Morton takes place among state's sports greats in N.C. Sports Hall of Fame
Jamie Shell / (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Morton, who passed away in 2006, is known across the state as its "unofficial" state photographer. Morton captured scenes ranging from battlefield film for the military in the Pacific Theatre during World War II to basketball slam dunks from Michael Jordan where Morton attended college at his beloved University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Morton photographed seven decades of UNC sports, beginning with legendary football player Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice in the 1940s to Tar Heels student-athletes after the turn of the new millennium.
"Mr. Morton has taken photographs for seven decades, and he's also taken a lot of photos of other teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference," longtime Morton friend and vice president of Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation Harris Prevost said. "He started with football photos of 'Choo Choo' Justice, and over the years it morphed into more basketball photos than football. It didn't matter what arena Mr. Morton was in, everyone loved him and always took care of him. For example, the crowd management staff made sure to give him a place to sit in his later years when he was no longer able to sit on the floor to shoot photos like the young kids. The university adopted him, so to speak, and many of the great photos in the UNC Basketball Hall of Fame are his."
Through the years, Morton was a go-to person for photos from key events both inside and outside of the sporting arena. From photographing the Dixie Classic basketball tournament in the 1950s to the 1998 appearance by President Bill Clinton at the New River in Ashe County to photos of a slam-dunk by UNC basketball player Vince Carter in Chapel Hill, Morton was the man to count on to have the best shots.
"Sports Illustrated and other magazines, when something happens like Michael Jordan's recognition or Dean Smith's retirement takes place, they all know to call here [Morton's Grandfather Mountain in Linville] for pictures, because he was there," Prevost added.
Morton's induction is not solely due to his connection with UNC Athletics. In fact, other institutions were pivotal in championing Morton's induction into the Hall.
"Mr. Morton took pictures of other teams besides North Carolina. I was in the room when he was elected to the Hall of Fame, and his biggest advocates were people from Duke and N.C. State, and other schools," Prevost explained. "He was universally respected and loved by all schools, although they knew that he was a Tar Heel first."
Morton was a staunch advocate that the Atlantic Coast Conference schools should view themselves as one family. He held so firmly to his beliefs that, 53 years ago, Morton devised an idea to invite ACC head football and basketball coaches and families, conference schools' sports information directors and member of Atlantic Coast conference media members each May to his backyard, the mountains of Avery County, for the ACC Mountain Outing, to play golf, vacation and be better acquainted with one another away from the rigors of the sports venue. The idea proved to be one of Morton's greatest lasting legacies, a tradition that, despite his passing, continues to this day.
"Mr. Morton began the Outing to strengthen family ties among the conference schools. He concluded that the schools beat one another up during the school year, and when the seasons ended he wanted to do something where the schools could enjoy one another and develop friendships across the lines," Prevost added.
For Morton himself, he viewed it a great honor to be associated with the ACC and its member schools, as well as to be part of the rich tradition of its tournament.
"I've tried to support the conference as best as I could," said Morton in a March 2003 story published in The Winston-Salem Journal marking 50 years of ACC basketball. "The ACC has been good for a long time and they've done it the right way … I love the spirit and the competitiveness in the ACC … It's been a thrill to be around the tournament and the ACC all these years."
In addition to Morton, the remaining members of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2013 include Kelvin Bryant, Ron Francis, Wade Garrett, Bill Guthridge, Tommy Helms, Marion Kirby, Rich McGeorge, the late Bob Quincy, Marty Sheets and Mildred Southern. Enshrinement will take place at the 50th annual induction banquet on Thursday, May 2, at Raleigh Convention Center.