The Photography of D L Ennis, and more!


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Hugh MacRae Morton

A few weeks ago I posted a story of the highest peak in the Blue Ridge otherwise known as Grandfather Mountain near Linville North Carolina. Sadly, the owner of this wonderful treasure has passed away after a six month battle with cancer. This truly has left a deep hole in my heart and I know in the hearts of many who knew him.

Hugh Morton Morton built the Mile High Swinging Bridge and opened the Western North Carolina travel attraction in 1952 after inheriting the Mountain from his grandfather. Morton was instrumental in opening the eyes of many to the natural world by preserving the mountain and not allowing development and poor planning to consume the beauty that is Grandfather Mountain. He was one of the few people to ever fight the Federal Government and won when engineers wanted to build the Blue Ridge Parkway across Grandfather Mountain at 5,000 feet above sea level with a tunnel at the highest point, Morton forced a compromise that resulted in the building of the Linn Cove Viaduct. As a conservationist Morton donated 1766 acres of scenic easements to the North Carolina Nature Conservancy which protected Grandfather Mountain's wilderness backcountry for posterity. The Conservancy now owns or manages more than 4,000 acres of Grandfather Mountain. (above photo from GFM website)

You may also find photos of my wife and I on one of our many adventures to this mountain on our website.

Morton will also be remembered as a world class photographer. His photos were first published in Time magazine 70 years ago and he has been published in every major national magazine since. In 2004 Morton published a book of his photographs titled Hugh Morton's North Carolina. A second book is due out this fall.

As mentioned in the previous article, Grandfather is the home of the Highland Games as well as several other events and workshops that are held throughout the year. If you have one ounce of Scottish or Irish blood in you and have not yet been to this festival, I only have one thing to say to you....What are you waiting for? Make this the year that you go to the games and enjoy a weekend filled with music, traditional foods and laughter. No more excuses! Go!

Morton's many other accomomplishments include chairing Western North Carolina Tomorrow from 1981 to 1983. This the same mountain leadership organization that secured passage of the Ridge Law to protect the state's highest peaks. In 1995-1996 the North Carolina Year of the Mountains Commission, with Morton as Chair, launched the ongoing effort to protect the scenic view-shed of the Blue Ridge Parkway by purchasing or negotiating scenic easements from landholders whose property borders the parkway.

The photo's that Hugh MacRae Morton shot over his lifetime will forever be thought of as frozen treasures that hold a moment in the lifetime of a man who loved nature and knew how to keep it preserved in both print form and real life. The photo to the right is the last shot taken by Morton on May 20th 2006 from our friends at the GFM.

Thank you Hugh MacRae Morton for showing us all how to respect, preserve, share and love this wonderful region of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I wish I could repay you for all you have done for the preservation of culture, heritage and nature. You will be missed.


  • At Tuesday, 06 June, 2006, Blogger D L Ennis said…

    No doubt that the man did a lot of wonderful work and will be greatly missed! Great piece Mark!

  • At Thursday, 08 June, 2006, Blogger wesleyjeanne said…

    Mark, I was sad to see that Hugh Morton had died, too.

    My father was a newspaperman in Asheville when I was growing up and Hugh, through his photography work, was a member with my Dad of the Southern Associated Press. As long as my Dad worked for the paper we never paid a single fee at Grandfather Mtn. Once Hugh and his wife even hosted my parents and other newspeople at a lunch at his house. Of course it was all public relations, but Hugh was always gracious and down-to-earth.

    I hope that with his death, further development will not come to that area. Hugh was a staunch proponent of the natural--and even man-made (he was equally fond of the lighthouses on NC's coast) wonders if NC.

    Your post is a lovely tribute.


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