Asheville History: Charlie Justice

Charlie Justice finds daylight while an undergrad at Chapel Hill

Asheville native Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice first received his nickname in the Navy, after he was drafted in 1943 to serve during the Second World War. While seeing him dodge a host of would-be tacklers for the Bainbridge Naval Training Center (Maryland) team, an officer commented, “He looks like a runaway train. We ought to call him “Choo Choo.”

Following the war, Justice attended the University of North Carolina although many college and professional teams competed for his talents. While at Chapel Hill from 1946-1949, UNC compiled a 39-9-2 record, went to three bowl games (Sugar Bowl 1946 and 1948, Cotton Bowl 1948) and hit #1 in the AP Top Ten in 1948, still their highest ranking to date.

Justice was named the national player of the year in 1948, was a runner-up for the Heisman trophy in both 1948 and 1949, and his legacy remains in the Tar Heels record books. He registered 4,883 total yards and had a combined 53 touchdowns ( 28 rushing, 25 passing) and also boasted a 42.6 yard punting average.

Following college, Justice played for the NFL’s Washington Redskins in 1950 and then again from 1952-1954, before retiring. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1963 and died at the age of 79 in 2003 in his home state.