The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

November 4, 2012

'It is an honor to call him friend'

Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — Friends of the late  Dr. John W. “Bill” Morris are paying tribute to the man and his accomplishments.

Dr. Morris, who died Oct. 12, will also be honored at a memorial service Friday at 2 p.m. in Kavanaugh United Methodist Church.

Local businesswoman and civic leader Tubby Adkisson recalls, “Bill, as everyone called him, was the most gentle and caring person, and it is an honor to call him ‘friend.’ Several words come to mind that describe him: Brilliant physician, loving family man, faithful friend who had unending ‘patience’ with his many ‘patients’ who admired him.

“Bill was a man of integrity who had very strong convictions,” she continued. “He, Dr. Nicholson and Dr. Vallancey recognized the critical need to establish a hospital district in Hunt County. They worked tirelessly and gave untold hours of their own time to assure the district vote was approved. Today Hunt Memorial Hospital and Commerce Hospital stand as tributes to them and their dedication. Bill’s sense of humor, endearing smile and devotion to friends will be his legacy as well as the foundation on which many happy memories are built.”

Dr. James Nicholson remembers that “Bill Morris was not associated with any of the three major groups that were sort of polarized in the early days of Greenville medicine. There were three separate hospitals and so three separate groups of doctors. Being an independent, he was not polarized and was a voice of great reason and calm demeanor —  a friend to all three groups. It made him a perfect person to be the ‘glue,’ so to speak, when we were trying to all get coordinated in our effort to have one central hospital.

“Everyone admired Bill Morris because of his calmness and his lifestyle,” he said. “He was an avid snow skier and spent as much time in Aspen as he possibly could. I believe he was the personal eye doctor for all the other doctors in town as well as the entire city.

“He had the best sense of humor. I remember telling him when I was a very young doctor that I would never need reading glasses because I was farsighted. He said ‘That’s not the way it works. You will get them when you’re 44, and you will need them when you’re 40, and you will fight me for four years,’” Nicholson recalled, chuckling.

Retired Greenville businessman E.D. “Tar” Barlow, first board chairman of the hospital authority, gave Dr. Morris a major share of the credit for creating the development of what was to become Citizens General Hospital of Greenville.

In an interview for the hospital district’s 50th anniversary in 2010, Barlow recalled, “It was Bill and Rev. John Eckhardt (Lutheran pastor) who moved throughout the community generating enthusiasm and support for the new hospital district.”

“Dr. Morris had come to Greenville to start his practice in 1949,” said Melva Geyer of Hunt Regional Healthcare marketing. “When he returned after serving in the Korean Conflict in 1954, he was convinced more than ever that it was time the city made the move to a new era of health care. He began his own personal campaign among the movers and shakers, taking them to coffee at the Washington Hotel coffee shop and explaining to them — ‘eyeball to eyeball,’ he would say — what a hospital authority would mean to Greenville.

“Aware of the Hill-Burton money from the federal government, Morris said an authority (created by the city) would have the wherewithal to ultimately purchase and consolidate the three existing private hospitals in Greenville,” Geyer explained. “The Hill-Burton funds would help purchase property and build a new hospital.

“When I first came to Greenville more years ago than I would like to remember, Dr. Morris was recommended to me,” said Geyer. “I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to develop this patient-doctor relationship and a friendship that would continue through the years. Not only was he one of the top professionals in the health care industry, but also a caring and thoughtful individual — with a wicked sene of humor.”

 Dr. John Morris shared his memories of the hospital authority’s creation in a video produced by Hunt Regional Healthcare during the 50th anniversary of health care in Hunt County in 2010. Copies of the video are available at the hospital.