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William R. Morris, Sr.
*The birth of William R. Morris, Sr. is celebrated on this date in 1859. He was a Black professor and lawyer.
William Richard Morris was born into slavery in Flemingsburg, KY. He was the son of Hezekiah (a slave), Elizabeth Hopkins Morris (free), and the brother of Edward H. Morris. Hezekiah bought his freedom and earned a living as a mattress maker.
From 1884-1889 he was a faculty member at Fisk University and was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in the 1880s. After Hezekiah's death, the family moved first to Cincinnati, OH, then to Chicago, IL. Morris graduated from law school in Chicago and moved to Minneapolis in 1889. Morris was one of the first African Americans admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1889; that same year, he established the Afro-American Law Enforcement League in Minneapolis.
Morris was the first black lawyer in Hennepin County and one of the first three black members of the American Bar Association (ABA). In 1912, he was the only one of the three to resign when the ABA received pressure from Southerners opposed to the ABA having black members. Morris became the executive chairman of the newly founded Minneapolis NAACP in 1914 and was a leader in the local black community. William R. Morris, Sr. died in Minneapolis on December 13, 1928.