Allen R. Morris
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2011)|
|Allen R. Morris|
|Born||Allen Robert Morris
April 23, 1954
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Melinda Baldwin (1991–present)|
Asher Allen Morris
Sarah Elizabeth Dieter
Hannah Claire Morris
Noah Collins Morris
Allen Robert Morris (born April 23, 1954), is a television producer/director/writer. His professional career began when he and his twin sister, as teenagers, provided the voices and operated puppets on a local children’s television show, "Through Magic Doorways". This experience led to a job at a small market station in Lufkin, Texas, KTRE-Channel 9, owned by the Buford brothers of Tyler, Texas. His varied experiences there included sweeping the studio and running a studio camera; shooting and editing news film; learning production techniques on local television commercials; obtaining a 1st Class FCC Engineering license; and finally, directing the nightly newscast. Still in his teens, this was the first step on a professional journey across the globe.
Allen Morris was born in Dallas, Texas, the son of the late Robert Leonard Morris (August 29, 1920 – October 17, 2010) and Ora Lee (née Marlin, born May 9, 1921). He was born eight minutes before his sister Myra, who often says she gave Allen his first big push in the world, because she "was tired of being womb mates".  Other siblings include an older brother (Dalton, born January 1, 1951) and a younger sister (Brenda, born April 22, 1956). The children grew up in Glen Oaks, then a new neighborhood of the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. Their family was one of the first to move in. The children attended Mark Twain Elementary, located directly across the street from the Morris’ house.
It was like having an enormous playground in our front yard. A few blocks away were ‘The Woods,’ an undeveloped area where we neighborhood boys created bike trails in the hills among the cedar trees. Crystal Creek wound its way through the neighborhood, providing a place for all sorts of childhood adventures. We played Tarzan swinging from ropes tied to the oak trees, pretended to be explorers cutting fossils out of the quartz and limestone walls surrounding the creek, or went skinny-dipping in the large pond formed at the base of the ‘Twin Falls.’ It was a different time. The neighborhood was our private world, and our imaginations turned it into whatever we wanted it to be. Our parents never worried about their children’s safety. It was a time when they didn’t need to. 
Morris’ interest in television started as a child growing up during the Golden Age of Television. His earliest television memories are of Howdy Doody. At the young age of six, he paid attention to the Kennedy-Nixon debates when the networks pre-empted regular programming. He had nightmares about missiles from Cuba obliterating his world. Later, the coverage of the Kennedy assassination fascinated the nine-year old to the point that he credits that tragic event with his becoming a lifelong “news junkie.” Throughout the decade, television continued bringing the events of the world into his home – The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Goldwater vs. Johnson, Vietnam, the Watts race riots in the summer of 1965, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and one small step for man.
In 1968, prompted by the desire to retire from the rat race and facilitated by an offer for his father to open a store selling stereos and sewing machines and to build a coin-operated car wash, the family moved to Lufkin, a small town in East Texas.
- "At the time, it was like moving to Mayberry. The town had a slower pace and friendly people. It proved to be an auspicious move, providing the opportunity to spend more time with my father." 
Morris spent his formative adolescent years attending Lufkin High School and working in his father’s store after school. From his father, he learned the fine art of salesmanship. On the weekends, he worked at the car wash cleaning the bays, making change and frequently sitting on a rail sunning while reading a book. He has often said his childhood was like growing up in Disneyland.
- "I saw my parents argue once. It lasted about fifteen seconds; the most terrifying fifteen seconds of my life." 
Morris graduated Lufkin High School in 1972 among the top ten percent of his class.
The original plan was to attend Baylor University on a music scholarship. However, planning to major in chemistry and go into pre-med, Morris did not have time in his freshman schedule for music and neglected to sign up for any music courses. Instead, he enrolled in Angelina Junior College, where he could keep his job at KTRE, studying the sciences and becoming involved with the theatre department.
As a college student, Morris was able to take advantage of his early broadcasting experience by supervising a practicum course in radio/TV/film, for which he received full course credit. This course entailed students from nearby Stephen F. Austin State University doing their coursework at the Channel 9 studios, using the facilities there to develop the film and edit a five program wildlife series under the tutelage of their professor Paul Potter. It was during the second year of college that Morris produced an hour-long television special featuring music and theatre students from SFASU entitled "A Journey Through Christmas". The program aired two years consecutively on two of the Buford-owned television stations in Tyler and Lufkin.
