A woman for all seasons, Alma Morris steps off stage

whenry@tri-statedefender.com | 5/7/2008, 7 p.m.

Charlie Morris and his wife, Alma C. Morris, were married 65-plus years. “When we got married, we started out flat broke. And we never had a honeymoon,” he said. Mrs. Morris died Tuesday. (Photo by Wiley Henry)

When community activist Alma C. Morris talked about politics and the vicissitudes of life in the African-American community, anyone within earshot would listen – including some of Memphis’ powerbrokers.

In fact, Mrs. Morris stood up against many of those powerbrokers and supported others who championed the rights of African Americans on the local, state and national levels.

Mrs. Morris fought her last battle on Tuesday evening. She died at Ashton Place Health & Rehabilitation Center following a short illness. She was 83.    

Those who knew Mrs. Morris intimately remember her decades of service and her commitment to the Klondyke community in North Memphis, where she and husband Charlie Morris lived for 53 years.

“If you’ve heard the movie ‘The Man for all Seasons,’ Mrs. Morris was a woman for all seasons,” said Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, who met Mrs. Morris in 1973 when he was the executive director of the former Memphis Legal Services.

“She was the first to greet me and support me when Memphis Legal Services was under attack by the Nixon administration,” he said. “She fought it both on the local and national levels,”

Wharton said Mrs. Morris was “a parent for those who didn’t have parents, a source of clothing for those who were naked, food for those she fed, and support for politicians in whom she believed – not in terms of what they could do for her, but what they could do for her beloved community of Klondyke.”

Mrs. Morris attended numerous council meetings and held hundreds of meetings at Morris’ Barbershop, which she’d owned since 1958. “If she had a million dollars for every meeting she held at her barbershop, she would have died a rich woman,” said Wharton. “[Instead] she died a rich woman because she had a million friends.”

Another of her friends was Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton, whom she supported as school superintendent and mayor. “Mrs. Alma Morris was a champion for civil and human rights,” said Herenton. “I admired her strength and her compassion for people. She was a loyal supporter of mine from superintendent to mayor.”

Herenton said Mrs. Morris’ “steadfastness for championing the average person’s rights in Memphis will be greatly missed.”

Community activist Georgia (Queen Akua) King said she’s going to Mrs. Morris as well. A friend of more than 30 years, King said Mrs. Morris took her under her wings in the struggle for civil rights and into the trenches of political warfare.

“I worked with her on strategies to better the community,” King said. “And I was in the civil rights marches with Mrs. Morris. I also went to San Francisco with Mrs. Morris when Jesse Jackson was running for president.”

“She’s going to be greatly missed,” King added. “I’ll always remember her. She was a great woman of courage, a woman of excellence and a woman of God. But most of all she was my friend.”