A certain “electricity” in the air

When Carolina played its 2019 home opener on September 7th against Miami, there was a certain “electricity” in the air…Head Football Coach Mack Brown was back…the Heels had beaten South Carolina the weekend before and expectations were high. While the feeling was a bit unusual in Chapel Hill, it wasn’t unique. A similar event took place on November 8, 1997, and Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look back 22 years ago today.

I remember in a 1973 conversation I had with UNC Legend Charlie Justice how excited he was recalling the famous 1948 UNC – Texas game. “People in ten-gallon hats and flashing big money showed up on Franklin Street as early as Thursday before the big Saturday game on September 25th. Tickets were being bought and sold for more than a hundred dollars…big money in those days. There was an excitement in the air…kinda’ like ‘electricity.’ If you were in Chapel Hill for the ’48 Texas game, you will always remember it.”

I was not in Chapel Hill for that big game celebration in 1948, but when I came into Chapel Hill on the afternoon of November 8, 1997 for the Carolina – Florida State game, I sensed what Justice was talking about.

In the early afternoon, Franklin Street was crowded with fans from each team. This time tickets were selling for as much as $500. One downtown merchant was quoted as saying, “I think this is the biggest sporting event this town has ever seen.”

In the southeast corner of Kenan Memorial Stadium, ESPN’s “Game Day” team of Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, and Kirk Herbstreit was set to send the game out across the nation. Major publications like USA Today and The New York Times were represented in the press box along with Sports Illustrated. NFL scouts were there in abundance as were guys in Orange jackets representing the Orange Bowl.  Woody Durham and Mick Mixon were in place for the Tar Heel Sports Network. And of course, photographer Hugh Morton was in his place along the Tar Heel sideline.

By late afternoon, Franklin Street looked a lot like it does after a big basketball win. The gray skies and mild temps made for perfect football weather as the 7:30 kickoff approached. The Florida State Seminoles, undefeated under head coach Bobby Bowden, were ranked second in the country while the undefeated Tar Heels were ranked fifth.  The newspaper headline above the masthead of Carolina Blue on November 8 simply said: “TITANS COLLIDE AT KENAN.”

Carolina Blue cover

Cover of the November 8, 1997 issue of Carolina Blue.

Then, just before the start of the game, a very light mist fell on the 62,000 who had jammed into Kenan Stadium.  It didn’t last long, however, and all was in order for the game. Newly elected Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford greeted both head coaches just prior to the kickoff.  When the clock said 7:30 PM, they began to play the game. Soon, the Seminoles pulled the plug on all that “electricity” from a week of hype and excitement.

Florida State quarterback Busby

Eleven minutes into the game, Florida State had its first score, an eight yard pass from quarterback Thad Busby to tight end Melvin Pearsall.  Then at the 4:27 mark of the second quarter it was Busby again—this time a fourteen-yard pass to wide receiver E.G. Green. And just seconds before the end of the first half, Sebastian Janikowski kicked a thirty-two-yard field goal that made the halftime score 17 to 0.

During the halftime break, Coach Bowden told his offensive coaches if Carolina didn’t score on its first drive of the second half, concentrate on the running game and eat some clock. The Tar Heels did not score on its first drive.  The teams traded field goals during the remainder of the second half, making the final score 20 to 3.  Florida State’s dominance was reflected in the final stats. The Seminoles finished the game with 334 net yards of offense with 19 first downs compared to Carolina’s 73 and 7.

North Carolina running back Dré Bly

North Carolina defensive back Dré Bly, most likely during one of his four punt returns in the game.

After the two head coaches shook hands at midfield, Coach Bowden turned and walked toward the southeast corner of the stadium where many of the Seminole fans were standing. Just then the Florida State band struck up Happy Birthday, as Bowden waved to the crowd. He had turned 67 on this day in Chapel Hill.

Coach Brown in his post-game news conference said, “I thought the week was a win. All the attention will really help our program. It will help in recruiting. Even though we lost tonight we’ll gain a whole lot out of this.”

The Tar Heels fell from fifth in both national polls to eighth in the AP Media Poll and ninth in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll.  Florida State jumped to number one in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll and remained number two in the AP Media Poll.

As the 62,000 fans filed out of Kenan Stadium that night in ’97, there were at least two who had been there in ’48: Charlie Justice and Hugh Morton. But the ’97 outcome was nothing like the one in ’48.

______________________________________________

Epilog:

Following a home win against Wake Forest on November 15th and a three-point-loss on November 22nd to Florida, Florida State finished the season 11 and 1 and a national number three ranking.  Bowden would remain the head coach at Florida State until 2009 and win a second national championship in 1999.

Carolina would close the season with a win at Clemson and a home win against Duke. They finished the season at 11 and 1 and ranked number six. Following the 1997 regular season, Mack Brown left UNC to become the head coach at Texas.  He remained there through the 2013 season, winning a BCS National Championship for the Longhorns in 2005. He returner to UNC in 2019.

A ho-hum-season-ending-game becomes a Tar Heel thrill

On this day, October 26, 2019, Carolina’s football Tar Heels will meet Duke for the 106th time, plus it is homecoming on the UNC campus. The winner will capture the Victory Bell.