In the fall of 1974, Morris entered SFASU and graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre and Communications.
Going to the Majors
After graduating college, Morris’ First Class FCC license helped him get a job at KDOG-TV in Houston. With the license, he could sign on the transmitter log and edit using the RCA TEP Editor because both the editor and the transmitter monitor were located in the main control room. At KDOG, he edited national television commercials for Ford, Ultrabrite Toothpaste, and others.
The first national spot he edited for J. Walter Thompson’s client, Ford Trucks, eventually won the Grand Prix at the Houston Advertising Awards and ultimately went on to win a Clio Award. In his second year with KDOG, Morris became the producer of the all-night show, Paws for the Night and hired Houston radio personality Roger Gray as the host. The show was primarily an all night movie showcase that also featured celebrity interviews, trivia games and performances by local bands and comedians. Morris used the programs to create performance opportunities for theatre students from the University of Houston. Among the students appearing in the comedy skits for Paws for the Night (who went on to achieve success in theatre, broadcasting or film) were Brett Cullen, Tim Arrington and Robin Mosley.
A second program was an early-morning children’s show called #26 Morning Place, which was hosted by rotating pairs of eight children. Primarily a showcase for cartoons, the program used segments between the cartoons for the hosts to perform educational skits, read mail from viewers and show film clips from "field trips" featuring all of the hosts together on location. These trips highlighted places of interest to children throughout the viewing area: a visit to the zoo or a trip to Galveston or to the San Jacinto Monument.
In 1977, Morris co-wrote, produced and acted in a pilot for a situation comedy entitled They’d Hang you in Nashville, based on the play by college classmate William K. Gleason. He managed to get an appointment with Grant Tinker at MTM to show this project.
After watching about five minutes of the program, Tinker asked, “How did you get an appointment with me?” and then advised Morris to throw it in the Los Angeles River on his way out of town. Tinker then proceeded to give advice about the business of developing programs for television.
Despite Tinker not liking the pilot, he told Morris to keep the appointments he had with other producers in town; then, report back to him with their reactions.
- "It was one of the most productive weeks I ever had because I was learning first-hand from pros about what the networks were looking for, and I learned the number one rule of producing: Never use your own money!"
Metromedia bought KDOG and renamed it KRIV. Morris began working as the Interim Program Director, responsible for acquiring syndicated programming and doing ratings analysis for the station. To increase the station’s profile among the minority community, he initiated two public affairs programs for Metromedia: Herencia, a weekly Spanish language program that explored issues of relevance to Houston’s growing Hispanic community; and The Black Voice, a panel discussion format focused on issues concerning Houston’s black community and involvement in city government.
During the 1979-81 baseball seasons, Metromedia contracted Morris as road producer for the Houston Astros. He traveled with the team producing the road games and learned the intricacies of directing baseball for television from industry veterans Joe O’Rourke from Boston and Bob Hiestand from Los Angeles. The play-by-play announcers were Gene Elston and Dewayne Staats. Morris’ first season with the team was also the first season former Astros pitcher Larry Dierker was in the booth as color commentator for the games. Morris and Dierker became friends while traveling on the road together.
When his baseball contract with Metromedia expired, Morris was invited by future Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, (an old friend and former colleague at KTRE) to re-join Buford Television at KLTV-Channel 7 in Tyler, Texas, as Operations Manager and Director of Creative Services. Morris made a mark there by developing a commercial production department for the station, winning the first of more than a hundred Telly Awards and getting recognition from The Clio Awards for a United Way campaign. He also developed local programming: “THE 5 O’CLOCK SHOW,” and a series of live broadcast specials for the Annual Rose Festival Parade, local college and high school sports and a political rally during the 1980 elections. In 1982, Morris was called in as a last minute replacement to direct the live camera feed of a production of "MOVIE STAR," a musical review produced by Bob Mackie and Ray Aghayan. The production was mounted at the Studios at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas, and was a charity fund-raising event hosted by Larry Hagman. At this event, Morris was reunited with college acquaintance Brad Maule who was a member of the cast.
