Stanford Morse

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Stanford Everett Morse, Jr.
Mississippi State Senator from Harrison and Stone counties
In office
1956–1964
Personal details
Born (1926-05-31)May 31, 1926
Gulfport, Harrison County
Mississippi, USA
Died February 28, 2002(2002-02-28) (aged 75)
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican (1963)
Spouse(s) Sally Ann Reilly Morse
Children

Stanford E. Morse, III

Joseph Reilly Morse
Parents

Stanford E. Morse, Sr.

Ernestine Neuhardt Morse
Residence Gulfport, Mississippi
Alma mater

University of Mississippi

University of Mississippi School of Law
Occupation Lawyer

Stanford Everett Morse, Jr. (May 31, 1926 – February 28, 2002), was a lawyer from Gulfport, Mississippi, and a two-term Democratic member of the Mississippi State Senate. In April 1963, he switched to Republican affiliation to run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor on the ticket headed by Rubel Phillips. A former Democratic member of the Mississippi Public Service Commission from Corinth, Phillips also changed parties in 1963 in a bid to become his state's first GOP governor since Reconstruction.

Background[edit]

Morse was born in Gulfport to the attorney Stanford E. Morse, Sr. (1900–1964), a native of Wesson in Copiah County in southwestern Mississippi, and Ernestine Neuhardt Morse (1905–1932), originally from Memphis, Tennessee. Her father was George E. Neuhart, a native of Ohio who was an attorney and a judge in Memphis. Mrs. Morse left behind two six-year-old sons when she died at the age of twenty-seven. The senior Morse had relocated in 1922 from the capital city of Jackson to Gulfport. He became a partner in the legal firm of Ford, White, and Morse, which operated from the Abstract Building in Gulfport. After twelve years as a widower, the senior Morse married a widow, Wilhelmina Sewell Roberts Sherrill (1895–1982). She was the daughter of a physician, William J. Roberts, who later practiced medicine in rural Colfax in Grant Parish in north central Louisiana. She was known in her later years as Billie R. Morse. The wedding ceremony was held at her home in Pass Christian in Harrison County on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.[1]

Stanford Morse, Jr., and his twin brother, George E. Morse (1926–2003),[2] graduated in 1947 from the University of Mississippi at Oxford[3] They received their law degrees from the University of Mississippi School of Law and became lifelong law partners.[1]

With their father's second marriage, Stanford and George Morse acquired a step-brother, Hugh Virgil Sherrill (1920–2010), a graduate of Yale University and a decorated United States Navy pilot in World War II who destroyed four Japanese fighter planes on February 17, 1945, in an air battle over Tokyo Bay. Later a lawyer and businessman in New York City. Sherrill married Betty Stevens (born 1924), a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and subsequently for many years a New York businesswoman and socialite.[1][4][5]

Stanford Morse, Jr., married Sally Anne Reilly (born 1927). Their younger son, Joseph Reilly Morse (born c. 1957), is a former municipal judge in Gulfport and a public interest attorney in Biloxi with the Mississippi Center for Justice.[6][7] Their older son is Stanford, III (born 1954), who has worked for Coastal Images USA.[8]

Political life[edit]

Morse admitted early in his campaign that he was an underdog to the Democratic nominee Carroll Gartin of Laurel in Jones County in southeastern Mississippi. Gartin had already served as lieutenant governor from 1952 to 1960 but had lost the primary for governor against Ross Barnett in 1959. Morse described the "national Republican Party [as] closer to my political philosophy than the national Democratic party." He predicted that the nation would remain within a two-party system and that Mississippians had become disillusioned with their past allegiance to the Democrats. "Our problems won't be solved by secession," he said, in explaining his opposition to a third party or an unpledged elector slate, which Mississippi supported in 1960 against both Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican nominee Richard M. Nixon. Morse said that national Republicans "will at least listen to our views." Morse said that the election of the Phillips-Morse ticket would also show that the American South is interested in the GOP.[9] In his announcement of candidacy for lieutenant governor, Morse decried President Kennedy's intervention in the desegregation of Ole Miss as "the second occupation of U.S. troops."[10]

Phillips and Morse attracted attention because of the novelty of running on the Republican ticket in Mississippi, at the time a monolithic stronghold of the Democratic Party for nearly a century. Phillips vowed to "K.O. the Kennedys", whom he blamed as dependent on electoral vote from the Solid South. The New York Times denounced the Phillips-Morse ticket:

The GOP is picking up recruits in the South, but in the case of some of them, it ought to charge admission. ... One of the best things that could happen to American politics would be the development of a genuine two-party system in the South, and everything that can properly be done to encourage the growth of Republican strength in that area would be welcomed. It is evident, however, that the acquisition of Mr. Phillips and Mr. Morse constitutes a highly questionable Republican gain. ... If the Republican Party is going to have its banner in the South carried by opponents of constitutional rights for Negroes, it can kiss good-bye to some millions of votes in the West and North.[11]

