Papers, 1861-2011 (bulk 1940-1992), undated, of Senator Robert Burren Morgan, an ECU alumnus and lawyer, who served the state of North Carolina in a variety of elected and appointed positions. His first elected position was clerk of court in Harnett County. He was elected to the State Senate, served as president pro tempore of the Senate, and was twice elected Attorney General of North Carolina. He served in this position until 1974, when he won the United States Senate seat vacated by Senator Samuel James "Sam" Ervin, Jr. Morgan served as United States Senator from 1975 to 1981. He returned to his law practice following an unsuccessful reelection campaign and later served as Director of the State Bureau of Investigation from 1985 until 1992. Morgan served as a member of the ECU Board of Trustees for fifteen years, including nine terms as chair in the 1960s. He helped the institution achieve university status and was instrumental in establishing the ECU School of Medicine. The collection includes series relating to Morgan's family and personal matters, North Carolina Senate Files, Attorney General Files, United States Senate Files, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Files, and Oversized Materials Files. It includes manuscripts, photographs, audio and video materials, electronic records, printed materials, and ephemera.
Senator Robert Burren Morgan was born on 5 October 1925, in Lillington, Harnett County, North Carolina. His parents, James Harvey Morgan and Alice Butts Morgan, were farm owners. Following a public school education, Morgan attended East Carolina University (then East Carolina Teachers College), 1942 – 1944, until he was drafted into the Navy. After World War II ended, Morgan returned to East Carolina Teachers College in 1946, graduating in 1947. He then attended Wake Forest University Law School and, after graduating, in 1950, opened a law practice in Lillington. Morgan specialized in personal injury, real property and antitrust law and soon had a thriving practice. Meanwhile, he was also becoming involved in politics. While he was still in law school, a group of Harnett County Democratic leaders convinced him to run for Clerk of Superior Court. Morgan did so, was elected and served from 1950 – 1954. He service was interrupted when he was recalled to active duty in the Navy during the Korean War, 1952 – 1955. After returning to civilian life, Morgan continued to serve in the Naval Reserve until 1971. He then enlisted in the Air Force Reserve and served from 1971 – 1973.
In 1954, Morgan ran successfully for the North Carolina State Senate and was re-elected regularly until 1966. As a state senator from 1955 - 1969 Morgan became a master of the legislative process and quickly rose through the ranks, obtaining the status of President Pro Tempore in 1965. Morgan developed a reputation as a populist advocate for working people and their interests. He was also a strong supporter of agriculture, education, conservation and the environment. He was an advocate for persons with disabilities and mental health care reform.
In the 1968 primary, Morgan defeated incumbent North Carolina Attorney General Wade Bruton to win the Democratic nomination for Attorney General. He then won election as Attorney General and was re-elected in 1972. As Attorney General from 1969 – 1974, Morgan established an innovative consumer protection office and advocated for lower utility rates. He won passage of the "Little FTC Act" to regulate unfair trade practices in North Carolina. One of Morgan's most notable accomplishments was the reorganization of the Attorney General's office, hiring many new, young lawyers, including the first African-American lawyer to serve in the Attorney General's office. Meanwhile, Morgan also worked to upgrade the training of law enforcement officers and successfully convinced the state legislature to establish a law enforcement training academy and to adopt new standards for officers. In addition, Morgan reformed and modernized the State Bureau of Investigation. While serving as Attorney General, Morgan was also active as a member of the National Association of Attorneys General. In recognition of his national service and for his accomplishments on the state level, the NAAG gave Morgan its Wyman Memorial Award, as the Outstanding Attorney General in the United States in June 1974.