Earlier this season, when Carolina beat Miami in Kenan Stadium with masterful play in the 4th quarter, the game became one of Kenan’s greatest wins…along with the ’48 Texas win, the ’57 Navy win, and the ’63 Georgia win (among others). One of those “others” was the 1978 Duke game—Coach Dick Crum’s first encounter with the Blue Devils from Durham. What transpired that afternoon is the stuff of legends, as Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard recalls.

Famous Amos Lawrence

“Famous Amos” Lawrence rushing during the 1978 Duke versus UNC football game.

The 1978 UNC football season was head football coach Dick Crum’s first, which he would later call “a season of considerable adjustment.” The season got underway with a 14-10 win in Kenan Memorial Stadium against East Carolina. Then came three losses: Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Miami of Ohio. A win at Wake Forest on October 14 snapped the losing streak, but on October 21, rival NC State came into Chapel Hill and dominated the Heels, 34-7. Three road games followed: a win at South Carolina, followed by losses at Richmond and Clemson.

Hugh Morton joined a full house in “Death Valley” to witness a memorable game against Clemson on November 11. The Tigers were picked as an easy winner. After all, their record was 7-1 thus far in the season while Carolina was 3-6. But through the first three quarters, the Tar Heels led 9-6. Then with 9:43 on the clock in the fourth quarter, Clemson finally got its first touchdown of the game to take a 13-9 lead—a lead that lasted.

Two home games in Kenan followed the Clemson contest: Virginia on November 18 and Duke on the 25th.  A 38-20 win against UVA set the stage for the famous 1978 game against Duke. Following the Virginia win, Coach Crum reminded his team about the importance of the Duke game.  He offered a very special win-incentive, one that I choose to believe changed the outcome of the game. (More about that later.)

Saturday, November 25 was an average fall day with temperatures in the high 40s.  At historic Kenan Memorial Stadium, 45,000 fans witnessed the 65th meeting between Carolina and Duke. On the sideline was photographer Hugh Morton in his usual position. Both teams had identical 4-6 records.

The first three quarters were ho-hum, with Duke dominating play.  In the opening quarter, Carolina scored first with a Jeff Hayes field goal, then Duke followed at the 8:05 mark with a Scott McKinney field goal. McKinney added two more 3-pointers in the second quarter, and Duke led 9-3 at the half.

The third quarter was scoreless, as was most of the fourth, but with 4:20 remaining on the game clock, Duke quarterback Mike Dunn got loose on a keeper for a 29-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but Duke was in control 15 to 3. At this point many of the fans wearing light blue chose to head home. Like Woody Durham use to say, “They must be giving something away in the parking lot.”

UNC Duke score 3 to 15

But Carolina wasn’t finished. Starting at the Tar Heel 23 yard line, quarterback Matt Kupec completed six of eight passes—covering the needed seventy-seven yards in ninety-six seconds.  The final ten yards was a pass to end Bob Loomis. It was his seventh touchdown of the season, tying a record set by legendary Hall of Famer Art Weiner in 1949. Jeff Hayes converted the extra point, and cutting Duke’s lead to 15-10 with 2:46 remaining on the clock.

touchdown pass

Kupec readies his soon-to-be touchdown pass with Loomis in sight.

Carolina’s ensuing kickoff pinned Duke deep in their own territory. The Tar Heels defense held forth. They used their final two timeouts to stop the clock and forced Duke to punt. With 1:42 remaining and starting at the Carolina 39-yard-line, the Tar Heels were able to run ten plays during the next 89 seconds. During that 1:29, it was running back Amos Lawrence for 18 yards, then 4, then 21 more.  With the ball at the Duke 18, Kupec passed to end Jim Rouse who stepped out of bounds at the Duke 11.  At this point Duke lined up expecting another Kupec pass, but instead it was “Famous Amos” again who shook off tacklers and raced into the east end zone. Kupec’s pass for a 2-point conversion failed, but Carolina led 16-15 with the game clock at 13 seconds. During that final Tar Heel drive, Amos Lawrence was able to top the 1,000 yard mark for his second season in row. Following the scoring drive, the Carolina defense took over and preserved the win.

End zone celebration after scoring the winning touchdown. “Famous Amos” Lawrence is elevated by teammates in the middle of the pack. Is that the game winning ball on the left? Maybe, or it may be one in the hand of a “ball boy.”

In his post game interview, Crum said, “That was simply one great football game.”

On Thursday, March 29, 1979, Crum made the 55-minute drive from Chapel Hill to Greensboro where he was the guest speaker at the Greensboro Kiwanis Club meeting. In addition to his speech notes, he also carried with him a very special piece of memorabilia.

Spring football practice was underway in Chapel Hill, so the first part of Crum’s presentation was about those things that define spring practice…momentum, fundamentals, and recruiting. In the audience was a Kiwanian who was also a former UNC football player who understood all that spring practice stuff: Charlie Justice.

