Judge Hugh M. Morris

Judge Hugh M. Morris

Oil portrait of Judge Hugh M. Morris, 1959, by Bjorn Egeli. It hangs in the Hugh M. Morris Library.

  Permanent Collection of the University of Delaware.

Hugh Martin Morris (1878-1966), respected attorney and eminent jurist, was born in Greenwood, Sussex County, Delaware on April 9, 1878. He was graduated from Delaware College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1898 where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. His career was diverse and included teaching school in Sussex County followed by the study of law, and admittance to the Bar in 1903. From 1903-1919 he practiced law in Wilmington, Delaware and in 1919 he was appointed Judge of the U.S. District Court by President Woodrow Wilson.

Judge Morris was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Delaware in 1928. In 1930, he returned to private practice as the principal in the eminent Wilmington law firm of what is now Morris, Nichols, Arsht and Tunnell.

Judge Morris served on the University of Delaware Board of Trustees from 1929-1959 including as its President from 1939-1959. As President of the Board of Trustees, Judge Morris saw the University of Delaware expand approximately five-fold by the size of its enrollment and physical plant. The period during which he served was one of great change and growth for the University of Delaware including the completion of many major buildings; the restructuring of the University with the merge of the women's College and the resulting establishment of coeducation; the enduring of the World War II years and years immediately following which brought an increasing number of students and a different kind of student; the opening of the University to African Americans; and the major expansion of the academic program including the establishment of centers for support and research. Judge Morris, his wife Mrs. Emma Carter Smith Morris (who died in 1950) and their daughter Mary Smith Morris (who died in 1964) were also generous benefactors of the University of Delaware. Judge Morris also had a principal role in establishing important resources that would come to the University ranging from the major gifts of H. Rodney Sharp; of Amy DuPont in establishing the Unidel Foundation; and the gift of 47 Kent Way from Caleb Wright which serves as the President’s House.

The Hugh M. Morris Library, first completed in 1963 and expanded in 1986, was named in honor of Judge Morris. The Library was formally dedicated on April 4, 1964 with Judge Morris in attendance. Judge Morris died on March 19, 1966.

Judge Morris believed in the life of the mind and he considered libraries as the symbol of what is great and important about education. He viewed the library as the repository for intellectual endeavor and the history of recorded knowledge where the fire of inspiration could burn brightly. He is said to have called the library both the jewel and also the heart of the University. At the turn of the century he studied in a Delaware College Library which had less than 10,000 volumes. The Morris Library which bore his name in 1965 had more than 500,000 volumes. The University of Delaware Library added its two-millionth volume on October 9, 1991 and is now one of the most technologically advanced libraries in the nation.

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