Morgan resigned as Attorney General later in 1974, after winning the Democratic nomination to the United States Senate to succeed retiring Senator Sam J. Ervin. In the general election, he defeated Republican William Stevens by a 61.6% to 37.6% margin. In the Senate, Morgan was named to the important Banking, Armed Services, and Public Works committees; he was also named to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities (Watergate Committee) and the Senate Ethics Committee. As a senator, Morgan was a strong supporter of North Carolina agriculture and other interests; he also was active on issues such as education, health, conservation, energy, finance and banking, foreign policy, economic deregulation, taxes and government efficiency. He served as one of the floor leaders of the successful effort to pass the Anti-Trust Enforcement Act of 1978, an unusual role for a freshman senator. Morgan was a strong supporter of President Jimmy Carter's Panama Canal Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. The Panama Canal Treaty, which passed by a single vote in 1978, became a significant focus of his opponents during the 1980 election. Morgan also served on the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Portrait Gallery Commission.
In the Senate, Morgan continued to support environmental issues, education, mental health, and aid for the disabled. He was also a strong proponent for the Armed Forces, tobacco farmers, and deregulation of the airline, trucking and communication industries. Morgan was narrowly defeated for reelection in 1980 by Professor John East, a member of the ECU Political Science faculty and an ally of North Carolina's Republican Senator Jesse Helms.
Returning to North Carolina in 1981, Morgan resumed his law career and later served as Director of the State Bureau of Investigation, 1985 - 1992. After leaving the SBI in 1992, Morgan retired from public life but he resumed his law practice and continued to be active in social and civic affairs.
In retirement, Morgan remained active and influential in the affairs of ECU as he had been since graduating in 1947. He served as chair of the Alumni Association board for 1958-1959, and served as a member (1958 – 1973) of the Board of Trustees and as chair for nine terms during the 1960s. He served also as a member of the Board of Trustees for Lees-McRae College, in Banner Elk, NC, from 1974 - 1977. He was an important part of the successful campaign to achieve university status for ECU in 1967 and was instrumental in establishing the Brody School of Medicine. In recognition of his contributions, ECU named Morgan Outstanding Alumnus and awarded him the Jarvis Medal and the Alumni Service Award.
Morgan served as chair of the North Carolina Baptist Retirement Homes and was a Deacon of Memorial Baptist Church in Buies Creek, NC, where he worshipped. His faith informed many of his speeches and he spoke frequently of the importance of freedom of religion, the separation of church and state, and on the importance of religious faith in the nation's politics.
Morgan married the former Katie Earle Owen in 1960. Mrs. Morgan, also a ECU graduate, was president of the Class of 1946. Together, the Morgans had four children: daughters Margaret Morgan Holmes, Mary Morgan and Alice Jean Morgan (1965-1967), and foster son Rupert C. Tart, Jr. Mrs. Morgan was an active supporter of her husband's political career and spoke and traveled regularly on his behalf. She was also a lifelong supporter of ECU, served on the Board of Trustees, was named to the ECU Educators Hall of Fame and received the Incredible ECU Women award.
Robert Morgan passed away at age 90, on 16 July 2016, at his home in Lillington, NC.
Doug Boyd, In Memoriam: Robert Morgan, East Magazine (Fall 2016), p. 59. https://issuu.com/eastcarolina/docs/east_fall16
Robert Burren Morgan, Heritage Hall (October 5, 1925 – July 16, 2016). https://lib.ecu.edu/heritagehall/friends/morgan
Robert Morgan Obituary, Charlotte Observer (18 July 2016). http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/charlotte/obituary.aspx?n=robert-burren-morgan&pid=180705183&fhid=16907
Remembering Robert Morgan, Congressional Record, Vol. 162, No. 133 (6 September 2016), pp. S5246-S5248; See also: Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2016/9/6/senate-section/article/S5246-1
The Robert Morgan Papers consist of 541.4 cubic feet, 1075 boxes and 39 oversized folders containing archival material. The papers date from 1861 - 2011; however, the bulk of the material dates from 1940 to 1992, although there are many undated items. The collection was donated by Senator Robert Morgan, Carroll Leggett, Dorothy Pastis, Peggy Seifert and Martha Elmore, in 29 separate accessions, the earliest dating from 1974.
