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The Rev. Dr. Samuel Tilden Habel of the Baptist Church on Columbia Street in Chapel Hill delivered a sermon one Sunday morning that he titled, All the Way, Choo Choo. The Rev. Dr. Habel advised his congregation that, "When we call on Charlie Justice to go all the way, we are placing a great responsibility on his shoulders—asking him to give everything, all his mind, his body, in going all the way...." Then the message: "Go all the way in your work or profession, and above all else go all the way in Christian living." Charlie was on the covers of LIFE, Collier's. Pic and numberless football and sports periodicals of the time.
Although copies are rare, there are still requests made to Orville Campbell for the biography Choo Choo written 15 years ago by Bob Quincy and Julian Scheer.
North Carolina had never been asked to a football bowl game before the arrival of Charlie Justice. In his four years there (freshmen were eligible then as now), the team went to three bowls and rejected an invitation to a fourth.
Justice gained 5,176 yards rushing and passing from 1946 through 1949. He scored 39 touchdowns and passed for 26 more. He averaged 42.5 yards on 251 punts and he returned 74 punts for an average of 16.2 yards per return. He was a first-team All-America in both 1948 and 1949. He still holds school records in total yardage, scoring and punting. But statistics cannot measure his magnetism.
" Charlie came along at a time when every little kid wanted to grow up to be somebody else, a football hero or even President," says Campbell, now 53 and still a close friend of Charlie's. "You don't hear college kids talking that way anymore. I imagine if Charlie were to come to Carolina now and have four years like he had back then, there wouldn't be the same great love for him. But I tell you, nobody captured the imagination of the American public the way Charlie captured the imagination of the people of North Carolina. It was unbelievable, so fantastic that I wrote myself a letter then saying that sometime, 25 years from now, if you see an athlete as popular as Charlie Justice, you had better reevaluate your thinking. I have never had cause to do any reevaluating."
" Charlie Justice was the classic campus hero," says Irwin Smallwood, managing editor of the Greensboro Daily News. "Wherever he went there was an entourage. It was the times, I guess. Now we're fed up to here with superstars. We see them on television every day and twice on Sundays. Down here then, Charlie was the superstar."
W.D. Carmichael Jr. had been Charlie's friend and spiritual mentor. His son Billy Carmichael III was Charlie's classmate and, as sports editor of The Daily Tar Heel, his Boswell. Today he is a successful Durham advertising executive, long-haired, smartly dressed.
"Remember," he says, recalling the time, "we're talking about the era of the hero, not the anti-hero. And Charlie was every mother's dream—clean-cut, modest, generous, didn't drink or smoke, small, boyish. He was like a second son in our family. My father would talk to him on nights before a game, nights when he was too nervous to talk to anybody else except Sarah. Charlie was a rare one. He always gave generously of his time and he was always appreciative of what athletics had done for him. He's one of the few who gave as much as he got."