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Community Liaison, Garner C. Morris

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garner-morrisBy Eliz Coleman Dowdy

With the election coming closer, the Precinct Reporter spoke with Garner C. Morris, community liaison for First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt and what his options for the future were.

Garner Cordell Morris is a native of Batesville, Mississippi, the oldest of thirteen children, and was involved in the care of the younger siblings. Morris decided to leave school in the 11th grade, but that decision was short-lived; he returned and graduated from Patton Lane High School. Morris stated that community members were very helpful and assisted him; they talked to him about the value of education. Negroes in the early to mid-twentieth century were adamant that their children should get all the education they could so their lives would be easier than the generation before them.

Young Morris attended Mississippi Valley University for one year. When the funding ran out, he joined the Air Force and spent the next 30 years on active duty. His specialty was avionics, air maintenance, working on aircraft.

He met and married Thelma Ford who was teaching school in his hometown; the Morris' family came to George AFB in 1963. He worked on several aircraft, including the F4 fighter; after retirement from the Air Force he went to work for Northup Grumman on the B2 bomber in systems safety-flight testing-.

The primary question for this reporter was how he entered the fields of activism. Morris stated that when they lived in Ohio, the city they lived in was not user-friendly to Blacks. Low ranking members of the armed forces had difficulty finding suitable housing for their families; they fit this category and were living in city housing in the south side of Columbus. The apartments were income-based; when service personnel received a promotion they had to move. That move landed them in another set of apartments where Blacks lived on one side of the street, and whites on the other side. Even the lawn service was different, the upkeep substandard. When a problem arose and was not addressed, he refused to pay rent and was able to get the other tenants to follow suit, because they were without hot water. After leading a successful protest, everyone in the complex knew he had a hand in the process. The lights were also not being fixed in the Colored section.

He was able to do the work of an activist without incurring the wrath of the Air Force. Those acts led to his support of a Black candidate for city council. Little did he know that those incidents were basic training for life in Victorville. There was no suitable housing off base for service personnel of color. The Morris family ended up living in San Bernardino and he commuted daily to GAFB. Just prior to the Watts riots in 1965, the fire trucks in the Victor Valley had guns attached to them. Although the local people were sympathetic with the frustration of the people in South Central they did not join in the action. However, from that incident the local branch of the NAACP was born with Lodie Thomas Cherry as the first president. It was supported by some of the local Black pioneers. Morris took out memberships for his wife and three children to boost the membership rolls.

Fast-forward to the 21st century when he took on the role of community service liaison for the Supervisor. He stated Mitzelfelt believed there were lingering problems that existed that the community would not tell him about, but appointed Morris to be his ears. In that role he represented the needs, problems and desires of the African American community. Morris was responsible for helping to get the Black History month celebration in the First District office building in Hesperia for the last two years; the continuous video in the lobby was hard to ignore when you entered the building. There were other benefits to the Black community that he was able to broker that had never been available before. He would encourage attendees at events to ask for the things they needed.

Garner is leaving several options open for the future. Asked if he would retire for a third time, he smiled! There are proposals on the table that he is mulling over.

His passion for helping the community to prosper has never waned; he has been active in the NAACP; High Desert Lodge #107; is Board Chair of High Desert Academy of Arts and Science; and Chair of Community Concerns at Emmanuel Temple CME Church in Victorville.

He amassed numerous awards in his illustrious military career. He has been married to his bride Thelma for fifty-nine years; they are the parents of three children. Daughter Phyllis Kay Morris-Green is supervising chief deputy public defender for San Bernardino; Belinda Fay Morris works with mentally challenged in Apple Valley, and Garner Cordell Jr. is Deputy District Attorney, Santa Clara County in the city of San Jose. He has a daughter, Annie Jewell Kuykendall, who works for the city of Detroit, Michigan.

Morris grew up cutting firewood in winter, milking the cows, and working on the farm, work that has proved to be great fertilizer for the life path he chose to walk.

We wish him well in whatever his next assignment is.

Written by: Precinct Reporter Group

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