Friday, June 02, 2006

Meeting Hugh Morton

I have to admit I didn't really know who Hugh Morton was when "Roy's Folks" producer David Weatherly introduced me to him eight years ago. At the time I was marveling at a magnificent sunrise over Grandfather Mountain, unaware the kindly gentleman beside me was the man behind the majestic view. He certainly didn't give it away. Instead, he nodded happily as I gushed about the breath-taking blue ridge vista that was, literally, his backyard. With a producer squawking in my earpiece, I soon turned my attention back to my upturned viewfinder, while the rumpled old guy wandered back down the rocky pass - apparenly satsfied the young photog fella manning the live shot camera wasn't going to topple off the mountain.

Later that morning, I ambled through the Grandfather Mountain museum and found myself humbled by what I saw. All along the walls, jaw-dropping photographs hung in testament to the power of the still image. A viaduct winding across a rugged landscape, hummingbirds frozen in flight, a backlit deer posing in a sun-dappled stream - incredibly iconic imagery, all bearing the name of the white haired grandfather I'd barely given the time of day hours before. As one who spends alot of time squinting through a lens, my silent stroll through Hugh Morton's portfolio was an awful lot like going to church. Later, I learned what an effective statesman Hugh Morton was; how he turned a land inheritance into N.C.'s loftiest tourist mecca, how he helped save the USS North Carolina from becoming an artificial reef, how he'd been key in establishing Wilmington's enduring Azalea Festival. In short, Hugh Morton enriched every inch of North Carolina he visited and he created lid-tripping photographs of it all along the way.

Now he's gone, dead at 85 from cancer. What a loss for the state I love. Though his spirit will always drift over the austere blue peaks of Grandfather Mountain, I'm guessing he's now somewhere even higher. Here's hoping he's got his camera with him...


dustin. said...

I had the oppertuntiy to meet as well. Actually we did a whole show on his most recent book!

HockeyPat said...

Great story. People like Hugh Morton deserve to have statues in their honor.