This day was Charlie’s first club meeting since his open heart surgery. Back on October 22, 1978, Justice was in Rockingham at North Carolina Motor Speedway where he was scheduled to be the Grand Marshall for the American 500 NASCAR race. But in the early morning hours he suffered chest pains and was transported to the local hospital. About three weeks later, on November 14, the legendary Tar Heel won his greatest victory: successful open heart surgery at Duke University Medical Center. He would later say, “that’s probably the best place for me to have serious surgery. . . You don’t think they would let me die on their watch, do you?”

At the Kiwanis meeting, after all was said about spring football practice and the upcoming UNC season, Crum took out a football that was signed by the 1978 UNC team members. “[In 1978], we had a season of considerable adjustment and needed a little incentive,” said Crum. “We had the Duke game coming up. If you’re not winning at Carolina you want to beat Duke to make things more peaceful in Chapel Hill for the winter. Charlie Justice was in the hospital . . . so after the Virginia game, I told the team if we beat Duke, we’d sign the ball and give it to Charlie.”

“To our players Charlie Justice is a legend.”

“You know what happened? With four minutes to go and trailing 15-3, I call the team in a huddle around me and tell them ‘we’ve got to win this one, remember, for Charlie Justice.'” Crum then called Justice to come forward and accept the game ball—the ball Famous Amos” Lawrence carried across the goal line for a victory over Duke from a ho-hum-game that became a Tar Heel thrill.

The amazing resume of Robert Vinsant Cox

1948 UNC Football Starters

This Hugh Morton negative is labeled “’48 Starters.” Pictured are Art Weiner (left), Bob Cox (center), Charlie Justice (right), and Hosea Rodgers (top left).

On this day three years ago, September 19, 2016, the Tar Heel Nation lost an icon with the passing of Robert Vinsant (“Bob”) Cox. He was 90-years-old. Many Tar Heels remember Bob as a player on the UNC football teams of the late 1940s. While that’s true, there is much, much more to his resume, as Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard recalls.

In the Spring of 2004 when Hugh Morton put together a committee of former UNC football players to critique sculptor Johnpaul Harris’ Charlie Justice statue, Bob Cox (UNC Class of 1949) was one of the first team members selected. Cox would make two visits to Harris’ Asheboro studio during June, 2004 and was instrumental in the final statue presentation which was dedicated in November, 2004 and now stands at the west end of Kenan Memorial Stadium.

Cox was a team member of the Justice Era teams of the late 1940s, having arrived on the UNC campus in 1945 following duty with the United States Marines during World War II. He became a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and was a pass-catching end and place-kicker for the Tar Heels. His 18-yard field goal in the second half of the 1947 Sugar Bowl against Georgia gave Carolina a brief 10-7 lead. When Georgia returned to Chapel Hill for a rematch on September 27, 1947, the pass-catching Cox led a Tar Heel win. The sports headline in the Greensboro Daily News on Sunday, September 28th read:
“End Bob Cox Steals Show.”

Cox was second in team scoring in 1947 and 1948—second only to Justice—and was described as “Mr. Extra Point” by Harold Styers in his 1996 book Hark The Sound: A Time Remembered and a Sentimental Journey.  He also joined Carolina’s golf team when it reformed in 1946 following World War II, and was a member of the 1947 Southern Conference Golf championship team.

Cox became a favorite photo-subject of Hugh Morton and following UNC’s great 20-0-win over Duke in 1948, Cox helped carry Charlie Justice off the field. The Morton image of that scene graced the front cover of The State on December 4, 1948.

Following his UNC graduation on June 6, 1949, the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals drafted Cox but he chose to stay at Carolina and attend graduate school.  He also became a member of Head Football Coach Carl Snavely’s coaching staff, working with the varsity ends and the freshman teams from 1949 thru 1951.

Cox has two degrees from UNC: a BA and MA in physical education. Following his time at UNC, he became a member of the Carolina Clowns, a basketball team featuring several former Tar Heel athletes. The Clowns formed in 1949, offering those Tar Heels an opportunity to stay in shape and at the same time raise money for various charity events.
Over the years the Clowns’ roster changed as new players became available while others moved on to different endeavors. Cox joined UNC football players Charlie Justice, Art Weiner, Joe Wright, Jim Camp, Kenny Powell, Sid Varney, Don Hartig, Hosea Rodgers, and Jack Fitch, among others.

About the same time he was playing for the Clowns, Cox operated a Chapel Hill clothing store on Franklin Street called “Town & Campus.” The store was a favorite for ten years. During that time, he was also a member of the Chapel Hill Junior Chamber of Commerce and in 1957 was elected President of the North Carolina Junior Chamber. Then, he was elected President of the United States Jaycees in 1958. As President of the U. S. Chamber, he was a judge at the famous Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At the pageant on September 6, 1958, Cox and follow judges selected Mary Ann Mobley from Mississippi as Miss America of 1959 before a national TV audience of 60 million on CBS-TV.

In December of 1961, when the city of Asheville celebrated “Charlie Justice Day,” two former Justice teammates were part of the celebration: Art Weiner and Bob Cox. The Asheville Citizen published a picture of the three on the front page of its December 2, 1961 issue.

