ALAJ Salutes...

Larry Morris

ALEXANDER CITY ---Larry Morris: A lawyer’s-lawyer; a politician’s-politician; a sports fan-sports fan; a story teller’s-story teller.
 
Those are just a few things that come to mind when someone mentions Morris. In legal circles he is known as one of the best trial lawyers in the state; in political circles he is known as a consummate politician, even though he only spent four years in the Alabama Legislature; in sporting arenas he is known as an avid Alabama fan even when the Crimson Tide is losing; and in the circle of story tellers he is a bard of bards.
 
Morris grew up in Montgomery, played all sports at Robert E. Lee High School, and graduated from college before he ever thought of being a lawyer.
 
“I didn’t even know any lawyers, my daddy was a welder,” Morris said. “To tell you the truth I am confident that I was the last person admitted in my law school class.”
 
Morris said he was “encouraged” because of his ability to speak well, a trait he toned at the Capitol Heights Methodist Church.
 
 “Some people learned to sing in the church, I learned how to talk,” he said.
 
After graduating from the University of Alabama Law School in 1968, Morris headed to Alexander City to practice law. He has been there ever since.
 
Over four decades of practice, Morris said he has seen one major change: mediation.
 
“Everybody now tries to get their case settled,” Morris said. “Mediation has taken away the trial skills of lawyers.
 
“Everybody is scared to go to court now because they don’t have the skills to try a case,” he added.
 
Morris tried one of his favorite cases some 30 years ago. An Alexander City man named Durwood Holt had been hit by an uninsured motorist. All four of Mr. Holt’s cars were insured by State Farm. A “crippled up” Mr. Holt went to collect his money from State Farm and he was told he only had $10,000 in coverage, when in fact he was entitled to $40,000 under a practice referred to as “stacking,” which had been approved by the Supreme Court and the Legislature.
 
“At the time it was the purest form of cheating I had ever seen,” Morris remembered. “This was before class action suits but I was able to get in the testimony of other people they had done the same thing to.”
 
“You couldn’t do that now….they have outlawed that every which way to Sunday,” Morris said, laughing out loud.
 
Shortly after moving to Alexander City, Morris tried his hand at politics, and was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives. He was one of 76 new members elected to the House of Representatives. There are a total of 105 members of the House and it was the largest freshman class in the history of the state.
 
All of the freshmen got together and decided they had a majority, and rather than going along with then-Governor George C. Wallace’s choice for speaker, they would pick their own speaker. The group chose Morris.
 
“The next morning I got a call from Governor Wallace inviting me to have lunch,” Morris said. “I had never met Wallace and had never been to the Governor’s Mansion.
 
“I got there and we talked,” he said. “He (Wallace) promised me a parking pass and a good seat in the chamber if I would support (Joe) McCorquodale.
 
“Wallace had just been shot, it was a pretty big deal for me to get invited to have lunch at the governor’s mansion, so I sold out,” he said, still chuckling over his naivety.
 
That might have been Morris’ first trip to the mansion, but certainly not his last. He lost an election to the state senate and returned to the full-time practice of law. He then began a different political journey that would make him a major behind-the-scene player in local, state, and national Democratic Party circles.
 
“I grew up in the 60s when there was a lot of change going on,” Morris said. “My family had all been Democrats.
 
“I think I am a Democrat for many of the same reasons I am a trial lawyer,” he added. “I have a strong sense of protecting the nobodies….rather than the some bodies.
 
”I have much more in common with the nobodies than I am with people who have Roman numerals after their names,” he said.
 
Morris is one of few trial lawyers who have served as president of both the then-Alabama Trial Lawyers Association and the Alabama State Bar. He has remained very active in both associations because he sees both as a way to educate the public about the legal profession. He also is the president of the Alabama Law Foundation
 
In his spare time, Morris enjoys playing golf, living and boating on Lake Martin, reading the biographies and autobiographies of former presidents, and collecting and studying fine wine. He is a huge fan of all television sporting events, of MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann, and the New York Times.
 
He and his wife Beverly have four children and five grandchildren. four boys and a girl.
 
About his grandchildren, Morris said: “God, I never dreamed how much fun they would be.”
 
He also enjoys “holding court,” telling stories that captivate young lawyers and still make the old timers laugh. Much like “fishing tales” the stories may have grown over the years but no doubt are rooted in truth, a life-changing event or trip, his first meeting with a legendary governor, the good old days….and so much more.
 
When asked about retiring, Morris is quick to say he has no intention of putting up his law books.
 
“Everybody talks about it (retiring),” he said. “But honestly I don’t consider what I do work...this is what I want to do.
 
“I can’t fix things…I don’t know how to put things together…I know how to be a lawyer,” he said.
 
Yes you do. And for that you are our Champion of Justice.