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Mr. John Walter Morriss (Deceased)
April 29, 2009 Pat Clohessy Writes About Coach Morriss;
April 29, 2009 Ollan Cassell Writes About Coach Morriss;
April 28, 2009 Allan "Al" Lawrence Writes About Coach Morriss;
April 27, 2009 Barrie Almond Writes About Coach Morriss;
April 17, 2009 Johnny Morriss, Jr. Family Update Provided by Johnny Morriss, III;
April 16, 2009 Signing Anecdote by Johnny Morriss, III;
May 12, 1993 University of Houston, news release at passing of Johnny Morriss;
1980 Johnny Morriss: The Versatile Winner, Prides of Acadiana.
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April 29, 2009 Pat Clohessy Writes About Coach Morriss
Barrie Almond indicated that Pat Clohessy was the NCAA 3-Mile Champion in 1961 and 1962 and the AAU 5,000 Meters Champion in 1962 and 1962.
Pat sent this message: Coach Morriss was a fine coach and friend. He gave us a great opportunity in life and athletics. His family was also very supportive.
Thanks for the memories!
Pat Clohessy, University of Houston, 1958-62.
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April 29, 2009 Ollan Cassell Writes About Coach Morriss
I am happy to join some of my teammates and contribute to Johnny's memories and feel certain others will follow the leads. If there is anything more I can do, let me know. A request has been made to the University of Houston for the contacts of the Canadians to determine if they have an interest in writing something. Some of them had very funny and heartfelt stories and as part of their memories of Houston.
My track and field career was a bit different than athletes grounded in the sport and my route to the University of Houston and Johnny was a bit different.
My high school team did not have a track or a track team, however, the football coach, Sam Dixon, organized some races with another school in the summer of 1955. The events were on a football field and I won the 100 yard dash, beating the fastest guy in the county. Some of the timer's watches showed 9.9 and 9.8, which I later learned was because they were ashamed to admit they could not time very well.
This event encouraged my football coach to enter me in the Virginia State Track Meet where I won the 220 yard dash, setting a record that stands today. Some people were impressed, but my goal was to play college football. East Tennessee State awarded me a scholarship in football for the fall of 1956. During the track season of 1957, while I was a freshman, I won the National AAU 220 yard Championships in Dayton, Ohio. Injuries did not permit me to compete for the full year during the following year. My track coach at ETSC, Julian Crocker, was Dean of the Physical Education Department. He was a very fine man with great principles and a desire for his athletes to achieve the most from their ability. Although he was not a refined track coach, he was disappointed the school did not go through with its promise to recruit some top athletes for the track team.
Coach Crocker advised me to transfer to another school with an emphasis on nation-wide competition and agreed to help with the contacts and transfer. Needless to say, the school was very upset at him for suggesting a transfer, but he was a tenured professor, and there was nothing they could do to effect his teaching position. Coach Crocker made contact with Johnny Morriss who agreed to provide a scholarship, just for track and field and no football. I knew very little about the University of Houston or Johnny Morris, but accepted the recommendation of Coach Crocker.
At that time my focus was to find a real track coach and it was Johnny Morris. Johnny was my first track coach who knew something about track and field and he welcomed me with open arms. With Johnny's guidance all others in the athletic department assisted me in finding a place at the school. Without a doubt, my eyes were opened to training and competition on a regional and national level. Not all was easy, as the first year of national college competition revealed, but I found the tasks were needed to make me a better person and athlete.
Johnny arranged all sort of relay carnivals throughout Texas and all of the Southwest. In these meets we competed against teams with athletes that were the best in the world, including Abilene Christian, where Bobby Morrow became the three time Olympic Champion in the 1956 Olympic games. We raced often and a lot, but that was expected of all team in those days. In my events it meant racing hard every meet, which I later learned was needed to make me appreciate the sport of track and field and the sprint events.
Johnny, changed my events from the 100-200 yard dashes to the 440-400 yard dashes due to the many pulled muscles and injuries from the pressure required by constant all-out sprints. This change was a God-sent move, since it was the event I later qualified as a member of the 1964 US Olympic team, receiving a Gold medal in the 4x400 meter relay.
My career continued to progress after graduation and I became an officer in the US Army making the Olympic team during my last year of duty. During the years after the University of Houston, with Johnny's training regime guidelines, I worked out my own training and competition schedule until 1966. During this time I became the 1964 Olympic 400 yard trials champion and 1965 outdoor 440 yard champion, along with various world record-breaking performances at indoor distances.
