Edwin A. Morris (1903-1998)

Written By North Carolina History Project

As the youngest of five children, Edwin A. Morris grew up picking cotton in the early 1900s. This early lesson in perseverance served Morris well as he studied business administration at Washington and Lee University and Harvard Business School in the 1920s. He gained experience in the textiles industry by working at a Massachusetts textiles firm, and then moved to Abingdon, Illinois, to work as a plant manager for the Blue Bell-Globe Manufacturing Company. Within a quick ten years Morris became president and CEO of the company, then known as Blue Bell, Inc.

Morris’s marketing insight may have been the company’s greatest strength. He noticed a company Blue Bell had acquired was manufacturing a brand of jeans called Wrangler. With Morris’s business savvy the brand took off and became a major competitor in the western wear marketplace.

Until his retirement in 1981, Morris continued to work with Blue Bell, Inc. Not only was he a principled businessman, Morris was well known for his generosity. He was active in philanthropy through the E.A. Morris Charitable Foundation until his death in 1998. To honor him as a founding father of the North Carolina conservative movement, the E.A. Morris Fellowship for Emerging Leaders was created in 2006. By encouraging the growth of committed, diverse, and principled North Carolinians to pursue greater leadership roles within their professions and communities, Morris’s legacy continues to thrive.

 (Used with permission. Originally published at Free Enterprise Heroes by The Jesse Helms Center)