James Riley Morris
James Riley Morris
  • May 1, 1939 - September 19, 2017
  • Irmo, South Carolina

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Dr. James R. Morris, Jr. died Tuesday, September 19, 2017. A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 23, 2017, at Union United Methodist Church. The family will receive friends Friday, September 22, 2017, from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m. at Dunbar Funeral Home, Dutch Fork Chapel, Irmo, and immediately following the memorial service in the Family Life Center.

Dr. Morris is survived by his beloved wife of 54 years, Margaret Lucas Morris and their cherished daughters, Mandy Westerkam (Danny) and Angela Chambers (Tom); five grandchildren that he adored, Dana, Erin, and Ivey Westerkam, and Riley and Taylor Chambers. Dr. Morris is also survived by a number of nieces, nephews, cousins and in-laws that he loved.

Dr. Morris was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi on May 1, 1939, the son of the late James R. Morris and Josie Fletcher Morris. He graduated from Carr Central High in Vicksburg in 1957. He received an Associate of Arts Degree from Hinds Junior College in Raymond, Mississippi in 1959; a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education, and a Master’s of Education Degree from Mississippi College, Clinton, Mississippi in 1965 and 1966. In 1972, Dr. Morris earned his Doctor of Education Degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Dr. Morris had his first teaching assignment as interim Director of Bands at his Alma Mater, Hinds Junior College. He was an award winning High School Band Director and was Director of Choral Music at Raymond High School in Raymond, Mississippi. In 1966, he was chosen to be the Principal of Lambert Attendance Center (Elementary and High School) in Lambert, Mississippi. He successfully led the school through the first two years of public school desegregation by his personal interaction and direct involvement with the students, faculty, and community. Dr. Morris was then selected by the Pass Christian, Mississippi School District as Assistant Superintendent for Instruction. He was also assigned the responsibility for developing a volunteer plan for desegregation for the district. With assistance from a University of Southern Mississippi Graduate School team, many hours of meetings with the district board, staff, and faculty, as well as numerous community meetings, a plan was developed. The U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Justice quickly approved the plan. The Pass Christian District became the first school district in Mississippi to operate under a volunteer plan and not under court order. After earning his Doctorate, he became the first Academic Dean for the new Beach Campus of Florida Junior College in Jacksonville and in 10 months was named Coordinating Dean of Instruction for all four campuses.

Dr. Morris joined the South Carolina Technical College System and held several key leadership positions. In 1972, he became President of Sumter Area Technical College and in 1977, he was named the Chief Academic Officer and Chief Student Services Officer of the Technical College System. In 1981, Dr. Morris was selected as President of Midlands Technical College. In 1986, he was then asked to be the System President for the sixteen Technical Colleges and their 21 campuses. He served in that role from 1988 until his retirement in 1994. As the System President, Dr. Morris was very active with Governor Carroll Campbell and the S.C. Development Board in recruiting new business development into South Carolina and in working closely with existing businesses and industry, providing training for their expansion and new technology development.

After his career in education, Dr. Morris held several significant leadership positions, having served as the first President and CEO of the Central Carolina Economic Development Alliance recruiting new business and industry to the Midlands of South Carolina. He then served as the CEO of the South Carolina Textile Manufacturers Association and helped lead them to bring all of manufacturing together to create The South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance. Governor Jim Hodges then asked him to join the Department of Commerce as Chief of Staff and be part of his business recruitment team. He then accepted an appointment at Wilbur Smith and Associates as Senior Vice-President and was elected to the Board of Directors. In 2006 Dr. Morris and three of his vice-presidents at Wilbur Smith started Genesis Consulting Group, an engineering and planning group where he also served as President.

Dr. Morris was an active member of several boards and committees in South Carolina and in the Southeast. He was Campaign Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Sumter United Way and was a member of the Audit Committee of the Columbia United Way. He served on the Board of Directors and was Chairman of the Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership, a ten state organization serving industry, business industry and education. He was named Chairman Emeritus in 2003. Dr. Morris was a Paul Harris Fellow and a member of the Columbia Rotary Club. He was a member of several honor societies, including Phi Kappa Phi for scholarship, Phi Delta Kappa and Kappa Delta Phi for education, Omicron Delta Kappa for leadership and Phi Theta Kappa for Community and Junior Colleges. He was a regular guest lecturer at the University of South Carolina, College of Education. He lectured in the Community College Leadership Program, University of Texas and in 1991, he was named a Distinguished Visiting Scholar. Dr. Morris received numerous awards in recognition of his service and achievements. He was Alumnus of the Year from Hinds Junior College in 1984. He received the Professional Developers Achievement Award from the South Carolina Economic Developers Association in 1993. In 1996, Midlands Technical College honored him by naming the new building for television production, long distance learning and telecommunications Morris Hall. The Central Carolina Economic Development Alliance and Committee of 100 named Dr. Morris the International Ambassador of the Year in 1998. He received the state’s highest honor, the prestigious Order of the Palmetto from Governor Carroll Campbell in 1994.

Dr. Morris was an active Churchman at Union United Methodist in Irmo, where he served on the Worship Committee, Commission of Education, Higher Education Committee, was a member and Chairman