Following my military career, track and field led to administration at the national level. In 1965 I was appointed track and field administrator of THE NATIONAL AAU and in 1970 elected as EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NAAU. NAAU at the time served as USA governing body for 15 Olympic Sports. After serving 10 years in that position, NAAU was broken-up by the passing of the Amateur Sports Act, which became effective in 1980.
Moving on, my next position was an 18 year tenure as Executive Director of the newly formed Athletic Congress, which took over from NAAU as the new national governing body of track and field. During this time I was elected to the IAAF Council and reached the position of Vice President while serving for 20 plus years.
I have written this to provide the impressions Johnny Morris had on my life in this sport. He was always someone I could think about when times became tough. Johnny experienced some very difficult financial times at the University of Houston and many times was left on his own to raise funds for the track program. This lead him to develop one of the most successful invitational track meets in the Southwest and the entire country. That meet brought attention to the University of Houston and generated great support for the program. This meet was, of course,the "MEET OF CHAMPIONS".
I later realized that Johnny was a man for ALL SEASONS AND AS CLOSE TO A RENAISSANCE MAN as anyone I ever knew. He could do almost anything. He was an extremely successful coach and adapted to events he did not know well. He was also a promoter, father, husband, teacher, expert golfer, fund-raiser and joyful fellow. The coaches at national events and meetings knew when Johnny entered a room just by the noise and chatter.
In closing, I must say, I WAS HAPPY TO HAVE LIVED IN THE TIME OF JOHNNY MORRISS.
US TRACK COACHES DIPLOMA PROGRAM
2045 W. 56th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46228
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April 28, 2009 Allan "Al" Lawrence Writes About Coach Morriss
My name in Allan (Al) Lawrence, a former native of Australia, who was recruited by Coach Morriss in 1958 on an athletic scholarship. I will never forget his kindness and support during my effort to get established in the(new for me) challenging environment of scholastics and athletics.
His two main goals for his athletes were: graduation and athletic performance. His athletes had a remarkable graduation rate. Coach Morriss was a tough taskmaster, but he was the "fairest" individual I ever encounted in sport.
Under his tutelage, I was a 10-time All-America selection, won 3 NCAA individual and 4 U.S. titles.
After graduating I returned to Australia, before returning to the U.S. two years later and became the Assistant Track Coach under Coach Morriss. I spent three happy years, before moving on, but always kept in close contact with my coach, teacher, and friend until his death in 1993.
I was honored to deliver one of the ulogies at his Memorial Service.
Several years before his death, I visited Johnny Morriss in his home, and presented him a copy of my first published book on distance running. His wife Nona, sat with him and read him one of the dedications:
"To John W. Morriss, former head track coach at the University of Houston, who taught me how to evaluate and strengthen my own psychological weaknesses and "read" the same weaknesses in opponents."
Coach Morriss smiled as his wife read. I think he was pleased.
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April 27, 2009 Barrie Almond Writes About Coach Morriss
Coach recruited me from Australia in 1958, when I was first inquiring about coming to the USA. I wanted to go to the University of Houston because my two Australian club mates, Allan Lawrence and Pat Clohessy, were going to Houston. I was advised that no more scholarships were available at Houston so I started communicating with other schools.
Much to my surprise in November of 1958 a letter arrived with a big Red Cougar on the envelope. It was from Coach Morriss offering me a scholarship and to enroll in January of 1959. This was an easy decision as to where I was going.
After 44 hours of plane travel from Sydney,it was such a relief to be greeted by the friendly, smiling face of Coach Morriss. Along with my two Australian mates, Coach made my adjustment to a new country very easy.
I am forever grateful for the opportunity Coach provided for me to get a college education and the extensive travel throughout the USA I undertook as a team member. In addition to his love of his charming wife, Nona and his 3 children, Coach loved and lived track and field.
He was a great promoter of the sport as evidenced by the successful Meet of Champions event he founded.
A private school in the late 1950's and early 1960's the University of Houston was experiencing severe financial difficulties . There was some talk Spring sports could be cut. The resourcefulness of Coach Morriss enabled the University of Houston to keep the program going.
In my conversations with him after graduating, I could never address him as Johnny. It was always Coach. Thank you, Coach.
Sincerely, Barrie Almond.
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April 17, 2009 Johnny Morriss, Jr. Family Update provided by Johnny Morriss,III.
Peggy Morriss Vineyard is the oldest daughter of Johnny Morriss, Jr. of Lafayette, Louisiana and Winona Schlesinger Morriss of Abbeville, Lousiana. She is married to James Pruit. Together they have two children, two to each by previous marriages. They have four grandchildren. Peggy has her undergraduate degree from University of Houston and a graduate degree from Texas Southern University. She currently is a real estate broker for one of the largest real estate dealer in Houston, Martha Turner Properties.