The Robert Morgan Papers contain a wide variety of materials, including: legislative files (1958-1967), campaign files (1964-1972), county correspondence files (1968-1970), East Carolina University Board of Trustees files (1958-1973), personal files as Attorney General, memorand, legislative council material, clippings, speeches and statements (1974), Carroll H. Leggett correspondence (1970-1974), 1965 General Assembly scrapbook, daily schedules (1975-1978), and Lees-McRae College files (1974-1977). Personal files (1944-1977) include correspondence, photographs, movie film and sound track, clippings, reports, and miscellaneous. Campaign and U.S. Senate files (1974-1980) include committee material, legislation, constituent correspondence, case files, speeches, press releases, clippings, campaign records, oral histories, and miscellaneous ephemera. This collection is divided into 6 series, 40 subseries, and 179 sub – subseries. Robert Morgan served as North Carolina State Senator (1955-1968), Attorney General (1969-1974), and U.S. Senator (1974-1981). He was also a member of the boards of trustees of East Carolina University (1958-1973) and of Lees-McRae College (1974-1977). He entered the North Carolina Bar in 1952.
The Robert Morgan Papers are organized into six, roughly chronological series, corresponding to his life and political career.
Series 1: Personal Files, includes biographical materials, clippings, college materials, correspondence, and speeches, 1894 – 2011, relating to Morgan's family and early life, and later retirement, in Lillington, Harnett County, NC; also his education at East Carolina University (then known as East Carolina Teachers College), in Greenville, NC, 1942 – 1944, 1946 – 1947; his service in the Navy during World War II, 1944 – 1946; his law school education at Wake Forest College, in Winston-Salem, NC, 1950; his early political career as Clerk of Court in Harnett County, 1950 – 1954; his return to active duty during the Korean War, 1952 – 1955; his continued service in the Naval Reserve until 1971; and his service in the Air Force Reserve, 1971 – 1973. This series contains files relating to Morgan's service to the ECU Alumni Association and ECU Board of Trustees. It also includes materials relating to his law practice, in Lillington, 1955 – 1969, where he developed a reputation as a trial attorney taking personal injury, criminal defense, real property law and anti-trust cases. This series contains six subseries: Biographical Files, Clippings, College Materials, Correspondence, Jesse Helms and the Hard Right, and Law Firms and Speaking Engagements.
Series 2: North Carolina Senator Files, contains subject files, 1944 – 1974, relating to Morgan's elections and service in the North Carolina State Senate, 1955 – 1968, including his service as president pro tempore during 1965. It includes campaign materials, correspondence, legislative files, and photographic materials among other materials. This series contains only one subseries, organized by topic. Morgan's areas of concern while State Senator included mental health rights, ECU's proposed medical school, and milk pricing. Documents found within this series include letters of congratulations, correspondence on liquor laws, and voting statistics.
Series 3: Attorney General Files, includes materials, 1955 – 1980, undated, relating to Morgan's campaigns and service as Attorney General of North Carolina, 1969 – 1974. Series 3 includes audio-visual materials, campaign materials, state office files, clippings, speeches, and subject files; it also includes voting statistics, education and mental health and other issue files.The audio and visual recordings include TV spots, interviews, and background information for Morgan's speeches.
Series 4: United States Senator Files, includes papers, 1861 – 1982, undated, relating to Morgan's campaigns for and service in the United States Senate, 1974 – 1981. The most voluminous of the series, it contains 17 subseries including audio–visual and digital files, campaign files, case work files, correspondence with constituents and other political leaders, electronic files for the early senate mailing system, legislation files, federal nomination and appointments files, press releases, senate publications, Morgan's schedule and appointment files, speech and interview transcripts, subject files, and Morgan's voting records. The subject files include 37 sub-subseries covering office files, political files, committee files, international travel files, and federal department files; subject files on tobacco, Panama Canal Treaty, energy, transportation, international trade, military, and the Smithsonian Institution; interns, staff and state office files; and Congressional Mail Service (CMS) Library Item Encyclopedia (compiled responses to constituent letters) files. Constituents primarily wrote Morgan about the SALT treaty, the Panama Canal, Veterans' Affairs, and Social Security. This series also includes correspondence with well-known elected officials including Jimmy Carter, Joe Biden, Barry Goldwater, and Jesse Helms. Beyond correspondence, this series has documents relating to legislation, including constituent surveys, senate resolutions, and foreign policies. In addition to Morgan's papers, chief of staff Carroll Leggett's correspondence and documents are also included in this series.