In 1984, Morris joined The Renard Group Advertising agency as Executive Vice President and Creative Director. He was responsible for developing communications, marketing and advertising plans for the agency’s clients.
At the same time, he began Fox Group Productions. From 1984 until 1992, his production company produced the Garner Ted Armstrong Show, a weekly evangelistic television program shown in 75 markets across the United States and Canada. The company also developed and produced thirty-nine installments of Young Country, a weekly country music program shot live on locations ranging from Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth to The Oil Palace in Tyler. The format featured interviews with current country singing stars and the week’s top music videos.
Back to the Majors
Richard Kidd Productions
The next move blended his broadcasting background with the business community. He joined Richard Kidd Productions (RKP) in Dallas as Executive Producer and Creative Director. In this role, Morris developed formats for satellite-delivered programs for corporate clients. During his tenure with RKP, he continued to produce and direct television commercials for clients and continued to develop documentary projects. He also began producing live events for corporations; developing the staging and directing “corporate theatre” for incentive programs, sales conventions and customer appreciation events.
When RKP sold in 1995 to Caribiner International, at the time the world’s largest corporate communications company, Morris stayed on as Executive Creative Director and Executive Producer for their Houston and Dallas offices.
In 1998, Morris and two colleagues broke away from Caribiner and formed Extreme Corporate Communications in Houston. The company was a partnership with Bill Young Productions and had soundstage and editing facilities in the Studios at the Lakes Complex. During this time, Morris produced three Emmy-winning projects. Two were documentaries The Faces of Arthritis and Hannah Morris: Kids Get Arthritis, Too and a public service spot "Don’t Say No Tonight-Aids Awareness".
The success of Extreme led to the creation of Belay Media Solutions, a WBEA certified company specializing in Corporate Communications activities for clients including those in the energy sector, insurance and finance, and computer manufacturing. Working with Danny Ward and Nancy Ames of Ward & Ames Special Events, and with producer Rick Cortright at Texas Video & Post, a rival production company, Morris co-directed, wrote and produced "One Houston united: The Night the Rains Came", a short feature detailing the devastation brought about by Tropical Storm Allison and its effect on people in the community. The feature was used in the opening segment and to promote the "ONE HOUSTON UNITED" telethon hosted by Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black (both Houston-area natives) and included performances from Pat Green, Lyle Lovett, Rodney Crowell, La Mafia and others. The event, under the auspices of United Way of The Texas Gulf Coast, was simulcast on local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, WB and Telemundo, raising over $3.5 million for the benefit of storm victims. The feature won the 2002 National Public and Community Service Emmy Award.
Belay Media went into partnership with Houston’s VT2 Media and Design in 2002, becoming one of the largest production and post-production facilities in Houston. As a partner in the venture, Morris served as the VP of Production and Operations for VT2’s Corporate Communications projects, managing all budgets and personnel.
VT2 Studios was involved in the development of television programming, commercial production for ad agencies, development of music direct marketing with major recording labels, creative design for 3D animation and print. Among other productions, the company produced television commercials and opening sequences for sporting event broadcasts and network and local station identification packages. A significant project was the facility's use by CBS Sports as their local home base for producing coverage of Super Bowl XXXVIII.
VT2 Studios and Belay Media co-produced a reality pilot for Music World Entertainment entitled Project Popstar. As Producer and Director, Morris worked closely with Executive Producer Mathew Knowles (Beyoncé’s father) on this project.
Morris' most recently released documentary is One Man, Four Lives, which hit the festival circuit in 2013. Its first showing was named among the Best of the Fest at the Downtown Tyler Film Festival. The documentary tells the story of William J. Morgan, who survived the Holocaust by adopting different identities, ultimately migrating to the United States where he became a successful businessman. Morgan was the founder of the Houston Holocaust Museum.
In 2010, he completed the first installment of the series People who make a difference: Dr. Emil J Freireich, Father of Clinicial Cancer Research, about a doctor who along with Dr. Emil Frei helped discover the cure for childhood leukemia and developed the first successful multiple combination drug therapy for treatment of cancer (Chemotherapy). This project was initially released on the Internet through YouTube in 2012.
