Life and career
Born Augustus Newbold Morris in New York City, Newbold Morris, who never used his first name, descended from the prominent Colonial-era Morris family of the Morrisania section of the Bronx. He was educated at Groton School and at Yale, where he was a member of the Scroll and Key Society.
On August 1, 1942, Morris married Constance Hand, youngest daughter of renowned American judge Learned Hand. The wedding ceremony was performed by Mayor La Guardia in Gracie Mansion. His stepson was actor Richard Jordan.
Morris was a member of the New York City Planning Commission and served as President of the New York City Council from 1938 to 1945 under Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Morris ran for New York City Mayor in 1945 and in 1949. He was instrumental in founding City Center Theater in 1943 and the New York City Opera in 1944. Morris also served as chairman of the board of Lincoln Center.
On February 1, 1952, Morris was appointed Special Assistant Attorney General by Attorney General J. Howard McGrath to investigate possible corruption in the Department of Justice. After Morris distributed a questionnaire to senior justice officials and called for unlimited access to all of McGrath’s personal records, McGrath fired Morris on April 3, 1952. Morris had spent a mere 63 days in the job. A few days later Howard McGrath was forced to resign his position by President Harry Truman.
Morris was appointed Parks Commissioner of New York City by Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr on May 24, 1960, succeeding Robert Moses, who had served as Commissioner for an unprecedented 26 years. In this role, Morris sought to save the famous Doric columns that adorned the main entrance to Penn Station (see New York Times, 20 Feb 1962: "Plan to Save Columns Is Offered"). While Morris, in this respect, served as one of the few dissenting voices during the early planning of the destruction of the first Pennsylvania Station, widely considered to have been in terms of architectural substance an irreversible and traumatic loss to the city, he ultimately failed at preventing the columns from being slated for their ultimate destruction and discarding in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
Sunday folk music was regularly played in Washington Square Park on Sundays until April 9, 1961 when the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Newbold Morris rejected the folkies' application for a permit with no explanation. A riot ensued with many of the folk singers being arrested by police and placed into paddy wagons. Some people suspected that local real estate interests were involved, wanting to rid the park of beatniks and other "undesirables," as some called them. But whether Morris had been influenced by such interests was never determined. The riot and arrests themselves got plenty of newspaper coverage, with one headline proclaiming "3,000 Beatniks Riot in Village." But the hysteria faded quickly.
Morris served as Commissioner until January 15, 1966. He died in New York City two months later.
Morris, cousin of the author Edith Wharton, was also a champion amateur figure-skater.
- "Son Born to Newbold Morrises" The New York Times, May 12, 1944
- Almanac of Famous People, 8th ed. Gale Group, 2003.
- Caro, Robert A., The Power Broker, 1974.
- "Newbold Morris, 64, Is Dead of Cancer" The New York Times, April 1, 1966
|President of the New York City Council
1938 – 1945
Vincent R. Impellitteri
|Party political offices|
|Republican Nominee for Mayor of New York City