Series 5: North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Files, includes papers, 1937 – 1991, undated, relating to Morgan's service as Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), 1985 - 1992. This series includes Morgan's correspondence files, district meeting minutes, speeches and subject files. Morgan's speech files are arranged according to venue: commencement and graduation addresses, political speeches, SBI and law enforcement speeches, and sermons. Speech topics include the Panama Canal Treaty, the potential for terrorism in North Carolina, and the role of the SBI.
Series 6: Oversized Materials Files, 1954 – 1989, undated, consists of oversized materials transferred from the collection for special storage for conservation reasons. Series 6 includes maps, posters, photographic prints, architectural drawings and plans. Each folder notes the folder of origin; each folder of origin indicates the current location. The maps are primarily of North Carolina--proposed construction projects, protected wilderness, blueprints, estate properties--and the Panama Canal.
October 16, 2020,(unprocessed addition 28), 3.0 cubic feet: This addition (ca. 1971-2013) contains five flash drives, twenty-five DVD's or DVDR's, ten 3-ring binders of materials and other items related to the donor's research on Robert Morgan and to his time as a member of Robert Morgan's staff while he was U.S. Senator for North Carolina. Donor: W. W. "Billy" Yeargin, Jr.
Gift of Robert B. Morgan
Gift of Carroll H. Leggett
Gift of Dorothy Pastis
Gift of Martha G. Elmore
Gift of Peggy Seifert
Gift of W. W. "Billy" Yeargin, Jr.
Processing was completed with the generous financial support of the Morgan family, their friends and supporters and other donors, 4/16/2017 - 4/15/2018. Papers initially encoded by Apex Data Services, 2002; Accessioning, Arrangement & Description, Preliminary inventory by Donald Lennon, 1974 - 2000; Jonathan Dembo 2000 - 2018, with the assistance of: Dan Ojeda, 2004; Brian Clayton, 2005; Cheryl Funderburk, 7/2/2007 - 2/12/2008; Josh Milton, 4/18/2008 (1 - 724); Crystal Townsend, 5/20 - 6/30/2008 (725 - 965); Srujana Rallabandi, 12/21/2008 (Box 966 - 1097); Dick Wolfe (Box 1 - 467), 2010-2018; Leigh Smith, 5/15 - 7/11/2012 (Box 1-124); Spencer Tart, 5/15 - 7/25/2012; Stephanie Salas, 1/24 - 5/7/2013; Katherine Parrish, 9/6 - 12/13/2012; George Messmer, 1/30 - 2/27/2013; Stanley Walker, 1/30 - 2/27/2013; Michael Caggiano, 3/18 - 4/26/2013; Caroline Rozario, 9/24/2013 - 4/29/2014; Juana Servin, 3/16/2013 - 4/23/2014; Brionna S. Tillman, 5/21 - 7/31/2014; Matthew P. Crain, 1/21 - 2/11/2015; Alyssa Coleman, 2017; John Leche, 2017; Samantha Grzybek, 2017; Sherry Cortes, 2017-2018; Dan Hemme, 2017-2018; Martha Mihich, 2017-2018 (Box 1 - 1075). Processing completed by Sherry L. Cortes under the supervision of Jonathan Dembo, 2/23/2018.
Descriptions updated by Jennifer Overstreet, July 2020
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.
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