In 2009, Morris finished The Re-enactors of San Jacinto, a project started in 2001 that follows the people who bring the reenactment of the Battle of San Jacinto to life for the benefit of visitors to the San Jacinto Monument. The documentary was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Sound Editing. The eighteen minute battle won Texas independence from Mexico in 1836. This project was originally shown on KUHT, the first PBS station in the United States and is sold at the bookstore located at the San Jacinto Monument. The documentary was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Sound Editing.
His career has afforded Morris the opportunity to work all over the world. He has produced projects in Europe, the Middle East, the South Pacific and South America. On location in Egypt in 1986, Morris produced and directed a documentary for the Texas Endowment for Humanities entitled, Alexandria: Monument to Civilization. As they chronicled the influence of the ancient city of Alexandria on the cultural development of western civilization, Morris and crew received unprecedented access to archaeological sites throughout the country.
In 1991, during the Gulf War, Allen Morris and crew traveled to Israel with evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong. They came back with one of the first American media interviews in which Yitzhak Rabin said he would consider a “land for peace” initiative. They conducted interviews with both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He wrote and produced two South American projects in the mid 90’s. One was a documentary about the global effort involved in building the world’s largest methane plant at Punta Arenas, located at the southernmost tip of Chile. The other was a chronicle about the efforts taken to preserve the pristine and fragile ecosystem of the Bolivian rain forest while drilling for oil.
Throughout his career, Morris has maintained a commitment to community service. He first became involved in community service projects through a program called "Teens aid the retarded" as a junior high school student. This led to a lifelong involvement with community service organizations.
Among the boards and organizations he has served are: United Way, YMCA, Crime Stoppers, and Arthritis Foundation; has been an advisor to organizations including The Boy Scouts of America, Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, The Texas State School System and the Foster Grandparents Program; has been a sponsor and counselor for Explorer’s Scouting and Junior Achievement.
In addition to this service, he has frequently produced marketing materials, broadcast public service announcements and various fund raising projects in support of Aids Foundation, Arthritis Foundation, United Way, Spay-Neuter Assistance Program, Camp Fire, Boy Scouts of America, Variety Club, YMCA and dozens of other organizations. In February 2010, he directed the live camera coverage of the 100th Anniversay Celebration of the Boy Scouts in America, sponsored by the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts. The event was staged at the Minute Maid Park baseball stadium and was attended by some 30,000 scouts and their families.
During his 40+-year career, Morris estimates his pro bono work creating live events, films and videos helped generate over $50 million for various community organizations.
- "I can't prove it, but I think somewhere around $50 million is probably an accurate amount of money raised on the many pro bono projects I have helped with over the years." 
As of November 2013, Morris still serves on the board of the Lone Star Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and produces and directs their annual awards presentation.
He is also serving as the Co-Chair for the Visual Communications Curriculum Advisory Board for the Lone Star College System, which has seven campuses and is the fastest growing junior college system in Texas. A significant project with the college district was developing a student internship program in which students participate in the development and production of a monthly television program for the City of Houston. The program covers news and features about the airports and transportation industry in Houston, a program that is web cast on fly2houston.com and shown on the city’s Public-access television cable TV channel.
A great believer in mentorship, Morris established internship programs at every company where he has worked and has been involved in developing the skills and talents of the young people at those organizations. He is a frequent guest presenter at high school career days and a guest lecturer and project advisor for college classes in the fields of theatre, communications and radio/TV/film.
Honors and Awards
Morris’ work has been honored with Emmy Awards five times; one national Emmy Award and 4 regional Emmy’s.
Next to those awards on his mantle are Addy Awards, awards from The American Marketing Association, The Associated Press, The Broadcast Marketing Association, The Clio Awards, The Country Music Association of America, The Dallas Press Club Katie Awards, The International Association of Business Communicators, The National Association of Television Programming Executives, The New York Festivals, The Telly Awards, The Texas Public Relations Society and others.
In 2009, he was named Humanitarian of the Year for his devoted work with Houston’s Children’s Assessment Center.
"Caribiner International, Inc.," New York Times, December 21, 1996, p. 39. Denitto, Emily, "Meeting the Street: Little-Known Planning Firm's IPO Stars," Crain's New York Business, April 14, 1997, pp. 3–4.