School 14

Rev. Dr. Calvin S. Morris

March 16, 1941 ~ September 15, 2023 (age 82) 82 Years Old

Rev. Dr. Calvin Morris Obituary

Civil rights leader, educator and minister, the Rev. Dr. Calvin S. Morris, passed away peacefully on September 15, 2023, at Bethel Oaks Memory Care Home in Viroqua, Wisconsin. 

Calvin Morris provided quiet leadership alongside a number of pillars of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1967, he was tapped by the Rev. Jesse Jackson to become the associate director and national coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket, now the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. As executive director of Atlanta’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change from 1973 to 1976, Morris was again associated with SCLC as he worked directly with Coretta Scott King. Morris was the guest preacher at the 1974 service at Ebenezer Baptist Church during which an assassin killed Alberta King, the mother of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Morris was born on March 16, 1941, to Dorothy Lee Morris and Abner Williams in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended Meade Elementary School and Vaux Junior High School and was awarded a partial scholarship to Friends Select High School, a private Quaker school known for its high standards. One of two black students in his class, Morris graduated with honors in 1959. He then went on to Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, graduating cum laude in 1963 with a B.A. in history. While a student at Lincoln, Morris joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and remained connected to his “Que” brothers throughout his life. At Boston University, he earned an M.A. in history in 1964 and an S.B.T. in theology in 1967. Morris was also ordained in the United Methodist Church.

He had a distinguished career in academia, first serving as coordinator of the African American Studies Program at Simmons College in Boston. In 1976, he began a sixteen-year professional association with Howard University’s School of Divinity during which he worked as Director of Ministries to Church and Society, Director of Field Education and associate professor of pastoral theology.

Morris earned his Ph.D. in American history from Boston University in 1982. He was executive vice president of Academic Services and academic dean at Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta from 1992 to 1998. After leaving university life, he became executive director of Chicago’s Community Renewal Society (CRS) in 1998. At CRS, Morris presided over two publications, a staff of forty-seven and a budget of $4.5 million. He retired in 2012. 

Morris married Judith Anne Kolb in 1966 in Boston, and they had two children together, Dorothy (Dodie) Rebecca Morris and Rachel Elaine Morris, both born in Chicago. Godfather and mentor to many, Morris adored children and doted on his grandchildren, Miranda and Zach, near whom he would live in the years after his Alzheimer's diagnosis until his death. 

Known by many as “Doc,” “Rev,” or his childhood nickname “Mousy,” Morris was revered for his sonorous singing voice, generous heart, joyful spirit, bright smile and love of books and reading. An avid champion of the arts, Morris attended numerous concerts, plays and movies, collected local artwork, and enjoyed dancing, taking long walks in the sunshine, and talking with strangers on trains about history and life.

A life-long activist, Morris remained involved in the community, whether attending political and social events, or singing with friends around town, at Bethel Oaks or his dining room table, always dressed  to the nines from his straw hat down to his polished leather shoes. A true people-person, he would spend countless hours on the phone with cherished family and friends, keeping up to date on growing families and the latest news.

Morris is survived by daughter Dorothy (Dodie) Morris Whitaker, son-in-law Vincent (Gino) Whitaker, ex-wife Judith Kolb Morris, grandchildren Miranda Rachel and Zachary Henry Morris Whitaker, brother Bernard Richardson and “Number-One Cousin” Barbara Hulin Woods, in addition to countless other cousins, nieces, nephews, Godchildren and friends.

He was preceded in death by his youngest daughter Rachel (1971-1994), a devastating loss to their family, as well as mother Dorothy Lee Morris, father Abner Williams, grandmother Ida Lydia Morris, brother Bobby and sister Glenderline.

There will be a celebration of life in Chicago in March 2024. Memorial donations may be made to a favorite charitable institution.


The Roth Family Cremation Center and Funeral Services is assisting the family.



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