Morton built the Mile High Swinging Bridge and opened the Western North Carolina travel attraction in 1952 after inheriting the Mountain from his grandfather. A world-class photographer, he will also be remembered as a conservationist and civic leader.
Morton’s photographs were first published in TIME Magazine almost 70 years ago and he has been published in every major national magazine since. Specializing in scenic photography, sports action and politics, in 2004 Morton published a book of his photographs titled Hugh Morton’s North Carolina. A second volume, Hugh Morton: North Carolina Photographer, is expected out this fall.
Visitors to Grandfather Mountain also appreciated Morton’s reputation as an environmentalist. He was one of the few people who ever fought 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.
Morton also donated scenic easements to the North Carolina Nature Conservancy that protected 1766 acres of Grandfather Mountain’s wilderness backcountry for posterity. When combined with other donations and purchases from Morton and business-partner John Williams, The Conservancy now owns or manages more than 4,000 acres of Grandfather Mountain.
Morton’s other accomplishments include chairing Western North Carolina Tomorrow (1981-1983), the 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 Hugh as its Chair, launched the continuing mission to protect the scenic view-shed of the Blue Ridge Parkway by purchasing or negotiating scenic easements from landholders whose property borders the ridgetop highway.