From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Morris, William R., Sr.

(born: 1859  -  died: 1928) 

William R. Morris, Sr. was born in Flemingsburg, KY. From 1884-1889 he was a faculty member at Fisk University and remained the only African American there for four years. He was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in the 1880s, then left for Chicago. Morris was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1888, then moved to Minneapolis where he was the first African American lawyer in the courts of Hennepin County. 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. He was one of the first three African American 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 African American members. William Richard Morris was the son of Hezekiah (a slave) and Elizabeth Hopkins Morris (free), and the brother of Edward H. Morris. Hezekiah bought his freedom, and earned a living as a mattress maker. After Hezekiah's death, the family moved first to Cincinnati, OH, then on to Chicago, IL. William R. Morris, Sr. died in Minneapolis on December 13, 1928. For more see Who's Who in Colored America, 1927; Emancipation: the making of a Black lawyer, by J. C. Smith, Jr.; "Hon. William Richard Morris," Wisconsin Weekly Advocate, 01/25/1906, p.1; see "William Richard Morris" on p.264-265 in History of the Great Northwest and its Men of Progress by C. W. G. Hyde et. al.; and "Funeral services for William Morris, Sr.," Inter-State Tattler, 12/28/1928, p.13.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fleming County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Flemingsburg, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Morris, Edward H.
NKAA Source: Who's who in colored America; a biographical dictionary of notable living persons of Negro descent in the United States [1927, 1933-37]
NKAA Source: Emancipation: the making of the black lawyer, 1844-1944
NKAA Source: The Wisconsin weekly advocate (newspaper)
NKAA Source: History of the great Northwest and its men of progress. A select list of biographical sketches and portraits of the leaders in business, professional and official life
NKAA Source: The Inter-state tattler (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Morris, William R., Sr.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 20, 2021,

Last modified: 2019-01-09 17:22:24