Amidst national business headlines full of scandalous stories about corporations and executives, it’s sometimes hard to remember the outstanding people who run the overwhelming majority of businesses. Those are the kinds of entrepreneurial leaders inducted annually into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame and whose contributions have been memorialized at the recently opened new headquarters in downtown Charlotte (housed in the offices of its sponsor – Junior Achievement of the Central Carolinas), as well as on its new Web site at www.BusinessHallofFame.org. In the annual induction ceremony this month (Nov. 14, 2002) the Hall of Fame will add four more outstanding leaders to its most exclusive roster for a total of 64 laureates.
The North Carolina Business Hall of Fame was established in 1988 to recognize business leaders who significantly contribute to building this state’s economy and who provide outstanding community and statewide service. Inductees into the Hall of Fame must be retired from their primary workplace or be at least 70 years of age.
Hugh Morton, president, Grandfather Mountain, Inc. (Linville, N.C.)
North Carolina would be a very different place without Hugh Morton. Whether preserving the USS North Carolina in Wilmington, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the Outer Banks, or operating the world’s only privately owned International Biosphere Preserve at Grandfather Mountain, Hugh Morton has played a critical role.
As a World War II combat photographer, he created world-famous pictures of General Douglas McArthur, Bob Hope and the Battle of the Philippines, and received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service. After the war, he continued his photographic record of North Carolina and the University at Chapel Hill. He headed the Carolinas Press Photographers Association in 1949.
He took over the family operations at Grandfather Mountain in 1952. At that time, nearly 10,000 tourists annually visited the mountain. Morton aided development at Linville, while promoting and protecting the Grandfather Mountain attraction, which housed more rare and endangered species of flora and fauna than anywhere else in the Appalachian Mountains. The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games were launched in 1956 triggering a nationwide movement of Scottish heritage gatherings. Tourism at the mountain has climbed to more than 250,000 today.
North Carolina leaders called on Morton to head the USS North Carolina Battleship Commission in the early 1960s and then chair the preservation efforts to protect the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse for almost two decades.
He started the first North Carolina Azalea Festival (in Wilmington in 1949), served as president of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and co-authored several books such as Making a Difference in North Carolina (1988).
Over the years, Morton has received numerous recognitions, including the North Carolina Award for Public Service and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award from the federal government.
Peggy Kirk Bell, owner, Pine Needles and Mid-Pines Resort (Southern Pines, N.C.)
When Ohio-born Peggy Kirk took up golf at 17, little did she realize her future impact on the game and on the tourism industry in a faraway state. Along the way, she became a legend.
As an amateur, she won the International Four-Ball in 1947 with America’s leading sportswoman Babe Zaharias as her partner, as well as the first of three consecutive Ohio State championships. Among her 10 tournament wins, she took the North/South and the Titleholders in 1949. And she became a charter member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). Although her tournament career was short, she was just getting started on a business career promoting golf.
In 1953, Peggy and her new husband Warren “Bullet” Bell bought a course built by a friend, Donald Ross. The course was Pine Needles, in the North Carolina sand hills. Promoting North Carolina golf to people throughout the country, they helped a national marketing renaissance that helped grow just under four million U.S. golfers in 1953 to more than 27 million players today.
And in 1959, Peggy started offering resort golf school trips – Golfaris (coined from Golf and Safaris) – began a new business that would dramatically grow and change the face of the golf and tourism industry. She was named Golf Teacher of the Year in 1961 and is honored in the LPGA’s Hall of Fame (Teaching), among many other honors.
In 1994, Peggy Kirk Bell expanded the Pine Needles operation by buying another Donald Ross course and resort – Mid-Pines Resort.
In recognition of her outstanding contributions to game nationally and to the North Carolina golfing industry, the U.S. Golf Association awarded the Women’s U.S. Open to Pine Needles Resort in 1996, 2001 and upcoming in 2007. The Men’s U.S. Open followed to Pinehurst in 1999 with a return in 2005.
Alan Dickson, chairman, Ruddick Corporation (Charlotte, N.C.)
Before Charlotte became a major home for many Fortune 500 companies, there was the Ruddick Corporation. Alan Dickson and his brother Stuart took Ruddick Corporation public in 1968. The conglomerate was centered on American & Efird Mills, one of the nation’s major producers of yarn and thread, as well as the Harris Teeter, Inc. food market chain. Sales now exceed $2.6 billion a year for the corporation. Alan and his brother led the corporation to an 18-fold increase from its $150 million in annual sales in 1969. Alan Dickson has served as chairman for Ruddick.
But Alan Dickson’s impact has been much more than just business leadership in two different industries. He has served on numerous boards, ranging from Bassett Furniture to Lance to Bank of America. He has been a trustee and advisor for many educational and public institutions, such as Central Piedmont Community College, North Carolina State University and Presbyterian Hospital. He is active in more than a half dozen foundations, including the Dickson Foundation, which supports many worthwhile community programs.
Over the years, Dickson’s business and public service have been recognized with the Watauga Medal from N.C. State, the Leadership Award from the Boy Scouts and the Spirit Award for Outstanding Service from the Mint Museum.
The late James J. Harris, former president, James J. Harris & Co. (Charlotte, N.C.)
James J. Harris left his native Georgia in 1933 to pursue his insurance career in Charlotte. Along the way, he changed the face of the city, as well as other communities around the state. As a developer, Harris and partners constructed the Cotswald shopping center and nearby housing, and launched the SouthPark development that now includes offices, housing and one of the state’s major shopping centers. Both developments have become national models for other communities.
Harris founded Quail Hollow Country Club and brought the Kemper Open to Charlotte. He also worked on developments in other cities in the state.
Among his civic service, he chaired the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority and served on 17 major boards of commercial firms. He also served on the boards of UNC Charlotte, Western Carolina, Davidson, Queens Colleges and other higher learning institutions. He led the YMCA in Charlotte and was a major supporter, donating land for the Harris YMCA.
The Charlotte News selected Harris as their Man of the Year in 1960. Harris set up a philanthropic trust that still impacts the Carolinas. James J. Harris passed away in 1985.
For more information or to attend the Annual Induction Dinner of the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame, contact Shannon Martin at Junior Achievement, 704-563-4855.