Morris laid to rest

LEXINGTON — Former Lt. Gov. Earle E. Morris Jr. was laid to rest Monday with full military honors.
The Pickens native died Feb. 11 following a period of declining health.
At the funeral service, Morris was remembered as a kind, compassionate, caring, giving, public servant.
His son, Earle III (Butch), eulogized his father as someone who never saw another in need that he didn’t try to help.
“When we were growing up,” he said, “while other dads had time to spend with their families, our father was busy somewhere in this state trying to help people.”
Morris was particularly passionate about helping the mentally handicapped, those with mental illness and the elderly.
“The Pickens community has lost a great spokesman for Pickens County,” Statehouse Representative Davey Hiott said Monday. “Earle always looked for way to help anyone in need. Even as Earle served in Columbia he always had Pickens County first in his thoughts.”
Morris, who was a longtime resident of Lexington after moving from Pickens, was first elected to the State House of Representatives in 1951. He served in the State Senate from 1956 until 1971.
Morris served as Lieutenant Governor from 1971 until 1975 and as State Comptroller General from 1976 until 1999.
The husband, father and grandfather retired from the S.C. Army National Guard as a Brigadier General in 1987 after 36 years of service.
During his eulogy, the younger Morris remembered how his father loved his family and the state, “especially the people” for whom he felt such a compassion.
Rev. Drew Kornreich of Rose Hill Presbyterian Church told the mourners that included family, friends, local and state leaders that “Earle Morris loved his Lord and knew where he was gong. He told me on one of my last visits, ‘I wish everyone knew my Jesus.’”
Kornreich used comforting words of promise from both the Old and New Testaments as he outlined what Morris had based his beliefs on.
“One of his favorite scriptures was John 10:10 ‘…I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.’”
“Earle wished everyone knew the comfort he had in that verse and the rest of the verses that he grew up with and lived during his life of service,” said the pastor. “Rest in peace, Earle, as you go to hear those coveted words, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”
The only blemish to be found on the late statesman’s record was a conviction involving the collapse of HomeGold of Lexington and its subsidiary, Carolina Investors of Pickens.
Morris repeatedly told this reporter as he also testified in court that he was never informed of the backroom deals involving HomeGold’s executives that casused the collapse and the loss of millions of dollars belonging to investors, mostly in the Upstate.
“I only repeated what I was told,” he said.
That claim was confirmed by several insiders who testified in trials involving HomeGold executive Ronnie Shepherd.
During his eulogy for his late father, Morris’ son briefly referred to the legal difficulties that his father had encountered in his last years.
He said his family, as well as most of his many long-time friends, believed in his innocence,
“But as he often told us, this can make us stronger,” he said. “And it did, it brought our family closer together.”
Pickens County Senator Larry Martin said Morris’ legacy will no doubt always carry with it the tragic episode of his involvement in the Carolina Investors’ collapse, but his many years of public service should be for what he is ultimately remembered.
“That occurred after he retired from public service,” Martin said of Morris’ conviction and subsequent prison time related to the Carolina Investors scandal. “As his family and friends mourn his passing, we remember his public service that spanned almost five decades.”
“When I came along in the late 1970s as a young House member, he had already served 20 years in the General Assembly and a term as Lieutenant Governor and was serving as the state Comptroller General,” Martin said. “He couldn’t have been more helpful to me whenever I called on him for advice or about a constituent matter. I vividly recall helping more than one constituent with a problem that Earle was already attempting to solve.
“I truly considered him a public servant in every sense of the word.”
Morris is survived by his wife Carol, five children and seven grandchildren.

Editor’s Note: Bill West is Senior Editor of the Lexington County Chronicle and The Dispatch-News. The South Carolina Press Association named West Weekly Journalist of the Year in 2010.