The 65-year veteran firefighter received a standing ovation as Eldridge Custer, a member of the Beeville Masonic Lodge No. 261, A.F.&A.M. presented Morris with the Masons’ Community Builder Award.
“It is not given by Bee County or the City of Beeville,” Custer said, “although we are assembled here in the City Council chambers for the occasion.
Custer said the award was established by the Grand Lodge of Texas to enable lodges to recognize outstanding non-Masons who have distinguished themselves through their service to the community.
“It is the highest honor a Masonic Lodge can bestow upon a non-Mason,” Custer said. “It is given to a man or woman who, although never initiated into Masonry, exhibits the qualities of integrity, high ideals and standards that we Masons strive for and deeply admire. We in the Beeville Lodge see these qualities in our fire chief.”
About a dozen local firefighters listened as Custer explained a little of Morris’ history.
The Mason said Morris first came through Beeville in 1938 as a child. Then, after his family moved here and opened a business, Morris was granted a minor’s release in 1949 by the county judge which allowed him to join the Beeville Volunteer Fire Department.
“I don’t know what to say,” Morris commented as he rose to accept the award.
Then he recounted the experience he had on that first trip to Beeville.
He said his family was living in Longview at the time, and they were on their way to Corpus Christi when they stopped here.
He said he heard the fire whistle sound and then saw an old LaFrance fire truck “racing down the street” with a man standing on the vehicle turning a crank to sound the siren.
“I said if there’s anything I can be, I want to be a firefighter,” Morris told those in the council chamber.
Custer said that today, Morris and the 52 firefighters of the department answer between 300 and 450 calls a year. Morris sees to it that all the department members stay up on their training and that they know their fire-fighting techniques and all the rules for safety.
“When a call comes,” Custer said, Morris “leads them into the field to protect our property and our lives. He is esteemed for his expertise, his judgment and his courage.”
Then Custer explained just how much of an honor it is to receive the Community Builder Award. In the past 23 years, only three individuals have been chosen to receive the honor.
“Chief Morris is the third one,” Custer said. “Our lodge chose him unanimously, and I now take great pleasure in asking him to come forward to receive the Community Builder Award.”
When Morris stepped forward to receive the award, Beeville Mayor David Carabajal stepped around the table to join Custer in presenting the award and a plaque.
Carabajal is the worshipful master of the Beeville Masonic Lodge.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.