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|Frank Morris was role model for young black men|
When William "Billy" Brown Jr. was a kid growing up in Ferriday, his mother would call Frank Morris whenever she sent him to get a hair cut.
Morris ran a shoe shop in Ferriday along Fourth Street, now known as E.E. Wallace Blvd., and the barbershop was located close to his store.
"He would walk out to the front and watch for us kids," Brown recalled this week. "He'd make sure we made it to the barbershop or wherever. He'd especially watch to make sure we got across the street alright."
Frank Morris was a role model for young black men, said Brown, and Morris' death in 1964 remains a mystery to Brown, who is now 55 and has worked for the New Orleans Times-Picayune for the past 33 years. He's a graphic artist in the newspaper's advertising department.
Morris' store was set on fire by two white men, possibly Ku Klux Klan members, in December 1964 and Morris suffered severe burns, dying four days later. His murder is being reinvestigated by the FBI after four decades. Morris' case is one of scores of civil rights era murders that have yet to be solved.
Brown's mother, Edna Williams Morris Brown, who died in 2003, was once married to Morris. The couple divorced in 1947.
Brown was born in 1952. His mother and Morris had remained close, despite their divorce, until Morris was killed. She was a seamstress and worked for Morris, who also employed a number of young men in the community.
"Frank just had a character about him," said Brown, "he was a very special man. He kept a lot of young men at work at his shop. There are lot of men today in New Orleans who are now in their 60s and 70s who once worked in Frank's shop."
Morris, said Brown, is the reason many young Ferriday men were able to succeed in their lives.
"He was a disciplinarian," Brown said of Morris. "And he was a good businessman. He knew how to conduct business. If you worked for Frank, you didn't stand around. But he treated us all well and he looked out for us. And he taught us all how to treat people well. He believed in that. He treated all people well."
One special quality about Morris, Brown noted, was that "he had a lot of patience."
Why anyone would want Frank Morris dead is hard for Brown to understand.
"I never knew him to be active in civil rights," said Brown. "He was a private man, basically a businessman, who lived in the shop."
His death, said Brown, "was a shock. I think everybody respected him"
Brown said he continues to think of Ferriday as home. He moved to New Orleans years ago "for the money a good job would bring. But I still have a lot of friends and family in Ferriday."
His wife, Betty Whitley, is also from Concordia Parish. The couple have three children.
"There were a lot of businesses along Fourth Street in 1964," said Brown. "It was a busy place. Frank's shop was about the busiest."
|Frank Morris Murder Series|