Judy Morriss Jones is the middle child. She was married to Norman Jones who was killed in a car accident two years ago. They have two children, both residing in the Houston area. She has five grandchildren. Judy went to the University of Houston, worked for the president of a major company in the Houston area, and is now retired.
John Walter Morriss, III, is the youngest child and is married to Linda Jeffcote Morriss. We have four girls, all who reside in the Houston area, and nine grandchildren. I received my bachelor degree from the University of Houston, and my masters degree from Texas Southern University. I coached for 34 years. I also worked in the oil field for two years and sold insurance for one year.
I retired from Pearland High School after 25 years there. I built the track program from 12 participants when I first went there to 126 people the last year I coached. I won 5 district championships and had 90 district champions and two state qualifiers. Last year the track meet at Pearland was named after me. I currently am on the board of directors of the "H" Association, the athletic lettermen at the University of Houston.
Linda and I retired to Tiki Island, Texas last May after building our dream home. In September, we started rebuilding our home after "Ike" visited the island which is located near Galveston. Ike passed directly over Tiki Island. We have now rebuilt and enjoy retirement.
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Signing Anecdote by Johnny Morriss, III.
April 16, 2009
When I was a senior at Jones High School, the phone kept ringing off the wall because that year I had set a national record in the high hurdles and had high jumped 6'8". I had also won the state championship for the third time in a row in the high jump and finished 4th in the team standings as the lone representative of Jones High while participating in the highest high school classification in Texas at the time.
Upon my return from a trip to USC, Dad and I were watching one of his favorite westerns on television. During our conversation, I looked at him and asked him if he was going to offer me a scholarship? He looked at me and said, " I thought that was understood." I told him I just wanted him to say the words. He did, and almost broke his arm reaching for the phone to call the University of Houston SID.
The next day I signed a letter of intent, witnessed by my mother to make certain things were proper according to the NCAA. With Dad being the one who was going to be my coach, we wanted to make sure the parents' permission was properly addressed.
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When Morriss passes away, the University of Houston issued (in part) the following news release on May 12, 1993:
"Former Cougar Track Coach John Morriss Passed Away Wednesday Afternoon
Former University of Houston track and cross country coach John W. Morriss passed away Wednesday afternoon in Houston at the age of 84.
In his illustrious coaching career spanning almost five decades, Morriss coached 66 All-Americans, 38 individual national champions, nine Olympians and four NCAA team champions. He coaches at ten different colleges and high schools and was a hurdler on the 1932 Olympic Team.
He brought international acclaim to the Houston track and field program in his 20 years at the helm of the Cougar program from 1956 to 1975. His UH runners set seven world records during his coaching career. He also directed the UH cross country team to national prominence, including the NCAA national championship in 1960 as well as three national AAU titles.
Morriss was voted into no less that twelve different Halls of Fame for his incredible career and lifelong contribution to track, including the Louisiana and Knute Rockne Halls of Fame. In 1989 he was named the outstanding alumni of Southwestern Louisiana, where he earned All-America honors in track and was a four-sport letterman.
He is a former President of both the NCAA Track & Field and NCAA Cross Country Coaches' Associations. In fact Morriss is the only person to hold both offices simultaneously. Morriss is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Winona Schlesinger of Abbeville, Louisiana; their three children: Peggy Vineyard, Judy Jones, and John Morriss III and six grandchildren."
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Prides of Acadiana by Bruce Brown (1980) is a copyrighted enterprise.
Johnny Morriss: The Versatile Winner
If it has something to do with track and field, Johnny Morriss knows how to win at it. One has to assume that, at least. Morriss, who came running to Southwestern Louisiana from Lafayette High School after a star-studded, multi-sport career in 1926, earned a variety of honors as a record-setting hurdler and all-around athlete at then-SLI before blooming further in amateur competition after he finished college.
Then, once his competitive days were over, Morriss turned his full attentions on what has become a life-long love-coaching. In 1980, Morriss enters his fiftieth year as a coach of amateur athletics, a career for a man who set about as many records for producing winners as he did as an athlete.
At Lafayette High from 1922 to 1926, Morriss was a three-time letterman in football, basketball, and track. He expanded on that habit at Southwestern, lettering four years each in track and football, two years in basketball, and two years in golf.
"I was competing in too many sports in college," he later conceded. "I was moving from one season to another, and there were times when I tried to play in a golf tournament if we didn't have a track meet that day. "It kept me whupped." "Whupped" or not, Morriss rarely showed it.
He began making strides in 1928 when he won the Junior AAU high hurdles title with a 14.8 clocking in Dallas, Texas. The following year, 1929, he slipped one tenth of a second and was third in the National Junior AAU in Denver, Colorado.
