John Baptist Morris

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Most Reverend
John Baptist Morris
Bishop of Little Rock
John Baptist Morris, Bishop of Little Rock.jpg
Church Roman Catholic Church
See Little Rock
In office February 21, 1907—October 22, 1946
Predecessor Edward Fitzgerald
Successor Albert Lewis Fletcher
Ordination June 11, 1892
Consecration June 11, 1906
Personal details
Born (1866-06-29)June 29, 1866
Hendersonville, Tennessee
Died October 22, 1946(1946-10-22) (aged 80)
Little Rock, Arkansas
Previous post Coadjutor Bishop of Little Rock (1906-1907)

John Baptist Morris (June 29, 1866 – October 22, 1946) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Little Rock from 1907 until his death in 1946.


John Morris was born in Hendersonville, Tennessee, to John and Anne (née Morrissey) Morris, who were Irish immigrants.[1] After graduating from St. Mary's College in Lebanon, Kentucky, he began his studies for the priesthood in 1887 at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.[1] While in Rome, he was ordained a priest by Cardinal Lucido Parocchi on June 11, 1892.[2] Morris, following his return to Tennessee, was named rector of St. Mary's Cathedral in Nashville and private secretary to Bishop Thomas Sebastian Byrne.[1] In 1901 he became vicar general of the Diocese of Nashville.[3] He was later raised to the rank of a Domestic Prelate of His Holiness in 1905.[3]

On April 18, 1906, Morris was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Titular Bishop of Acmonia by Pope Pius X.[2] He received his episcopal consecration on the following June 11 from Bishop Byrne, S.M., with Bishops Edward Patrick Allen and Nicholas Aloysius Gallagher serving as co-consecrators, at St. Mary's Cathedral.[2] He was the first native Tennessean to be elevated to the Catholic episcopacy.[1] Upon the death of Bishop Edward Fitzgerald, Morris succeeded him as the third Bishop of Little Rock on February 21, 1907.[2]

Morris opened Little Rock College for Boys in 1908 at a cost of $50,000; and St. Joseph's Orphanage, which was completed at a cost of $150,000 and placed under the care of the Benedictine Sisters, in 1910.[3] He presided over the first diocesan synod in February 1909, and established the first school for Catholic teachers during the following June.[3] In 1911 he founded St. John Home Missions Seminary in 1911; Morris considered the seminary as the greatest accomplishment of his nearly 40-year-long tenure.[4] That same year he established the diocesan newspaper, The Southern Guardian.[4] He erected parishes for African Americans in El Dorado, Fort Smith, Helena, Hot Springs, Lake Village, Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pine Bluff;[4] he also opened an African American orphanage at Pine Bluff, which lasted from 1932 to 1937.[1] He founded a school for boys near Searcy under the care of Poor Brothers of St. Francis, as well as a school for wayward girls run by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Hot Springs.[4]

Morris was confronted with a resurgence of anti-Catholicism early in his tenure, and during World War I many German American Catholics and German-speaking priests in Arkansas found themselves under suspicion.[1] The Bishop, who was strongly patriotic and sold bonds during the war, helped mitigate such bigotry through his friendship with Arkansas politician Joseph Taylor Robinson.[1] Despite the financial hardships of the Great Depression, he raised $20,000 to purchase an organ for the St. Andrew's Cathedral. Morris opened Catholic High School for Boys in 1930, and was named an Assistant at the Pontifical Throne the following year.[5] During World War II, he publicly condemned anti-Semitism following the Kristallnacht attacks in November 1938.[1]

Morris received Albert Lewis Fletcher as an auxiliary bishop in 1940.[6] During his tenure, he increased the number of priests from 60 to 154, and the number of schools from 29 to 80; by 1940, the diocese contained over 33,000 Catholics and 125 churches.[4] Morris later died at the rectory of St. Andrew's Cathedral,[1] aged 80. He is buried in the crypt under the Cathedral.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "John Baptist Morris (1866–1946)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Bishop John Baptist Morris". [self-published source]
  3. ^ a b c d "Little Rock". Catholic Encyclopedia. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Most Rev. John B. Morris". Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock. Archived from the original on 2010-10-11. 
  5. ^ Curtis, Georgina Pell and Benedict Elder. "Morris, MOST REV. JOHN BAPTIST". The American Catholic Who's Who. 
  6. ^ "Bishop Albert Lewis Fletcher". [self-published source]
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Edward Fitzgerald
Bishop of Little Rock
Succeeded by
Albert Lewis Fletcher