph Strayhorn, fund raising chairman; George Watts Hill; Doug Dibbert, General Alumni Association Executive Director; Robert C. Eubanks, UNC Board of Trustees chairman; Tom Lambeth, chairman of the area campaigns; Chancellor Emeritus Christopher C. Fordham III; and Chancellor Paul Hardin.

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
  • Fund Raising Chairman for the George Watts Hill Alumni Center building project.

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.”

FOUR TAR HEELS—Ralph Strayhorn Jr., Charlie Justice, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan, and Charlie Carr gathered on the sidelines before the 1997 Sugar Bowl. At that time Carr was the associate director of athletics at Florida State, which played against Florida in the bowl game.

FOUR TAR HEELS—Ralph Strayhorn Jr., Charlie Justice, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan, and Charlie Carr gathered on the sidelines before the 1997 Sugar Bowl. At that time Carr was the associate director of athletics at Florida State, which played against Florida in the bowl game.

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.

Joe Neikirk, Georgia's legendary Bulldog Bill Hartman, Ralph Strayhorn Jr., Charlie Justice, Crowell Little, and Georgia All-American Charley Trippi.

Joe Neikirk, Georgia’s legendary Bulldog Bill Hartman, Ralph Strayhorn Jr., Charlie Justice, Crowell Little, and Georgia All-American Charley Trippi.

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!)

John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday anniversary

John F. Kennedy at North Carolina Caucus, 1956 Democratic National Convention

John F. Kennedy at North Carolina Caucus, 1956 Democratic National Convention

If John F. Kennedy were alive today, he would be celebrating his 100th birthday.  Hugh Morton, who was less than four years younger than JFK, photographed him on several occasions.  The above photograph is Morton’s earliest.

During the nearly ten years that A View to Hugh has been in existence, John Kennedy has been featured, represented, or mentioned in more that thirty blog posts  To mark this day, I encourage you to search the blog for Kennedy’s name and read an entry or two . . . or click on the link above to access nearly sixty images available of Kennedy in the online collection, including a dozen images from his 1961 University Day speech in Kenan Memorial Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.