Morris "Morrie" Thompson (September 11, 1939 – January 31, 2000) was an Alaska Native leader, American businessman and political appointee working on matters related to Alaska Natives. Thompson was best known as the official in charge of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the U.S. state of Alaska during the 1970s, and later as head of Doyon, Limited, the Alaska Native Regional Corporation for Interior Alaska. Following his retirement from Doyon, while returning to Alaska from vacationing in Mexico, Thompson died, along with his wife and one of his three daughters, in the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261.
Early life and career
Morris Thompson was born on September 11, 1939 in Tanana, Alaska, the son of Warren H. Thompson, a white man originally from Indiana, and his wife Alice (née Grant), a Koyukon Athabaskan. Thompson graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka and attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks as a civil engineering major. "Morrie" married Thelma Mayo of Rampart on October 5, 1963 in Tanana, then obtained a job at RCA's Gilmore Creek Satellite Tracking Station near Fairbanks in 1964 after attending an RCA electrical technician school in Los Angeles, California.
In 1966, Thompson met Walter Hickel, an Anchorage businessman who was running for governor at the time; Morris volunteered to work on Hickel's campaign in Fairbanks and the Interior. As a result Thompson became Governor Hickel's deputy director of the Rural Development Agency. The next year as executive director of Hickel's North Commission, Thompson began working on a network of transportation routes to open rural Alaska to development.
When President Nixon named Hickel to serve as Secretary of the Interior in 1969, Thompson went to Washington, D.C., as special assistant for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1970, young Thompson became the Bureau of Indian Affairs Area Director in Juneau. In both Interior jobs, Thompson was deeply involved in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act adopted in December 1971. Thompson served as the youngest Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs at 34 years of age.
In 1981, Morris Thompson went to work for Doyon, Limited, his ANCSA Regional Corporation. Originally hired as a Vice-President, he became Doyon's President and Chief Officer in 1985, when Doyon Ltd. had an operating loss of $28 million. When he retired in 2000, Doyon was generating $70.9 million in annual revenues, had 900 employees and 14,000 shareholders. Morris Thompson was widely recognized in Alaska as a Native American leader.
At 61 years of age, a resident of Fairbanks, Thompson retired as the President of Doyon. To celebrate his retirement, he went on vacation with his wife Thelma and his daughter Sheryl to Mexico. He died with his wife and daughter in the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 on January 31, 2000 while flying back to the United States.
Thompson's body was buried in Tanana.
Advance fee fraud (419, Nigerian scam) con men used Thompson's name in various scams unrelated to Thompson. The Alaska Federation of Natives altered one of its web pages to warn e-mail users about the scheme.
The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, located at 101 Dunkel Street in downtown Fairbanks and dedicated on August 12, 2008, is named after Thompson.
Prior to this, the University of Alaska Fairbanks had moved its southern access a half-mile to the west, citing problems with the bridge over the Alaska Railroad on the existing access road. The new access road was named Thompson Drive in his honor. Thompson had served on the University of Alaska Board of Regents from 1989 to 1993.
- "Morris Thompson: Alaska business and Native leader used personable style for success." Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer. February 2, 2000. Retrieved on February 23, 2009.
- Atwood, Evangeline; DeArmond, Robert N. (1977). Who's Who in Alaskan Politics. Portland: Binford & Mort for the Alaska Historical Commission. p. 99.
- "Victims of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 remembered." Seattle Times. Wednesday February 2, 2000. Retrieved on February 23, 2009.
- "Morris Thompson." Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center
- Alaska Business Monthly. May 1, 1995.
- "Morris Thompson" at the Wayback Machine (archived April 27, 2003). Alaska Federation of Natives. April 27, 2003. Retrieved on February 23, 2009.
- "Names of those aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 261" at the Wayback Machine (archived January 5, 2008). CNN. Retrieved on April 29, 2009.
- Brook, Jack, Lisa Pemberton-Butler, Ian Ith, Chris Solomon, Mark Rahner, Stuart Eskenazi, Steve Miletich, Eric Sorensen, etc. "Passengers of Flight 261 remembered." The Seattle Times. February 1, 2000. Retrieved on May 2, 2009.
- Verhovek, Sam Howe. "Fate Leads An Airline To Grieve For Itself." The New York Times. February 2, 2000. Retrieved on February 23, 2009.
- "Morris Thompson." Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. Accessed September 9, 2008.
- "Nigerian Advance Fee Scam Customized for Alaska: Morris Thompson variation could be taste of ploys to come." State of Alaska Department of Law. December 13, 2005. Retrieved on February 23, 2009.
- "Email Scam" at the Wayback Machine (archived November 24, 2005). Alaska Federation of Natives.
- Historical listing of UA Regents Retrieved on December 14, 2009