Bob could often be seen on campus during Graduation/Reunion weekends and in 1989 he led the annual “Saturday Morning in Chapel Hill” before a full house in Memorial Hall. The topic that May morning, “Why Did We Have it So Good and What Made Us Different?” The program featured a panel of 1940s and 1950s Tar Heel legends including Hugh Morton who presented one of his slide shows.

I remember calling Bob in the late summer of 1996 when I was working with him on the 50th anniversary celebration of the Golden Era teams. I didn’t get an answer when I called, so I called back several minutes later. When I told him I had called earlier, he said, “I was in the car and I don’t talk on the phone while I’m driving. Don’t want to put anyone in danger if my distraction might cause an accident.”

In 1999, Bob Cox was selected to head the class of 1949’s 50th reunion. In the spring of ’99, he wrote a letter to his fellow classmates. In that letter, he said:

“To do anything for 50 years is quite a feat. We are indeed fortunate to be in that elite group that makes up the Class of ’49, which allows us to ask ‘Do you remember when…’

“The walks were gravel; Justice was running rampant at Kenan; Woodhouse was enthralling us on the beauties of ‘Poli-Sci’; Graham, House, and Carmichael were doing their thing at South Building; and hysteria-in-the-wisteria made the Arboretum more than just a name on the sign.

“We are blessed and privileged to call ourselves ‘Alums’ of the University of North Carolina. The years there were absolutely magic; but, even though those years were a special time, appreciation for the contributions of UNC has grown. The UNC reward continues throughout and we should be grateful—emotionally, spiritually, politically, and oh yes, financially.

“Let’s all make a pledge to stay in touch and do what we can to ensure that Carolina’s greatness will continue to grow and prosper. After all, we’re the Class of ’49 and that makes us special. Don’t you agree?”

Best always,

Bob

The letter appeared in the “50th Revised Yackety Yack: Carolina Class of 1949”
Bob was a financial advisor professionally, but he loved fishing, playing tennis, and gardening.  He was often called “Rosebud” because of the beautiful roses he grew.
Finally, during one of those Justice statue visits mentioned earlier in this post, Cox provided the question that prompted one of my favorite Hugh Morton stories. It was during a visit on June 21, 2004. After all of the players had added comments for Johnpaul Harris to note, Morton decided it was time to take some pictures. As he was meticulously checking focus with his trusty 35mm camera, Cox asked, “Hey, Hugh, do you have one of those new digital cameras?”

Morton’s answered,” I sure do,” as he reached down in his camera bag and pulled out a digital camera. “This is a good one,” said Hugh. “It has all the bells and whistles.”

Morton then put the digital camera back in his camera bag and continued taking shots with his conventional 35mm camera.

I don’t know if Bob Cox ever met best-selling author Tom Brokaw; but I choose to believe Robert Vinsant “Bob” Cox could very easily be the poster-boy for “The Greatest Generation.”

Still Alone at the Top

This post comes from regular contributor Jack Hilliard, who takes another look at the man “Still Alone at the Top” because today, May 18th, marks a special day for long time Tar Heels like Jack.

On this day, in 1924, a boy was born in the Emma community of Asheville. He would grow up to be the greatest athlete to ever play sports at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

UNC tailback Charlie Justice (#22 with ball) and UNC blocking back Danny Logue (#66) during the 1949 Blue-White intrasquad game played at Kenan Stadium. Until researching this blog post, the online Morton collection of Morton images had this image incorrectly dated as 1946—Justice's freshman year when he played on the White team.

UNC tailback Charlie Justice (#22 with ball) and UNC blocking back Danny Logue (#66) during the 1949 Blue-White intrasquad game played at Kenan Stadium. Until researching this blog post, the online Morton collection of Morton images had this image incorrectly dated as 1946—Justice’s freshman year when he played on the White team. [Click on the photograph to see the full negative without cropping.]

UNC’s Michael Jordan was one of the most effectively marketed athletes of all time, and thanks to the emergence of the 24/7 cable sports channels, and in the latter part of his playing career the internet, Jordan’s heroics became all access, all the time. His image has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated more than sixty times . . . so far. And it’s no surprise that he also has seventy-eight mentions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy.

In the fall of 1999 when UNC’s campus newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel selected a panel of Tar Heel sports experts to determine the ten greatest UNC athletes of all time, many long-time Tar Heels, like me, thought Michael would be the top vote getter. Each week the paper listed one of the top ten athletes, and as expected, Jordan beat out Phil Ford, Mia Hamm, Lawrence Taylor, Lennie Rosenbluth, B. J. Surhoff, and Sue Walsh. In fact, Jordan beat out every other Tar Heel athlete, except one. He finished second to Charlie Justice.

Justice never had his picture on a Sports Illustrated cover and was never mentioned on Jeopardy.  When Justice played for Carolina during the seasons between 1946 and 1949, there were no 24/7 cable sports channels. In fact there was no TV in North Carolina at that time and the Internet was decades away.

