North Carolina-Hugh Morton-April 12

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-April 12

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special.

As the weekend drew to a close I heard a small nugget about one of my previous posts from the past week. The name that was dropped was Hugh Morton. He was a native of Wilmington, NC  and he did two great things for his hometown but so much for the entire State. I have recently written about the USS North Carolina and the Azalea Festival.

Photo below features (l-r) SMU All America football player Doak Walker, Doak’s wife Norma, Sarah Justice, UNC All America football player Charlie Justice, Julia Morton, and Hugh Morton.

hugh morton

What Hugh did for Wilmington included serving as the first president of the Azalea Festival, 1947-1948, putting the annual celebration on a sound footing. That Festival finished up on Sunday April 10, 2016. Secondly, he masterminded a campaign to raise $315,000 to bring the USS North Carolina a World War II vessel to Wilmington as a floating memorial.

Those two events by themselves would be significant and help form his legacy but he did so much more.

Morton was born in Wilmington, Feb. 19, 1921, the son of Julian Morton and Agnes MacRae Morton. His grandfather, Hugh MacRae, was the noted developer who founded the Tidewater Power Co., built the Lumina pavilion at Wrightsville Beach, and established immigrant farm colonies at Castle Hayne and other locations across Southeastern North Carolina.

Young Hugh spent many summers at a youth camp near Linville, N.C., on land owned by his grandfather. There, at the age of 13, he acquired his first camera. Within a year, one of Morton’s photographs of a western North Carolina golf tournament was published in Time magazine.

That passion for photography would be with him for the rest of his life until he passed away in 2006. His photography interests, included a specialty in sports, and he became a regular fixture each spring at Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournaments. In 1949, he was president of the N.C. Press Photographers Association.

All photos below are of Hugh Morton.

In 1952, after the death of his grandfather, Morton inherited some 4,500 acres of land near Linville, including the famous Grandfather Mountain. Morton quickly converted it into a popular tourist attraction it is today. One of the features he promoted at Grandfather Mountain was the “Mile High Swinging Bridge”.

Morton published a number of book-length collections of his photos, including “Making a Difference in North Carolina” (with Edward L. Rankin Jr.), “Hugh Morton’s North Carolina” and “Hugh Morton, North Carolina Photographer.” He also wrote “Mildred the Bear: Mildred’s Own Story as Told to Hugh Morton.”

Great link below on the day his friend and fellow UNC Tar Heel Charles Kuralt came to celebrate the bridge’s 40th anniversary.



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