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The bravery of Claude Morris

Not only did work make the late Claude Andrew Morris Sr. happy, but so did public service.

Through his involvement in the community on the Buckingham County School Board, serving his country in World War II, farming, building houses and raising a good family, Morris is the epitome of a citizen leader.

Morris, who I’m honored and humbled to have been able to interview about his life in 2014, always put others — including his community, children, wife and fellow man — before himself. He led by example and was an honest, hard-working and salt-of-the-earth human being.

His impact and influence will be felt for many, many years in our community — not only because of his public service, but also because of his bravery.

Morris, who died July 6, was 91 years old.

After growing up in The Great Depression in southern Buckingham, Morris was wounded as he fought in World War II as a young man — an incident that went unreported so he wouldn’t worry his parents back at home in Buckingham as he operated large guns on the front lines in Europe, fighting Adolf Hitler’s forces.

In 2014, when I asked if he witnessed any of his fellow servicemen perish, he paused for a moment, looking across the table.

“Well, it was war,” he sternly responded.

Morris wasn’t afraid of going to war, he said, to fight for our freedom and independence as Americans.

During the late 1960s, Morris, along with Division Superintendent Mercer Kay, would oversee the full integration of African-Americans into the white schools. Morris’ leadership was integral in ensuring the process was peaceful and smooth.

There are many lessons all of us — including me — could take from Morris’ life.

I think if he were with us today and I asked him for some advice, he would tell me, and anyone else, to not be afraid to do the right thing, treat other people the way you’d like to be treated and be honest to others and yourself.

More importantly, he’d tell us to serve our fellow man and put others before ourselves.

JORDAN MILES is managing editor of The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is Jordan.Miles@FarmvilleHerald.com.