Page 6 - Amarillo Senior Link Magazine Winter 2020- Online Magazine
P. 6

Tom Morris                       Texas Legal Legend and

                                                               Amarillo’s Exemplary


                                                               by Jane Bromley

                                                       them, but the Morrises    “We were doing practice dive-
                                                       surely saw something      bombing runs; I was ‘tail-end
                                                       special in Tom. At        Charlie’. As the eighth plane and
                                                       17, he was named          my plane were making turns, we
                                                       valedictorian of the      collided. He bailed out, . . .  but
                                                       Maypearl High School      I tried to land my plane. I came
                                                       Class of 1937 and         up short and plowed into some
                                                       attended North Texas      pine trees. My plane was totally
                                                       Agricultural College.     destroyed, but I was rescued.
                                                       He graduated with         I had multiple fractures and
                                                       honors from the junior    spent six months in the Navy
                                                       college in May 1939 and   Hospital.” After his release, the
                                                       entered The University    young pilot did a brief refresher
                                                       of Texas Law School       course before being sent to
                                                       in September. The         Wildwood, NJ in December 1943
                                                       dean discouraged him      to join a squadron which was
                                                       because he had only       going aboard the new carrier, the
                                                       two years of college,     USS Ticonderoga. They headed
                                                       “nevertheless, I entered   for the Pacific by way of the
                                                       the Law School, making    Panama Canal in April 1944 and
                    uch has been written               top grades. I was Dean    proceeded to Pearl Harbor in
                    about one of Amarillo’s    Hildebrand’s Quizmaster (Ed.      Hawaii. “About that time, the
            Mfavorite sons, but his            Note: a role awarded to the       Japanese were losing control
            100th birthday provides a perfect   best students.) I was scheduled   of the skies and converted to
            opportunity to celebrate the life   to graduate in May 1942, but     kamikaze tactics. By October, it
            of Tom Morris one more time.       . . . Dec. 7, 1941, everything    was one continuous battle in the
            He is a member of the Greatest     changed.”                         Philippine Sea, the Philippines,
            Generation, but he stands out as                                     the South China Sea, Formosa,
            a leader and a role model, even    He had already enlisted in        and the Inner Japanese Sea.”
            among them. The accomplished       the Navy Air and received a
            lawyer recently sat down and       deferment, but after the attack,   “In January 1945, two kamikaze
            answered questions about his       the Navy directed him to report   bombers struck the Ticonderoga.
            childhood, his successful career   for duty Jan. 2, 1942. “I passed   We lost over 300 personnel, and
            and his WWII experience. The       my solo (flying) test in April    the ship was temporarily out
            perspective of anyone who          and was sent to Pensacola to be   of commission. However, we
            has completed ten decades is       trained as a dive bomber. We had   were able to make it to Ulithi
            worthwhile, but Mr. Morris’        about 75 hours in the “Yellow     (an atoll in the Caroline Islands)
            exceptional life amplifies the     Peril” biplanes . . . and completed   for temporary repairs and back
            value of his viewpoint.            the training in the summer of     to the U.S. for overhaul. The
                                               ’42.” He went on to train in the   Ticonderoga returned for the
            “I was born in Penelope, Texas,    Vultee Vibrator and the SNJ. “I   battles of Okinawa in the summer
            November 12, 1919, the second of   got my wings in November and      of 1945. Air Group 80 was newly
            six siblings born to James L. and   was sent immediately to Opalaca   organized with four squadrons:
            Alice (Jordan) Morris, and we all   to complete training for aircraft   36 F10 Bearcat Fighters, 36 F4U4
            grew up in Maypearl, 35 miles      carriers,” then to Jacksonville,   Corsair Fighter Bombers, 36 SB2C
            southwest of Fort Worth.” Every    Florida in December. “That        Dive-Bombers and 18 Gruman
            parent sees potential in their     is where my mid-air collision     Torpedo Planes.”
            child and dreams of greatness for   occurred.”

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