Biographical Sketch of Dr. William Lawrence Morris
February 11, 1883 – January 1, 1954 William Lawrence Morris was born in February 11, 1883 in Georgia. His father, Joseph Morris, was from South Carolina. His mother Elizabeth Wright Morris was from Georgia. Known as “Bill” he was raised in a small Georgian town (one source implied that his father conducted a store near his residence). He married Cora M. Cryder in 1915 at age 32. She was one year younger.
During WWI (1914-1918; U.S. entered July 28, 1916) William served in the U. S. Army and at one time was stationed in Kansas City, Missouri. There, Cora run a camera studio which helped support William during his post-war medical school in Kansas City. He graduated after six month (about 1918). Probably, at an earlier time he had been under the tutor-age of another doctor in Atlanta.
Following his graduation (about 1920) Dr. Morris and Cora began a road trip to California to start his medical practice. In route through Arkansas they bogged down on muddy roads close to Brasfield in Prairie County. They struggled into town—- where they found fortune was their fate! A lumber company was needing a physician to care for workers injured on the job. The company built him a two-room office next to the school and also a home two blocks from his office. His medical practice grew serving families along the Cache River and the surrounding farm lands.
Later, about 1930, Dr. and Cora Morris built a larger house on farm in nearby Biscoe where he continued his practice. There is no record that the couple had children. Cora died in April of 1946 at age 63 and was buried in the Chauncey City Cemetery in Georgia.
Dr. Morris, called “Bill” or “Doc” by many, was well known as a baby doctor and personally concerned person. A quote from a letter sent by Bill Sayger, Director of the Central Delta Depot Museum in Brinkley, Arkansas, tells of his experiences regarding Dr. Morris.
“My mother told me that her mother, Doris Mashburn Hill was once bitten by a black widow spider. It apparently become very serious problem, and Dr. Morris was called to treat her. Her condition worsened and Dr. Morris stayed with the family that night to see that she came through it okay. My grandmother recovered.
My mother said Dr. Morris was a loving, caring person. All the people who knew him are gone except for a few like me who were only youngsters then. I live in my family’s home where Dr. Morris delivered me and my 4 brothers.” (Sayger was named William Lawrence after Dr. Morris.)
In another letter to the Arkansas Country Doctor Museum, Bill Sayger included a featured article he wrote for the Central Delta Museum further describing Dr. Morris’ life. It is well written and entertaining (quoted below).
Dr. William Lawrence “Bill” Morris
When I was a young boy my father didn’t have a car. On Saturdays he was often busy getting cotton to the Biscoe gin. Sometimes Troy, Harold, my mother and I would walk the two miles from Brasfield to Biscoe to buy groceries at Betzner’s Mercantile Store. Back then Mr. Brooks Betzner had a hired man who would take customers and their groceries back to their home in his truck. Dr. Bill Morris lived in his two story home on the NW corner of Dixon and First Streets. I remember that my mother would often stop by and see Dr. Morris, who had health problems in his later years. We was considered a good baby doctor and delivered me and at least four of my brothers at our home at Brasfield. I was given his first and middle name. Following his death Pete and Leona Miller Corpier made the Morris house their home.
Dr. William Lawrence Morris practiced medicine in the Brasfield-Biscoe area from about. 1920 until sometime prior to his death January 1st, 1954. According to his gravestone he was born in February, 1883, in Georgia, although some census records show 1884 and 1885. He was buried in the Chauncy Cemetery in Dodge County, Georgia, as was his wife, Cora Myrtle, who died eight years before him. After Cora’s death, her sister came from Georgia to Biscoe to help out in his home.
According to Joe Carmack, an early day Brasfield resident, “Bill and Cora Myrtle came to Brasfield about 1919 or 1920. Bill, known at Brasfield as “Doc”, was in the Army in World War !, and was stationed in Kansas City, Missouri. His wife, a very thrifty woman, ran a camera studio while Doc was in the service, and after he got out of the Army she continued to run the studio and sent Doc through medical school (where he got his medical degree, having possibly gotten some medical training in Atlanta, Georgia years earlier),”
“After Doc finished his six month’s medical school, he and Cora Myrtle started for California to set up a medical practice. They were driving a 1918 Buick Roadster, travelling Highway 70, when their Buick became mired down in a mud hole between Brasfield and Dagmar (old Highway 70
was unpaved). They somehow made their way to Brasfield and stayed at the company Brown Lumber Company boarding house…. until their car could be extracted and dragged into town by one of the company’s Fordson tractors.”
“We had no doctor at Brasfield then, and the mill manager made a deal with Doc to set up his practice at Brasfield. The company built him a two room shotgun office beside the school house. He served as the company doctor, dressing the men’s wounds when they were hurt on the job. He also established a practice up and down the river and on surrounding farms ……
Brown Lumber Company, or Dr. Morris himself, had his home built across the road (then Highway 10) from the mill house that would become my family’s home in 1937.
Dr. Morris purchased property and farms in Biscoe and the surrounding area over the years and in the early 1930s moved into his home at Biscoe and continued his medical practice. The Brown Lumber Company mill shut down at Brasfield in 1936.
Nothing is known for certain about Dr. Morris’s early years in Georgia. As I said earlier he and his wife are buried in the Chauncy Cemetery in Dodge County. While at the Arkansas History Commission research room recently I ran across an old newspaper clipping, dated Thursday, June 10, 1909, that may have a bearing on Dr. Morris’s life. It is recorded in Vol. III, 1908-1919 of the Dodge County (Georgia) Newspaper Clippings, by Tad Evans. William Morris, a “young medical student” mentioned in the article, may be Dr. William Lawrence Morris. Telfair County, mentioned in the clipping, adjoins Dodge County. More research is needed but I thought it worth mentioning.
The clipping reads as follows:
AGED MAN KILLED BY HIS SON
Mr. Henry Morris of Oswald Mistaken for Burglar and Killed BY His Son
Mr. William Morris, an aged citizen of Oswald, Telfair County, came to his death in a very sad and tragic manner Monday night, having been shot and killed by his son, William, a young medical student from the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons.
We failed to learn particulars, but from the best information obtainable, it seems Mr. Morris conducted a store near his residence, which store had recently been burglarized several times. young Morris went into the store Monday and concealed himself to watch for the intruders. The old gentleman afterwards went into the store for some purpose, and being mistaken by his son for burglars, was fired upon. It is said that the young man hailed the visitor to the store several times, but received no resronse. The old gentleman being partially deaf, it is supposed that he did not hear his son call.
NOTE that the elderly gentleman is called Henry in the caption and William in the body of the piece.
Dr. Morris lived to the age of 70. He had served Prairie County faithfully about 34 years, from about 1920 until shortly before he died on January 1, 1954. Burial was in Georgia in the Chauncey City Cemetery.
Betty Battenfield April 2020