But a 15-flat clocking was good enough that year for Morriss to capture the high hurdles in the Southwestern Relays, and he also claimed the Southern AAU title with that time.
Then, as a senior, he made even greater strides. He was third in the Texas Relays (14.8), second in the Southern AAU (15.0), and won the National Junior AAU high hurdles with a new record 14.7 while running in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
At the NCAA Championships at Stagg Field in Chicago, Morriss set a school record with a fourth-place 14.6 timing. All-American distinction came his way and set the stage for international acclaim and competition.
SLI's first all-American track man placed third as a member of a U.S. team running against Great Britain that year in a meet at Soldier's Field in Chicago. That team also ran against Canada in Toronto, where Morriss defeated Lord Burleigh on a dirt track in a record time of 14.7. It was in 1930, also, that Morriss began a brief dual role as both a coach and amateur competitor, a role he carefully kept within the
bounds of amateur regulations.
"There was an AAU rule which said that you couldn't be both a coach and a competitor in amateur athletics," Morriss recalled. "So when I was hired at Abbeville High in 1930, my official capacity was that of a classroom teacher and assistant principal. "But I helped out with football, basketball, track, and boxing, and I would train on the side with the boys."
Morriss would later describe 1932-33 as his best years as an athlete-years in which he was still coaching unofficially in Abbeville.
In 1931 Morriss ran four indoor hurdles races-winning two and finishing second twice in the brief 70-yard encounters. Running twice in New York, once in Boston, and once in Philadelphia, Morriss established a new indoor world record in the event with an 8.6 clocking at a Madison Square Gardens meet.
The year 1932 was an Olympic year, and Olympic hopefuls had to qualify for the U.S. team in meets across the country. In New Orleans. Morriss won the Southern AAU with a record 14.8 time. He then turned to the regional qualifying at Harvard University, winning there in 14.7 over the 110-meter distance.
A blazing 14.5 was next by Morriss, this time at the sectionals at Northwestern University in Illinois. The 14.5 was a new personal best and world record.
But at the final trials at Stanford University, Morriss finished a disputed fifth (one California paper had him no worse than second) and was chosen as an all-America and team alternate.
At a post-Olympic meet at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco against England and Canada, Morriss was second in 14.5. But at another post Olympic meet, at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium in a race in which the hurdles were laid down the first base line and the number four, five, and six hurdles curved out towards the outfield, Morriss stepped off a 14.6 before 80,000 fans for an unofficial world record on a curved dirt track.
The disappointment of not making the 1932 Olympic Team put a damper on the successes enjoyed that
Morriss set several American and world records in his illustrious career.
year, but Morriss bounced back in 1933 for a final superlative year of amateur track before moving full-time into coaching. He wrapped it up in style. He finished second in the Southern AAU in New Orleans with a 14.7, before sizzling in the National AAU Championships at Soldier's Field in Chicago. He tied the world's record of 14.4 in winning hi preliminary heat, then ripped through the 110 meters in 14.3 in the finals to set a new American and world's standard.
Picked for a third time as an all-America, Morriss was again chosen as part of a United States team to face international competition. On a two-month tour of Europe, he won all fourteen races he ran-tying the old 14.4 record twice in the process.
He capped off the year by being chosen by his teammates to carry the United States flag in opening ceremonies in the First World Student Games in Tourin, Italy, before a crowd of 70,000. Morriss also won his 11O-meter race in 14.5.
His years at Abbeville High ended in 1935, when he accepted a fellowship at LSU to work with famed LSU coach Bernie Moore, but the folks remembered his first coaching post. He returned to Abbeville in 1979 to help induct some athletes into that school's hall of fame.
His Abbeville stay had launched an entire new phase of Morriss' successful career-that of a coach. He has yet to slow down to any noticeable degree, serving as he does as track coach at Houston Baptist University.
"I enjoy working with kids,� Morriss said of his love for his occupation. �It's my job at Houston Baptist to help promote, organize and coach track. We have no scholarships, and yet we won four firsts at the Southwestern Relays in 1977.
Morriss and his teams have rarely missed a Southwestern Relays at SLl/USL since he first ran in the meet years ago. As a matter of fact, his son John III was a Southwestern Relays champion in high hurdles in 1969-exactly forty years after his father won in 1929.
