Death has claimed the life of Dr. Betty Ruth Morris, 91, educator and journalist. The widow of the late Francis L. "Windy" Morris, she died Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, at Methodist Nursing Home in Fort Smith. A native of Clarksville, she was born Sept. 17, 1926, to the late Andrew Irl and Bertha King Gammill.
In addition to her husband and parents, she was preceded in death by her infant daughter, Diane.
Survivors include two sons, Robert Wayne Morris and wife Lisa of Rogers and Dr. John Morgan Morris and wife the Rev. Yung Me of West Chester, Pa.; five grandchildren, Melissa and Susanne Morris, both of West Chester, Shane Morris of Nashville, Tenn., Lindsay McGarity of Rogers and Angela (Forrest) Loyd of Jay, Okla.; four great-grandchildren, Chloé and Cameron Moss and Mason and Madelyn McGarity of Rogers; three cousins, Barbara Kymer and David King of Fort Smith and Lee Morgan Gammill Jr. of Ross, Calif.; and several nieces and nephews.
Although Dr. Morris will be best remembered for her years in education, she worked in the field of news and feature writing from the time of her graduation from Clarksville High School in 1943 until 1956. The interest in journalism came about as the result of the lean years of World War II when the high school had been forced to discontinue the school newspaper. She was one of five students, who, with the permission of the superintendent, wrote all copy and sold advertising to cover printing costs to produce a school paper. After graduating in 1943, she was employed by The Herald Democrat, moving from society editor to news editor and advertising manager during the 13-year span. During this time, she also served as a stringer for Southwest Times Record, Arkansas Gazette, Arkansas Democrat, United Press International and Associated Press. She was the author of numerous feature articles, which appeared in newspapers and magazines.
She enrolled part-time at the College of the Ozarks, now the University of the Ozarks, in 1943, withdrawing after a year to devote more time to the newspaper. It was not until 1956 that she again enrolled at the college, graduating in 1958. She taught all business subjects at Hartman High School for three years before moving to Fort Smith in 1961.
After one year at Darby Junior High School, she transferred to Northside High School, where she taught accounting three years, served as counselor two years and became director of guidance in 1968. At Northside, she was active in student activities, sponsoring the 1963-64 junior class, the 1964-65 senior class, the house of representatives and the student council. During the time at Northside, she was named Outstanding Educator of the Year by the Optimists Club, received the Best Because student body faculty award and became a lifetime member of the Parent-Teacher Association. She served as testing supervisor for the College Entrance Examination Board and the American College Testing Program and was counselor three years for the part-time evening adult education program conducted by Fort Smith Public Schools.
Dr. Morris continued her education at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where she completed work for a master’s degree in 1966 and a specialist’s in 1978 and earned a doctorate in education in 1983. She completed additional coursework at the University of Texas in Austin and the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
In 1974, when funds became available for a full-time adult education program, she was selected to become director of adult education for Fort Smith Public Schools, a position she held for 19 years. Responsibilities included administration of the total operation of the Center, including management of staff and finance and writing proposals for state and federal funding and directing such projects. In 1988, the Center became the first stand-alone adult education facility in the state to become accredited by the North Central Association. Enrollment grew to more than 4,500 students annually by the time of her retirement in 1993.
Named as Outstanding Arkansas Adult Educator by the Arkansas Association of Public Continuing Education in 1984, Dr. Morris served as president of the association, as well as editor of the state publication, The Arkansas Adult Educator. She served as a member of the North Central Association board of the Arkansas Department of Education three years, representing adult and vocational education.
A member of Central Presbyterian Church, she taught teenagers in Sunday school for a number of years. She was a member of the Fort Smith Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution and United Daughters of the Confederacy. A former board member of the Girls Shelter and Western Arkansas Employment Development Agency, she was a member of the AEA, NEA, American Association of Adult Education and Phi Delta Kappa.
Funeral service will be conducted 2 p.m. Tuesday at Central Presbyterian Church, 2901 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith, with the Rev. Steven Kurtz officiating. A graveside service at Oakland Cemetery in Clarksville will follow at 4 p.m. Edwards Funeral Home will be responsible for arrangements.
Honorary pallbearers will be Barry Lunney Sr., Ron Brewer Sr., Billy Joe Releford, Dr. Cole Goodman, John McIntosh, Benny Shepherd Jr., David Armbruster, Mark Dutton, Dr. Benny Gooden and Jim Rowland.
Reserved seating will be available for all members of the faculty and staff of the Fort Smith Adult Education Center, 1974-93.
Memorial gifts may be made to Central Presbyterian Church of Fort Smith, 2901 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith, AR 72901.
To sign an online guestbook, visit www.edwardsfunerlahome.com.