Tom Beasley, who introduced the honoree, opened by noting this volunteer extraordinaire began learning his values early.
“The year is 1937. At the age of six, this individual and his family visited Beeville, and our honoree caught a glimpse of a fire truck racing to the scene of a fire. According to a 2004 article in the Bee-Picayune, (Morris) said, ‘The truck came right by me. I thought, man, that’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to be a fireman.’
“His family moved to Beeville the following year, and this individual’s father started a small business which is still operated by the family some 75 years later. Although our honoree is, per his wife, ‘semi-retired,’ he still pinch hits at the business when necessary, and he has faithfully and continuously pursued his commitment to being a fireman.
“Indeed, (he) joined Beeville’s Junior Fire Department as soon as he was old enough to do so, and while not fighting fires at that time, he trained extensively – learning how to fight fires. At the age of 18 the county judge signed a ‘minor’s release’ so (he) could join the department as a regular fireman.”
Later, Morris met his wife, Helen, to whom he has been married since 1956, and their family has grown – most recently, with two great-grandchildren.
Beasley added, “...in spite of having been a member of the fire department for more than 64 years, many of which were spent as assistant chief, followed by his election as chief in 1984 (a position elected by members of the volunteer fire department) and held by (him) for the past 29 years, he remains an active, engaged leader of our local fire department, which currently consists of 46 members.”
Fellow firefighters used words such as “respected,” “feels empathy for victims,” “leader,” “calm,” “knowledgeable,” “believer in technology,” “trained” and other superlatives when describing Morris in that 2004 Bee-Pic article.
“Our honoree has held every rank in the Beeville Volunteer Fire Department, and he was part of the pumper team which won a state championship in 1976. He holds virtually every fire department certification.”
His wife reminded Beasley that those calls were not limited to fires alone. “On occasion, the department has been called on to make water rescues, even as recently as a couple of weeks back. They are also called out to wrecks and other situations calling for their unique resources, training and abilities as first responders. When the famous downtown fire occurred quite a few years back, our honoree left home around 10:30 at night, not returning home until after 6 p.m. the next day.”
Kirk Delgado, an associate of Morris, referred to him as the “best fire chief I know of, and I work for a full-time fire department.”
Delgado and Assistant Chief Bill Burris recalled an event during widespread flooding in Beeville when Morris, an avid and accomplished fisherman, launched his own boat into Poesta Creek to rescue two youngsters hanging on to trees in great peril there.
Delgado said that Morris is the only fire chief he knows who wears white boots – “the rubber kind, like the shrimpers and oystermen wear.” He referred to them as “Flour Bluff ropers.”
Burris said of the chief, “I hope I can do what he does at his age (83), if I am still in the fire department.”
Beasley concluded, “We count it a real blessing to recognize the many years of steadfast service which (Morris has) rendered to this community.” He is “truly a rare individual – a man who has quietly managed enormous responsibility with grace, professionalism and remarkable ability.”