"My son had about forty-five scholarship offers when he was in high school," Morriss recalled. �He was a three-time high jump champion in Texas high school competition. I was coaching at the University of Houston at the time, and I didn't pressure him on where to go to school.�
�I just told him that if he didn't go to Houston, to go far away, because I couldn't pull for him and against him in the same meet. One day he came up to me and said he was going to Houston.�
John III turned into a pretty fair country leaper himself-having personal bests of 6-9 in the high jump, 13.7 in the high hurdles, twenty-three feet in the long jump, and 53-flat in the intermediate hurdles. With his son employed at San Jacinto South College in Houston as a coach, and other family members involved in sports of various kinds, Morriss admits �our family is wrapped up in athletics.�
From LSU, Morriss took over the track program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1936-42. His teams won four Southern Conference indoor and outdoor team titles, and Morriss produced such noted hurdlers as Harry March in 1939 (third intermediate hurdles in 51.3 and fourth in low hurdles in 23.5 at the NCAA Meet) and Bill Corpenning (third in the NCAA's with a 14.0 high hurdles time).
From 1942-45, Morriss was with the Navy in World War II, but he still found time to be involved in standout teams recruited from preflight personnel.
From 1947-49, he returned to SLI and coached Gulf Coast cross country team champions all three years and Gulf Coast outdoor track team winners in 1948 and 1949.
A stint (1950-52) at Arkansas followed, where Morriss produced two-miler James Brown and hurdler Lee Yoder in 1952. Brown was third in the NCAA, while Yoder made the Olympic team and was second in the intermediate hurdles in the NCAA.
But Morriss had come to Arkansas with Otis Douglas, whose football teams did not win. And so the athletic staff went down with the ship when Douglas was fired. "It was a setback," Morriss conceded "but
it turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me. Ralphy Young, who was the coach for the Olympic team, was coaching at Michigan State, and he asked me to be an assistant there."
After that Morriss began an acclaimed stint from 1955 to 1976 as coach at the University of Houston. Whether Houston competed in the Missouri Valley Conference, as an independent, or in the Southwest Conference, it mattered little. Morriss' teams sparkled at both cross country and track and field for twenty-one years.
By 1959, Houston was third in the NCAA Meet's team totals, and Morriss kept the program at that highly-competitive level with regularity. Along the way, numerous individual standouts were products of Houston.
One was Ollan Cassell, who made the U.S. Olympic Team in 1964 and who owned a 45.7 time in the 400 meters. He was on a world record-setting mile relay team that soundIy defeated U.S. foes in the Tokyo Olympics.
That year Houston was fourth in the NCAA Meet in Eugene, Oregon, as Pat Clohessy established a new NCAA record in the three-mile. Clohessy had been eighth in the 1963 NCAA Meet.
Clohessy had followed on the heels of AI Lawrence's career at Houston. Lawrence broke the world's indoor record for the two mile with an 8:46 time at an indoor meet in Los Angeles in 1961, and then snapped the standard for the three mile with a 13 :26.4 at the National AAU Meet in Madison Square Garden.
In 1971 Leonard Hilton became the first Texas collegian to break the four-minute mile, and has since been under the barrier some 25 times. Hilton also honored Houston as a 1972 Olympian in the 5,000 meters.
Another remarkable individual coached by Morriss was Robert Mitchell, who shared headlines with Hilton in 1971. He set a new world indoor record for a 220 run on a 10-lap board track (21.5) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and followed that in short order with a world record 30.2 in the 300-yard indoor race on a 10-lap board track in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
"There have been so many performers over the years, and I've enjoyed working with all of them," said Morriss, who earned numerous coach of the year laurels and was coach of a 1958 U.S. team which toured Japan.
"There's not a lot of money in coaching, but you're accepted everywhere and known worldwide," he said, perhaps referring more to himself than to some others in his profession. "No matter where you go, you can always find someone you know."
Morriss the coach has produced sixty-six all-American selections; thirty-eight NCAA, AAU or USTFF champions; eight Olympians; eight team champions on a national level; nine Pan American Games athletes; and his Houston athletes were part of eight world records.
�I�ve been asked to be a referee at a number of meets," he added. "That may not mean a great deal to some people, but to me it's a sign that they respect you, as a coach and as a man, enough to invite you to come.
"I'm lucky I have a wife who likes sports, too," amplified the man who has six career holes-in-one as a golfer. "There is a lot of travel and a lot of leaving involved. But that's part of the job."
And, in the case of Johnny Morriss, so is winning.
Prides of Acadiana by Bruce Brown (1980) is a copyrighted enterprise.
|Basketball- (M):|| 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930|
|Coaches:|| 1947, 1948, 1949|
|Cross Country, Track & Field - (M&W):|| 1928, 1929, 1930|
|Football:|| 1927, 1928, 1929|
|Golf:|| 1927, 1928|
|Military Veteran:|| 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945|
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