I once asked Justice, “How did you become so famous without TV or the Internet.” Said Justice, “I didn’t need ‘em, I had Jake Wade writing stories and Hugh Morton taking pictures.” (Jake Wade was the award-winning Sports Information Director for UNC from 1945 until 1962).

I remember getting up early on the morning of Monday, November 29, 1999 and driving from Greensboro to Chapel Hill. I wanted to make sure that I got a copy of The Daily Tar Heel. It didn’t take me long to find that collector edition of the paper with the Section B headline that said “The Making of a Legend,” with Charlie’s life story filling the page. To support the DTH story, there were three Justice pictures, two of which were taken by Hugh Morton: the photograph above that opens this post, and the one that follows (but cropped to include only Justice).

UNC fullback Walt Pupa (L) and UNC Tailback Charlie Justice in the locker room at Griffith Stadium, Washington DC.

UNC fullback Walt Pupa (L) and UNC Tailback Charlie Justice in the locker room at Griffith Stadium, Washington DC prior to the 1947 game versus the University of Maryland.

In an interview on October 18, 2003, Hugh Morton had this to say about his dear friend: “Clearly the most exciting football player I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot of them.” And as for Justice’s life after football, Morton added this: “There was not a worthy cause in this state he didn’t support. He used his fame to do good things. He wasn’t charging for it, he just wanted to do it.”

So, on this day, May 18, 2019, a tip-of-the-hat to Tar Heel Legend Charlie “Choo Choo Justice” who would have turned 95.  If a survey were taken on the UNC-CH campus all these years later, I don’t believe there would be many, if any, students who knew him or ever saw him play. That is their loss, because it’s doubtful we’ll ever see the likes of Charlie Justice again.

A call to the Hall for coach Mack Brown

Editor’s Note

This post is a follow-up to the post, “Mack Brown’s Return to Kenan Stadium” published on September 11 earlier this year.  As we were preparing today’s post honoring Mack Brown for his induction into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame, UNC and Chancellor Carol Folt and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham announced during a noontime press conference on November 27 that Brown will return to coaching duties for Carolina.  Brown then stepped to the podium and addressed the gathered media. “Sally and I love North Carolina, we love this University and we are thrilled to be back.  The best part of coaching is the players—building relationships, building confidence, and ultimately seeing them build success on and off the field.  We can’t to wait to meet our current student-athletes and reconnect with friends, alumni and fellow Tar Heel coaches.”

On December 4, 2018, former Head Football Coach Mack Brown will become the twelfth UNC Tar Heel and the twenty-second Texas Longhorn to be inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame. The dinner ceremony from 8:30 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. EST can be watched via a livestream on ESPN3.  Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look at Brown’s thirty-year head coaching career.

Sally and Mack Brown

Sally and Mack Brown, date unknown, scanned from a photographic print by Hugh Morton.

When it’s all over, your career will not be judged by the money you made or the championships you won. It will be measured by the lives you touched. And that is why we coach.  —Mack Brown in One Heartbeat (2001), page 173.

Mack Brown

Mack Brown during his years coaching UNC , from an undated photographic print by Hugh Morton collection.

It was November 18, 1989.  Tar Heel head football coach Mack Brown had just suffered one of the worst defeats of his entire coaching career at the end of a second 1-and-10 season. But Brown felt a personal obligation to come back up on the Kenan Stadium field because the Raycom TV crew wanted one more seasoning-ending interview.  By the time Brown finished his locker room and media conference duties, the late November sun was setting far beyond the west end of the historic stadium, and most all of the 46,000 fans who had filled the stands earlier had headed home.  About midway through the interview, Brown was distracted by cheering from the far end zone.  He turned and looked.  What he saw was unbelievable.  Duke head coach Steve Spurrier had come out of the visitor dressing room and assembled his team around the still-lighted scoreboard, which read 41 to 0.  The Blue Devil photographers were snapping away.  Brown paused for several seconds, and then said, “We’ll remember that.” Coach Brown never lost again to Duke University during his entire coaching career.

Mack Brown began his successful head-coaching career at Appalachian State in 1983, leading the Mountaineers to a 6-5 record—their first winning season in four years.  Then following a successful season as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma under Hall of Fame coach Barry Switzer, he became the head coach and athletic director at Tulane in 1985, where he led the Green Wave to a 6-6 record in his final season in 1987 and earned a trip to the Independence Bowl.  It was only the fifth bowl appearance for Tulane since 1940.

Following his time at Tulane, Brown was hired by UNC Athletic Director John Swofford, just in time for the big 100th anniversary of Carolina football during the 1988 season. But those first two seasons at Carolina were dreadful, showing only two wins and twenty losses.  With the 1990 season, however, things were turned around and during the next eight seasons, Brown added sixty-seven additional wins—tied for the second most victories in school history.  The team was bowl-bound every year beginning in 1992, including a win in the 1993 Peach Bowl.  The Atlantic Coast Conference named Brown ACC Coach of the Year in 1996.  Brown led Carolina to three ten-win seasons, while the team finished in the top twenty-five four times, including tenth in 1996 and fourth in 1997.

