John B. Morris

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John Baptist Morris was the third bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock. He was known as a gifted orator.

Morris was born to Irish immigrants John Morris and Anne Morrissey on a farm outside Hendersonville, Tennessee, on June 29, 1866. He studied at St. Mary's College in Lebanon, Kentucky, and the American College in Rome, and became a priest in an ordination service in the Basilica of St. John Lateran on June 11, 1892. He was ordained by Cardinal Parocchi. He served as rector in the cathedral at Nashville, Tennessee, until 1901 when he became the vicar-general. In 1905 he was elevated to domestic prelate.

Morris served as coadjutor with Bishop Edward Fitzgerald beginning on June 11, 1906. He assumed all of the bishop's duties upon Fitzgerald's death in 1907. When Morris assumed control the diocese had forty-one churches, thirty-two missions, 272 sisters, and a total Catholic population of 20,000.

Morris was succeeded as bishop by Albert L. Fletcher on April 25, 1940. Morris died on October 22, 1946, and is interred in the crypt under St. Andrew's Cathedral.

The Southern Guardian

Morris founded a Catholic newspaper, called The Southern Guardian, in 1911. The paper continues to be published today under the name Arkansas Catholic.

Building Campaigns Under Morris

In 1908 Morris established Little Rock College for Boys for the sum of $50,000, and in 1910 the St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum on 720 acres in the city for $150,000. The St. John Home Missions Seminary opened in 1911 under the roof of the Little Rock College, and moved with the college into Fitzgerald Hall in Pulaski Heights in 1916. He opened the Catholic High School for Boys in 1930. Two years later he opened St. Raphael's Catholic Orphanage for African Americans in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The orphanage closed in 1937.

Street View of Morris Hall

Morris Hall, located on the campus of the St. John Catholic Center, is the administrative center of the Diocese of Little Rock today. Morris Hall Chapel is attached to the structure. The hall and chapel are named for Bishop Morris.


  • John Lucey, "Diocese of Little Rock," in The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 9 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910).

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