Southern Boy in ChiTown

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Hugh Morton, 1921-2006

Michael Jordan, Charles Kuralt, Andy Griffith and Thomas Wolfe are certainly more famous native North Carolinians, but I'm with Governor Easley that if we were going to name a Mr. North Carolina, Hugh Morton was probably the best candidate. I never had a chance to meet him, but I've been aware of his presence since first moving to the state. Some of the most enduring photographs of UNC athletics, from Charlie "Choo-Choo" Justice to Michael Jordan and his dad talking to reporters in the locker room after the '82 championship to a vicious Vince Carter tomahawk jam, were taken by Hugh Morton. He was instrumental in the preservation of many North Carolina icons, from Grandfather Mountain to the Cape Hatteras lighthouse to the USS North Carolina. According to the Durham Morning Herald article, he was even instrumental in launching Andy Griffith's career by hiring him to entertain at the NC Press Photographers banquet.

Hugh Morton died in Linville Thursday at the age of 85. He's one of those guys of whom you can pretty confidently say "there'll never be another one of him". I thought the article in the Durham paper linked above had the nicest article on him. The Charlotte paper has a beautiful slideshow complete with bagpipes but I wouldn't recommend it for low bandwidth connections. Might try the slideshow in the Raleigh paper instead. In both of them, there's a stunning picture of the Charlotte skyline from the top of Grandfather Mountain almost a hundred miles away.

Lady J jokingly said that it's a bit of a cheat to be a photographer and freaking own Grandfather Mountain, but it is actually possible to take bad photos up there. Hugh Morton did not. Some of his photos are among my favorites of anything or anywhere and some are the most famous images of my adopted state (UNC over the years has been gifted with over 100,000 Morton photos).

Correction: Thanks to Russell for his email and for pointing out that I said "Hugh Durham" once above rather than Hugh Morton. No, the ex-coach of the University of Georgia basketball team was not, to my knowledge, a photographer. :-D

Russell also pointed out a rebroadcast archived on wunc.org of an interview with Morton on The State of Things from a couple of years ago. Worth a listen.

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