During his time in Chapel Hill, Brown became good friends with Hugh Morton and visited often at Grandfather Mountain. In fact, Brown built a home there.  And he was instrumental in the construction of another home . . . this one in Chapel Hill and it goes by the name Frank H. Kenan Football Center, completed in 1997.

Mack Brown, Hugh Morton, Woody Durham

Mack Brown, Hugh Morton, and long-time “Voice of the Tar Heels” Woody Durham together during a picnic in 1994.

It was Saturday, September 13, 1997.  Carolina was hosting a late afternoon game with Stanford.  Coach Brown and one of his assistants, Cleve Bryant, who had been an assistant at Texas, were on the Kenan field watching the Tar Heels warm up, when on the stadium public address system, announcer Dave Lohse started giving some scores from the early games.  He then gave a halftime score: UCLA 38, Texas 0.

Said Bryant, “that can’t be right.”  Coach Brown didn’t pay much attention; he was intent on the game at hand.  About two hours later, up in the Kenan press box, UNC Sports Information Director Rick Brewer handed some final scores to announcer Lohse.  As he did so, he said. “I think we just lost our football coach.”  Brewer was fully aware of Brown’s admiration for Texas football history and tradition.  Lohse then read the final score: UCLA 66, Texas 3.  When Bryant heard that score, he turned to Brown and said, “I wouldn’t want to be in Austin, Texas tonight.”  From that moment, for the next eighty-four days, speculation was rampant: would Mack Brown leave a place he dearly loved, for an opportunity of a lifetime?  Finally, on Wednesday, December 3, 1997 it became official: Mack Brown would be the new head football coach at the University of Texas.

Mack Brown wearing Texas jacket

Portrait of Mack Brown by Hugh Morton, undated, wearing a University of Texas jacket.

Coach Brown’s time in Austin was legendary.  His 158 career Texas wins are second only to Hall of Fame Coach Darrell Royal in Longhorn history.  During the 2005 season, Brown guided Texas to its first national championship in 35 years after defeating Southern California in the 2006 Rose Bowl in one of the greatest games in college football history.  In 2009, Brown became Big 12 Coach of the Year while winning his second conference title. He would become a two-time National Coach of the Year and won more than 10 games in 9 consecutive seasons. He also won 10 bowl games while in Texas.

Over his 30-year-coaching-career, Brown coached 37 First Team All-Americas, 6 Academic All-Americas, 110 first team all-conference selections and 11 conference Players of the Year.  He also coached 2 College Football Hall of Famers in Tar Heel Dre Bly and Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams at Texas; and 4 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athletes, including Campbell Trophy winners Sam Acho and Dallas Griffin also at Texas. Brown posted 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1990 to 2009 and his 225 wins from 1990 to 2013 were the most among Football Bowl Subdivision coaches during those years. He has a total of 244 wins—tenth most by a coach in FBS history.  He led teams to 22 bowl games.

Among his personal honors, Brown is a member of the Texas Longhorns Hall of Honor.  He is also enshrined in the Rose Bowl, State of Texas Sports, State of Tennessee Sports and Holiday Bowl halls of fame.  Until November 27th, he served as a college football studio and game analyst at ESPN and served as a special assistant at Texas.

Mack Brown and wife, Sally, have helped raise millions of dollars for children’s charities, and Mack was recently named the Football Bowl Association’s Champions Award recipient for 2019.  He was also honored in the Blue Zone at Kenan Stadium on Saturday, August 12, 2018 for his upcoming December 4th induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Toward the end of the Blue Zone ceremony, Brown came to the podium and acknowledged many Tar Heels in the audience. There was John Swofford, the Carolina athletic director who hired him and then after those 1-10 seasons gave him a contract extension. There were former assistant coaches Darrell Moody and Dan Brooks, who had been so very important in those early recruiting efforts.  And there were former Tar Heels from eras before Brown arrived as a 36-year-old head coach.  “You guys were the ones who made this place special and gave us something we could sell,” Brown said.

There were about fifty Tar Heels present from Brown’s time in Chapel Hill. Also in attendance was UNC 1970 All-America Don McCauley who is also a College Football Hall of Famer, Class of 2001.

“I’m not going into the Hall of Fame, I am presenting you all in the Hall of Fame.  Football is the ultimate team sport, and no one person is ever the one that wins a football game. When I take that oath in December and I say ‘thank you’ to the Hall of Fame, I’m doing it for each one of you.  Your name in my mind will be in the Hall of Fame forever.”  Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham added, “Brown’s legacy wasn’t just about winning; it was about developing young men to be successful after football.”

Part of the celebration was a panel discussion with several former Tar Heel players talking about Brown and his Chapel Hill legacy.  One of those players was fellow Hall of Famer Dre Bly who spoke of getting a sideline dressing down in his first game as a Tar Heel in the 1996 season opener against Clemson, a 45-0 Tar Heel landslide.

“The play was on our sidelines, a ball into the flat.  I made a big hit.  I was high-stepping and celebrating. Coach Brown grabbed my facemask and had a few select words for me. He said, ‘We don’t do that here.’ I knew then and there, I had to remain humble.  I learned the importance of being humble.  I saw the big picture, I understood what’s important.  We had a very talented team.  I couldn’t be the one to mess it up.  I needed to remain humble, and I’ve used that my whole life.” (I wish the UNC head football coaches that followed Brown would have maintained that same high standard.)

