AUGUST 1, 2006 -- When Hugh Morton died on June 1 at the age of 85, North Carolina lost its number one conservationist. Hugh hardly went anywhere without a camera. His photos are well-known, from his photos of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to his beautiful landscape photographs from Murphy to Manteo. He shot tens of thousands of photographs, and his portraits of North Carolina continue to be published in many travel magazines and brochures.
In our area, Hugh Morton was the Azalea Festival's first president, and he was instrumental in bringing the USS North Carolina to Wilmington. But his family says the thing that was most important to him was Grandfather Mountain, which he inherited in 1952 and developed into one of western North Carolina's most popular tourist attractions. Thousands of people visit Grandfather Mountain each year, creating an economic boom for Avery County.
He once fought a battle against the National Park Service, who wanted to cut a path across the top of Grandfather Mountain for the last unfinished section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Morton prevailed, and the result was the Linn Cove Viaduct, a breath-taking section of the parkway that doesn't go over the mountain, but around its southeast side.
On June 1, Hugh Morton was called to a place higher than Grandfather Mountain. But here on Earth, through his conservation work and those wonderful photographs, his mark on North Carolina's environment will last forever. Thanks, Hugh, for all your good work for our state.