In the eastern coalfield of Kentucky “we mountain folk” are proud of our family name and from where we hail. Who we are and the character we cherish is often the direct reflection of the heritage, values and experiences we shared with our parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. The name Vic Morris is one that is immediately known to the residents of Cumberland, Kentucky, Harlan County and even more so to sports fans in the Commonwealth.
His notoriety is such because there isn’t a single person who walked the halls of Cumberland Elementary School, Cumberland High School or played basketball or baseball that didn’t realize, in time, that Vic Morris was indeed unique.
As a student himself he was a stand-out baseball player who went on to play baseball as as an “Indian” at Cumberland College in Williamsburg. While at Cumberland he became the first All-American in baseball history. His children, like their father, all were athletically inclined. Even his grandchildren have excelled in their athletic pursuits. After college Vic returned to Harlan County beginning and finishing his educational career impacting lives by simply living out his Christian faith and by striving to make a difference.
What made Vic Morris unique as an educator was that he could be and often was firm, tough and a no-nonsense kind of teacher, but that was not the totality of Vic Morris. What made him unique and even extraordinary was alongside his firmness was a genuine care to see everyone succeed. He believed that young people could succeed and that the role adults played was to believe, support and encourage students to dream and dream big. As a student growing up I knew when someone really wanted the best for me and when their words were from their heart and life of experience. I first met Vic and his wife Lunelle 33 years ago while attending Cumberland College in Williamsburg. Because of Richie and our friendship I met Lewis, Amy and Daniel too. I am grinning ear to ear as I write that my life has never been the same either.
Real friendships are few and building such a relationship takes time and commitment. Vic and Lunelle Morris were a special couple for many reasons. As husband and wife they complimented each other. If one of them was talking with you the other one would soon be there to say hello with a handshake, hug and a smile. Like many parents if you loved or liked their kids then they loved and liked you back. What you might not be expecting was the second part of that love and liking. It also meant that they would substitute for your parents, keeping you in line and watching out for your well being too. I can hear Vic now seeing me and greeting me with a big “Hobart.” It was the sound of friendship that now is a precious memory.
Follow Tim Mills on Twitter @THMills.