Oddly, Morse in 1959 had managed the Democratic gubernatorial campaign in Harrison County that year of Carroll Gartin, his 1963 opponent for lieutenant governor, who was defeated that year by Ross Barnett.[12] A principal Democratic spokesman in the 1963 campaign, Barnett referred to the gubernatorial election of 1876, when Democrats "had gathered the courage to send the Republicans where they belong; once again, we are calling on Mississippi Democrats to push out this Republican threat. ...[13] Barnett added that he personally was "fed up with these fence-riding, pussy-footing, snow-digging Yankee Republicans," an apparent reference to northern transplants relocating to Mississippi."[13]

In a 64 percent turnout, Phillips was defeated by outgoing Lieutenant Governor Paul B. Johnson, Jr., 225,456 votes (62 percent) to 138,515 (38 percent). Gartin polled 258,857 votes (74 percent) to Morse's 90,948 (26 percent) in the race for lieutenant governor. Phillips carried seven counties, ranging from Washington (61 percent) to Jones County (50.6 percent). Phillips received 53 percent in Morse's Harrison County and 44.7 percent in both his native Alcorn County and in Hinds County, which includes Jackson, where he spent the major part of his life. Three Republicans won election to the legislature in 1963, Charles K. Pringle of Biloxi and Lewis Leslie McAllister, Jr., of Meridan, both in the state House, and Seelig Wise, a cotton and soybean farmer from Coahoma County, who was elected to the state Senate seat based about Clarksdale in northwestern Mississippi.[14]

In his 1967 gubernatorial race against U.S. Representative John Bell Williams, then of Mississippi's 3rd congressional district, Phillips abandoned his previous conservative positions and ran as a Rockefeller Republican, even carrying the endorsement of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller of neighboring Arkansas. Phillips had no running mate in 1967, and Morse endorsed Williams. Phillips later said that the GOP did not at the time realize the long-range importance of offering full candidate slates. By that time Wirt Yerger of Jackson had resigned as the first modern Mississippi state Republican chairman and had been succeeded by Clarke Reed of Greenville.[15] The unopposed Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 1967, Charles L. Sullivan of Clarksdale, had defeated in his party's primary Governor Paul Johnson, Phillips' opponent in 1963, who ran in 1967 for his former post of lieutenant governor. At the time Mississippi governors could not succeed themselves but could sit out a term and enter the next race four years later.[16]

After his political career, Morse and his brother devoted their time to the law practice. While he had been a state senator, Morse wrote the legislation creating the Harrison County Development Commission. Thereafter he was the commission attorney for more than twenty years.[7] Morse received only $250 per month for his legal fees from the commission, an amount the Democrats in the campaign of 1963 called excessive. Morse accused former Lieutenant Governor Bidwell Adam, a Democrat and a leading spokesman for Paul Johnson, of being "the biggest liar in Mississippi".[17] Adam warned with considerable accuracy the Democratic officeholders in Mississippi that a strong showing by Phillips and Morse would encourage Republicans to mount future races on a regular basis and in time threaten the state's then solidly Democratic congressional delegation, particularly rich in seniority.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Stanford Morse". Biloxi Historical Society. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ "George E. Morse". findagrave.com. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ "University of Mississippi (Class of 1947)". e-yearbook.com. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  4. ^ "New York Social Diary: Betty Sherrill". New York Social Diary. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  5. ^ George Morse outlived his brother Stanford by some nineteen months; their step-brother outlived them both. Stanford Morse, Sr., his second wife Wilhelmina, and son George Morse, and his wife, Nancy Wood Morse (1930–2006), are interred at Live Oak Cemetery in Pass Christian, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The first wife of Morse, Sr., and the mother of George Morse is interred at the large Evergreen Cemetery in Gulfport. The author is unable to find the location of the grave of Stanford Morse, Jr.; he is not listed in either the Live Oak or Evergreen cemeteries. Perhaps he was cremated.
  6. ^ "Reilly Morse". zoominfo.com. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Reilly Morse: "A Call for Accountable Development at HCDC"". gulfcoastnews.com. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Stanford E. Morse". intelius.com. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  9. ^ Greenville Delta Democrat Times, July 26, 1963, p. 1
  10. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Challenging the Status Quo: Rubel Lex Phillips and the Mississippi Republican Party (1963–1967)", The Journal of Mississippi History XLVII, November 1985, No. 4, p. 242-243
  11. ^ The New York Times, March 30, 1963
  12. ^ "Challenging the Status Quo", p. 247
  13. ^ a b "Challenging the Status Quo," pp.247–248
  14. ^ State of Mississippi, Election Statistics, 1963
  15. ^ "Challenging the Status Quo," p. 258
  16. ^ "Challenging the Status Quo", p. 259
  17. ^ "Challenging the Status Quo", p. 252
  18. ^ "Challenging the Status Quo", p. 245