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Eugene Morris

Pioneering advertising executive Eugene Morris, Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 25, 1939. The youngest of four siblings, Morris was raised in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. Owning several restaurants, Morris’ parents, Eugene Morris, Sr. and Willie Mae Morris, instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in their son. At the age of twelve, Morris and a childhood friend started a junk resale business with local thrift and resale shops as their clients. In 1952, Morris graduated from Forestville Elementary School. He then attended Tilden High School, graduating in 1956.

Morris attended several community colleges, and was later drafted into the U.S. Army in 1962. He was stationed in Kentucky at Fort Knox, in South Carolina at Fort Jackson, and overseas in Germany. By 1968, Morris returned to Chicago and obtained a job with the advertising agency of Foote, Cone, and Belding. He worked for several years at Foote, Cone, and Belding while attending Roosevelt University. In 1969, he received his B.A. degree in business administration and his M.B.A in 1971 from Roosevelt University. During the period between 1974 and 1986, Morris worked as an account supervisor and senior vice president management supervisor at Burrell Advertising Agency. He developed advertising programs for clients including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Johnson Products.

In 1987, Morris founded his own advertising agency entitled Eugene Morris Communications, Inc. (EMC). EMC has been ranked as one of Black Enterprise’s top fifteen advertising agencies. EMC’s clientele have included American Family Insurance, Tyson Foods, Illinois Department of Transportation, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. EMC has created major multi-cultural and multi-dimensional advertising campaigns that have generated $37.7 million in billings. Morris received the 2005 Martin Luther King Legacy Award from the Martin Luther King Boys and Girls Club for his philanthropic efforts. He has also received the 2006 Illinois Governor’s Small Business Person of the Year Award.

Accession Number

A2006.006

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/24/2006

2/1/2006

Last Name

Morris

Maker Category
Schools

Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School

Carter G. Woodson South Elementary School

Roosevelt University

Kennedy–King College

First Name

Eugene

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

MOR10

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

South Africa

Favorite Quote

Common Sense Ain't Common.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/25/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Italian Food

Short Description

Advertising chief executive and advertising executive Eugene Morris (1939 - ) owns his own advertising company called Eugene Morris Communications (EMC).

Employment

E. Morris Communications, Inc.

Burrell Advertising

Foote, Cone and Belding

U.S. Post Office

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Eugene Morris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Eugene Morris lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eugene Morris talks about his birth

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Eugene Morris talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eugene Morris describes his maternal and paternal family histories

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eugene Morris describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eugene Morris describes moving to the Near North Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eugene Morris talks about his experience at Sexton Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Eugene Morris remembers his sixth grade teacher, HistoryMaker Frances T. Matlock

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Eugene Morris describes his experience at Tilden Career Community Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Eugene Morris talks about renting a horse to collect scrap metal

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Eugene Morris describes the racial tensions at Tilden Career Community Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Eugene Morris talks about his experience on the wrestling team at Tilden Career Community Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Eugene Morris talks about his shop teacher at Tilden Career Community Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Eugene Morris talks about his father's restaurants

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Eugene Morris talks about what kind of student he was at Tilden Career Community Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Eugene Morris talks about his experience in the City Colleges of Chicago between 1956 and 1962

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Eugene Morris recalls being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1962

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Eugene Morris describes being stationed in Germany as a U.S. Army clerk

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Eugene Morris describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Eugene Morris describes his experiences with segregation while in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Eugene Morris describes his experience as a company clerk in the U.S. Army at Coleman Barracks in Sandhofen, Germany, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Eugene Morris describes his experience as a company clerk in the U.S. Army at Coleman Barracks in Sandhofen, Germany, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Eugene Morris talks about his entrepreneurial experience on Coleman Barracks in Sandhofen, Germany

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Eugene Morris describes returning to the United States and enrolling at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Eugene Morris talks about his mother's religion

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Eugene Morris recalls being hired at the advertising firm Foote, Cone and Belding in 1968

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Eugene Morris recalls working at Foote, Cone and Belding and studying at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Eugene Morris recalls working at Foote, Cone and Belding and studying at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Eugene Morris talks about being oblivious to the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Eugene Morris recalls the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Eugene Morris talks about the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Eugene Morris talks about how his car was stolen after his return from Germany in 1965, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Eugene Morris talks about how his car was stolen after his return from Germany in 1965, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Eugene Morris describes his experience as an account executive at Foote, Cone and Belding, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Eugene Morris describes his experience as an account executive at Foote, Cone and Belding, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Eugene Morris describes being hired as an account supervisor and media director at Burrell Advertising in 1974

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Eugene Morris recalls working on advertising campaigns for McDonald's and Coca-Cola at Burrell Advertising

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Eugene Morris describes the state of black advertising in 1976

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Eugene Morris talks about changing general market advertising campaigns to work for black audiences

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Eugene Morris recalls his departure from Burrell Advertising in 1986 and his relationship with HistoryMaker Thomas J. Burrell

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Eugene Morris describes starting Morris Randall Advertising and E. Morris Communications, Inc. in 1987

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Eugene Morris recalls the deaths of his parents and his likenesses to them

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Eugene Morris talks about his early clients at E. Morris Communications, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Eugene Morris shares his total marketing concept

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Eugene Morris describes losing Oldsmobile as a client in 2001 and how it affected E. Morris Communications, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Eugene Morris describes the quick turnover of business in advertising

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Eugene Morris describes how E. Morris Communications, Inc. rebounded from the loss of Oldsmobile in 2001

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Eugene Morris describes his experience working on advertising campaigns for Wal-Mart Stores

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Eugene Morris describes his approach to marketing to different segments of the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Eugene Morris talks about founding the Association of Black-Owned Advertising Agencies