I believe it’s safe to say, whether you view it as Burnt Orange or Carolina Blue, Brown’s legacy is secure, and on Tuesday night, December 4, 2018, he will stand for the administration of his induction as the citation of his accomplishments is read—this year in the Trianon Ballroom of the New York Hilton Midtown, just as coach Darrell Royal and Bobby Layne of Texas and coach Carl Snavely and Charlie Justice of Carolina stood years before in the Grand Ballroom of the historic Waldorf-Astoria—as William Mack Brown will be honored as a new member of the College Football Hall of Fame.  Coach Brown will make the official response on behalf of the 2018 College Football Hall of Fame Class.

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.

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.

At season’s end, a win for Sunny Jim

As a kid growing up in the 1950s, Thanksgiving Day was always special.  In addition to my mom’s great cooking, my dad and I would always watch the Green Bay Packers play the Detroit Lions on CBS.  Thanksgiving 1959, however, was different: it was the first Thanksgiving since my dad had passed away in July of ’59, and there was another football game offered on TV—Carolina versus Duke on NBC.  My dad, UNC Class of ’34, would have loved it.  So today, fifty-eight years later, I would like to look back to Carolina’s 1959 season and a special Thanksgiving Day game.  —Jack Hilliard, UNC Class of 1963

Jim Hickey, probably during the spring of 1960.

Jim Hickey, probably during the spring of 1960.

The telephone rang shortly before 11:00 p.m. in the control room at WFMY-TV in Greensboro on Thursday, July 23, 1959. It was UNC Athletic Director Chuck Erickson calling anchorman Charlie Harville.  Harville rushed from the studio to take the call.  Erickson related the sad news that UNC Head Football Coach Jim Tatum had died about fifteen minutes earlier.  Harville got the details and ran back into the studio.  No time to prepare a script, he gave an emotional report about the passing of his dear friend.  The Tar Heel Nation was in shock.  My dad passed away two days later, on July 25th.

The UNC Athletic Council took only four days to select Tatum’s successor.  At 5:40 p.m. on July 27, 1959, Chancellor William B. Aycock with Athletic Director Charles (Chuck) Erickson at his side, made the announcement that Tatum assistant, 39-year-old James Benton Hickey would be the new Tar Heel coach with a three-year contract.  He would become known as Jim Hickey.  In accepting the position, Hickey told a large group of newsmen gathered at The Pines Restaurant in Chapel Hill, “I appreciate this opportunity. It is one I have always wanted. My only regret is the circumstances under which it had to come about.”

The 1959 UNC football season was fifty-three days away.  The Tar Heels would face nine tough opponents, leading up the forty-sixth meeting between rival Duke for a regular season-ending matchup in Duke Stadium scheduled for Saturday, November 21st.  On July 30th—three days after UNC’s coaching announcement—we got the news that NBC-TV had negotiated a $208,000 arrangement to play a national TV game on Thanksgiving Day, November 26th. The two schools had never played on Thanksgiving.

Carolina’s 1959 season officially got underway on Saturday, September 19th with a two-point home loss to Clemson 20-18. The following weekend came a second loss, this time to Notre Dame in South Bend 28-8.  At this point, Coach Hickey decided to change his game plan.  Up to this point he had followed the game strategy that Coach Tatum had put in place before his death.  Hickey’s plan worked; two home-game-wins followed with victories over NC State 20-12 and South Carolina 19-6.  A road game with Maryland was next.  The Heels played well at College Park, but couldn’t contain Maryland’s “jack-rabbit-backs.” The final score: Terrapins 14, Tar Heels 7.

Starting the second half of the season, Carolina traveled to Winston-Salem for a game with Wake Forest on October 24th. UNC’s quarterback Jack Cummings was able to complete only two passes, but Carolina’s running game was enough for a 21-19 win.  With four games remaining in the ’59 season, Carolina’s record was 3-3 on the year.

The next two games, at home against Tennessee and on the road at Miami, were disastrous for the Heels. Carolina scored a combined fourteen points against the two rivals in the two losses.  Next, Virginia came to Chapel Hill for the 64th meeting between the Tar Heels and the Cavaliers on November 14th.  On this day, Coach Hickey’s charges could do no wrong in handing Virginia its 17th consecutive defeat 41-0.  With photographer Hugh Morton shooting from the sidelines, a small Kenan Stadium crowd of 21,000 saw Carolina set an ACC and Kenan Stadium record of 583 yards of offense.  The win brought Carolina’s record to 4-5 on the season and set the stage for the annual game with Duke.

Duke and Carolina matched up well for their 46th meeting.  Against mutual opponents, Carolina did better against South Carolina than did Duke, but the Blue Devils were stronger against Wake.  Performances of both teams against State and Clemson were about the same.  Both teams had records were 4-5, but Duke was made a 4-to-6-point favorite.

‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through Duke Stadium, thirty technicians scurried like mice to get everything ready for the coast-to-coast telecast—fifteen from NBC and fifteen from AT&T made the deadline.  All was ready to go by 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve, eighteen hours before the scheduled 2:00 p.m. kickoff.

UNC versus Duke game day program, courtesy Jack Hilliard.

UNC versus Duke game day program, courtesy Jack Hilliard.

Thanksgiving Day 1959 dawned clear and mild.  In the broadcast booth for the telecast were play-by-play announcer Lindsey Nelson and color commentator Red Grange.  Since both Duke and Carolina students were on holiday, only 33,000 fans turned out for the game.

In his pregame locker room speech, Coach Hickey mentioned something for the first time during the ‘59 season.  He said: “Boys, if there was ever a game Coach Tatum would have wanted you to win, this is it.”

Duke won referee John Donahue’s coin toss and elected to receive.  The Tar Heels would kickoff and defend the south goal.  On the first series, Duke failed to gain a first down and punted to the Carolina 44-yard line.  Carolina moved down the field and scored with seven minutes left in the quarter.  Duke, on its second series, fumbled and Carolina recovered at the Duke 22-yard line.  Again, the Tar Heels couldn’t be stopped; they scored at the 4:55 mark and led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Duke got to the Carolina 11-yard line, but two dropped passes prevented a score.  Carolina took over and marched to a third touchdown to lead 21- 0 at the 13:15 mark of the second quarter.  There seemed to be a pattern forming: Duke couldn’t score and Carolina could.  With 2:55 left in the second quarter the score was 28-0 and would remain so at halftime.

Duke’s Art Browning kicked off to start the second half.  Tar Heel Don Klochak received the ball at the Carolina 7-yard line and he was off to the races for 93 yards.  Carolina led 35-0 with 14:15 left in the third quarter.  The trend continued: another Duke fumble led to another Carolina score at the 2:40 mark in the third making the score 42-0.

With 7:05 left in the game, Tar Heel George Knox, a fullback that Carolina’s Alumni Review called “fifth-string” raced 32-yards down the right sideline for Carolina’s final touchdown. With that TD, the score was 48-0, and Coach Hickey could hear the Tar Heel crowd chanting: “Hickey, go for fifty!” Coach got the message.  Second string quarterback Ray Ferris ran off right tackle for the two points making the score 50-0. It was about two minutes later that Coach Hickey made his famous quote, when one of his players congratulated him on a win.  Coach said, “It isn’t over yet, boys.”

With twenty seconds left in the game and Carolina’s fourth and fifth stringers at the Duke four, Coach Hickey called a timeout. He then sent his eleven seniors back on the field with strict instructions, “Do not score!”  Quarterback Jack Cummings then took the snap, leaned into the line, went down easily, and the clock ran out.

Hugh Morton's post-game photograph as it appeared in the Charlotte News on November 17, 1959. The original negative has not been located in the Morton collection.

Hugh Morton’s post-game photograph as it appeared in the Charlotte News on November 17, 1959. The original negative has not been located in the Morton collection.

The Carolina players rode Coach Hickey on their shoulders to midfield.  Photographer Hugh Morton’s shot of the scene in The Charlotte News (above) is classic.  He had photographed a similar scene many times before with names like Justice, Snavely, and Morris.  Now add Hickey to the list.

When the group arrived at midfield, Duke Head Coach Bill Murray was not in a friendly mood. “You really wanted that last touchdown bad, didn’t you,” Murray snapped, “putting that first bunch back in there.”

“Coach, you’ve got it all wrong,” said Hickey. “I sent my seniors back in there and told them not to score.  . . . I just wanted the seniors to finish their careers on the field.”  The two coaches then shook hands, and Murray turned and walked off the field.  He would later phone Coach Hickey and congratulated him on the win.

A game with a win like this prompted tons of ink and airtime.  The headline in The Daily Tar Heel on December 1st, when the Thanksgiving break was over and the DTH presses began rolling again, said it all in a huge above-the-heading headline: “50–0.”

As is always the case, the Duke–Carolina game brings out special guests, and the ’59 game was no exception.  Peahead Walker, Red O’Quinn and NCAA District 3 Director Jim Corbett were there, among others.  Sis Barrier, wife of Greensboro Daily News Executive Sports Editor Smith Barrier, in a society-type column about the game said, “Hugh Morton, who drove up from Wilmington with two of the boys—and left Julia at home by the TV set, was as happy as anybody.”

About fifteen minutes after the game ended, Coach Hickey was doing his post-game press conference when he was interrupted by a man wearing a Jim Tatum-type hat.  There were tears in his eyes as he said: “I just had to come down and congratulate you, Coach Hickey, for this wonderful victory.  I’m getting tired of all the criticism of you and this should silence them.  And I appreciate it more than you know, for I’m sure this one was won for Jim.”

The man, who then silently made his way back into the crowd, was Dick Tatum of McColl, South Carolina, big brother of the beloved Carolina coach.  Hickey then added: “Yes, I think you can say they won it for Coach Tatum, and why not?  He’s the greatest guy I ever worked for.”