“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou
William Alexander Morris, III, M.D.
July 1, 1932 ~ May 13, 2020
By Charles Moseley
Dr. William Alexander Morris was in the business of making people feel better for over a half century in Fort Lauderdale, and he did so with a quiet dignity and seriousness of purpose, which reflected his mission in life. Dr. Morris passed away May 13, 2020. He was 87.
Patricia West and her family were among the thousands of those who were the recipients of Dr. Morris’ care first- hand throughout several generations.
‘’ For the past fifty years our entire families spent Christmas mornings together to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company, including his mother Alverta N. Morris until she passed many years ago. We celebrated at my parent’s house on 27th Avenue up until 1977. When I got married, my husband and I took over and looked forward to annually hosting this heartwarming and fun filled event. We have many beautiful memories that we will forever fondly hold in our hearts. We feel blessed to have the closeness. Never any hard feelings or misgivings during all the years of our family relationship,’’ said West.
‘’This pass Christmas was bittersweet as we all were thankful for God’s Gift of the opportunity to fellowship together but realizing that time was waning and that it probably would be our last time to have him with us. My Mom, Lillian Glasco, also thought the world of “Doc” will be 91 years young in August, so we felt doubly blessed to have them both for another year.’’
‘‘Doc was just a special individual that meant the world to me and my family and all those who knew and loved him.’’
Dr. Edwin Hamilton was a close friend to Dr. Morris. He began practicing medicine in Broward County after completing medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1959.
“I First met him in 1948 at Florida A & M University (FAMU). We were classmates. In all those years he was a brilliant guy, quiet, and he had a great sense of humor. He and I would talk about the professors that we had at FAMU. He gave me excellent advice be-fore I went to medical school because he went there before I did. We were in the ROTC together. But he didn’t go into the military, he went into medical school. He was practicing with Dr. Von D. Mizell when he encouraged me to come to Fort Lauderdale.”
“He was a very competent dedicated physician to the inner-city, Black comm-unity. He was steady and reliable.
Dr. Leonard Bass was also among a close- knit fraternity of Black pioneer doctors who began their practices in Fort Lauderdale. Bass shared his recollection of Dr. Morris. Ironically, they were both members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, FAMU graduates, and graduates of Me-harry’s School of Medicine.
“We used to go to the National Medical Conventions. He was here about 10 years before I got here. He stayed in that same spot for over 50 years on Sistrunk Boulevard. He was committed to the Black community and his patients liked him. He kept right on working even when he got sick.”
Jasmine Shirley and Deborah Mizell were children of two very prominent physicians: Dr. Calvin Shirley and Dr. Von D. Mizell. They both recalled the late Dr. Morris.
“We celebrate and pay tribute to a long-time physician pioneer, Dr. William A. Morris, III, who transitioned to be with Lord on May 13, 2020. Dr. Morris faithfully served the Broward Community as a family medicine physician for decades in his medical office practice located on Sistrunk Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Dr. Morris was the six and last living of the original Black physicians to serve Broward County. He joined the original five physicians and one dentist in their attempts to gain staff privileges at local Broward hospitals. A lawsuit was filed which began a twenty-two-year battle that resulted in a major victory for Black physicians and their ability to ensure access to hospital care for Black patients outside of Provident Hospital. Thank you, Dr. Morris, for your perseverance, dedication and commitment to quality health care,” said Shirley.
“My father, Dr. Mizell, was a physician and civil rights activist. Sometimes he would travel out of town for meetings. Often times Dr. Morris was the covering physician when my father would go out if town. This was the time of house calls.
I remember he made a house call to me when I was playing outside, and I stepped on a nail. Daddy was out of town and he called Dr Morris to care for me. I think that makes a statement of how much he trusted him. He will be missed by the community,” said Mizell.
William Alexander Morris, III, M.D., was born in Jacksonville, Florida on July 1, 1932 to William Alexander Morris, Jr., and Alverta Nevels Morris, who were both colleges educated and provided him with role models who influenced him throughout his life. God called him home on May 13, 2020.
As a young child he decided that he wanted to become a physician in an African American community. He believed that the road to success clearly involved gaining as much education as possible. Historic Black Colleges and universities (HBCUs) were graduating professionally trained African Americans in record numbers in the fields of Education, Medicine and Law.
Dr. Morris, or “Doc” as he was affectionately called, graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College High School with honors and enrolled at FAMC in 1949. There he had a distinguished career both academically and in extracurricular activities as editor of the student newspaper. He also was initiated in the spring of 1949 into the historic Beta Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., where he served as dean of pledges. He graduated from FAMU summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree, then applied and was accepted into Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee. The state of Florida subsidized his education at Meharry because the university of Florida did not admit African Americans to medical school at the time. After graduating from Meharry he began his medical career in Thomasville, Georgia from 1958-59. During this time, he married Egertha Pauline McGowen (who preceded him in death). To this union three children were born, William Tyrone Morris, Nevel Morris (who preceded him in death), and Lynne Michelle Morris.
In 1959 he was one of only two African Americans to take and pass the Florida Medical Licensure Exam. He was recruited by Von D. Mizell, M.D., to join his medical practice on Northwest Sixth Street in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In addition to Dr. Morris and Dr. Mizell, three other African American doctors were practicing at The Old Provident Hospital, which offered medical care for African Americans. While African Americans patients were allowed to receive medical treatment at the previously all-white Broward General Hospital, African American doctors were not granted admitting privileges. “Doc” filed a lawsuit, thereby winning a major civil rights victory resulting in African American doctors gaining the rights to practice medicine at Broward General Hospital. He was required to resign his post at Provident Hospital in order to file the lawsuit. “Doc” provided medical care to the Ft. Lauderdale African American community at his Sixth Street office for more than sixty years.
He leaves to cherish his life, legacy and memories his wife of 47 years Zellene King Morris, three sons William Tyrone, Travis Augustus (Nicole) and Christopher Barnard, a daughter, Lynne Michelle, a sister, Sylvia Morris Smith, a brother, Daniel Glenn (Terri), a niece, Dawn Mercedes Smith, a nephew, Keith Alexander Miles (Kaylor), and a host of other relatives and friends.
Dr. Morris took care of all of my family’s medical needs up until he retired from his practice on Sistrunk Blvd (circa 2012). That included my husband Richard and my son Richard II. We never had to pay him anything. It was because of his generosity my family always tried to find ways to show our sincere appreciation for everything he did for us.
“My father, Dr. Mizell was a physician and civil rights activist. Sometimes he would travel out of town for meetings. Often times Dr. Morris was the covering physician when my father would go out if town. Back in those days doctors made house calls.”
‘I remember when he made one of those house calls for me. I was playing outside when I stepped on a nail. Daddy was out of town and he called Dr. Morris to care for me. I think that makes a statement of how much he trusted him. He will be missed by the community,” said Deborah Mizell.