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Eugene Morris describes his experience working with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Eugene Morris describes his experience working with the Illinois Department of Transportation and the reconstruction of the Dan Ryan Expressway

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Eugene Morris talks about the "Double Dutch" advertising campaign for Tyson Foods, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Eugene Morris describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Eugene Morris reflects on how his parents would view his career

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Eugene Morris shares his advice for young entrepreneurs

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Eugene Morris reflects on his faith and marriage

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Eugene Morris narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$6

DAStory

9$3

DATitle
Eugene Morris remembers his sixth grade teacher, HistoryMaker Frances T. Matlock
Eugene Morris talks about founding the Association of Black-Owned Advertising Agencies
Transcript
But the teacher who impacted me the most in, in, in, in, in grade school was my sixth grade teacher [at Forestville Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois], and her name was [HM] Frances T. Matlock. And she was a little bitty lady, although she didn't look very little to me, 'cause I was a little bitty kid. I mean I, I grew very late. But she was, she was very tough, very tough, physically tough. I mean she would, she would get very physical. She couldn't exist today, but in those days, I mean she didn't hesitate to lay a little corporal punishment on you if, if you got out of line. But she was a tremendous teacher. She was the first and only teacher until I, I guess sometimes in college where I--she taught us anything about black history. And she was doing this in 1950. And she used to bring, during, during February, she would bring all kinds of materials to school, and we would have skits and plays and things like that. But she taught us a lot about having black pride, I mean, you know, long before anybody ever, ever mentioned it. You know, and she taught us a lot about black historical figures who, at, at a time when nobody was taking about it. And I always--you know, she, she taught us just about, about life and wanting to excel and wanting to live a better life. And she taught us social skills, and, and music, and all kinds of different things that, that went above just the regular curriculum. In fact, I, I might be getting ahead of myself, but I had not, had not seen her for a very long time. And one of the things we, we might talk about this later, but I'm real big on, on celebrating my birthdays. And the, the--my E. Morris [Communications] team here, they know that I really like this, and so they always try to do something to surprise me for my birthday. And so one day I had planned to take off for my birthday, and they called me and told me that something had happened, and I need to come in. And so I came in, and they said it's in, in the conference room. And I went in the conference room, and all these people were in there. And so, I--(unclear)--ah, man, they're just trying to trick--it's a birthday surprise, and I thought it was just the staff. But then when I started looking around, I could see, well, wait a minute, there're some other people here, was a friend who I grew up with, who I, I main--maintained contact with. His mother was here and several other people. And then so I see this little lady, and, but she had her back turned, and I couldn't figure out well, who is this? And at first I thought it might have been one of my aunts, and then I said no, it's not her. And she turned around. It was my sixth grade teacher. They had found her.$$How had the found her?$$And they found her--$$That's so awesome.$$--they found her, and, and I just started screaming: Ms. Matlock, Ms. Matlock, 'cause I had not seen her in forty-five years or something, you know--$$And she was still alive.$$She, she was still alive. In, in fact I found a picture of her that we took that day, because we, we, after the, after we had our little champagne and cake celebration, we, we--they had rented a bus, and we went on a tour of all, a lot of the places where I used to live and where I went school. And Ms. Matlock rode the bus with us and spent the whole day with us. And it was just, it was just a fabulous birthday present.$$That's beautiful--$$Yeah.$$Oh, my goodness.$$Yeah.$$I love that.$$Yeah.$$That's so sweet. Was she proud of you?$$Oh yeah. I mean she brought me, she brought all kinds of--she had these clippings and stuff. She had some things that, some clippings that, of, of, that were written about me in the school newspaper, all kinds of things, you know.$$She had been following you all of these--$$Yeah.$$--years.$$Yep.$$That is such a beautiful story. Ah, I wish it was like that still.$$Yeah.$$Oh, I wanted to ask, were, was your--was Forestville [Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois] integrated at that time?$$No, it was an all-black school. It was located on, on 45th and, and St. Lawrence.$$Oh.$$So it was, it was all-black school.$$So wait now, I guess--were you still living here on the north side then, or--$$No, no, we had moved, we had moved back to the South Side.$$Okay, right, that's what--$$We were always moving.$$Okay, I just wanted to get that--$$I don't know why. I don't know if we were trying to stay one step ahead of the rent man or what, but we moved a lot.$$Okay, that's what I was trying to figure out. I'm like, wow, you had a black teacher here on the North Side. That's really cool.$$Yeah.$And the, the other thing that you've done is, is to form the Association of Black-Owned Advertising Agencies.$$Yes.$$What, what led you to start that?$$Well, it's, it's something that's long overdue, and we've tried to do this before. I mean it's been tried a number of times. And for a number of reasons it, it, it never worked before. But it's important that African American agen--agencies be able to speak with one voice. I'm very vocal, and I'm always mouthing off about what's wrong in our industry, and why do you do this? And I write letters to people, you know, to companies and to the media and all that. But they can blow me off, like well, who are you? You know, you're a little guy. You got a little $40 million dollar agency, you know, what do we care about you? But if you have ten agencies or twenty agencies, and we're all saying the same thing, we write a letter, and everybody is on the, you know, is a signatory to it, then people have to pay a little bit more attention to it. And so, we have a lot of problems and a lot of challenges within our industry, and some of them are very specific to African American agencies. And so we need to be addressing those. And I think fortunately, because I have been around a very long time, and I think that I have always conducted myself in a way, tried to make people respect me, tried to operate above board, be a person of my word, know the people, people know that they can count on me, so I, I, I think I was able to get a bunch of agencies in the room, and they know that I didn't have a real agenda, other than this is something that we all need to do for our collective good. It's not just for, for Eugene Morris.