In 1952, Jim Morriss helped get broadcast station KTBC on the air. He ran a radio station in Bolivia. His mission work in Honduras provided basic necessities to thousands of people.
"He did magnificent things but never boasted about them," said his daughter, Terry Williams. "He touched so many people's lives in such a quiet way."
The news broadcaster and missionary died of lung cancer Tuesday at age 78.
As the first program director of KTBC Channel 7, Austin's first TV station, Morriss mentored longtime Austin broadcast journalist Neal Spelce. Morriss helped the young reporter get over "mic fright" and taught him how to speak naturally into a microphone, Spelce said.
"He was a big guy with a big smile and a booming voice," Spelce said. "He just lit up the room when he walked in."
H. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire and one-time presidential candidate, said he and Morriss grew up together in Texarkana, belonged to the same Methodist church and later attended high school and Texarkana Junior College together. "In terms of honesty, character, integrity and leadership, he's one of the finest men I've ever known," Perot said. "He always built people up. He never put them down. He was a wonderful role model and leader for all of us."
Williams said she remembers seeing her father on TV as a little girl. "It would be just before bedtime, and I remember going up to the TV and kissing his face good night," she said.
Morriss dedicated much of his life to trying to improve the lives of others in Central and South America. He made his first trip to Bolivia in the late 1960s with the Texas Rural Electric Cooperative.
"It was the right moment of serendipity when he saw that people needed help and he realized he could do something for somebody else in another part of the world," Williams said.
Morriss moved to Bolivia with his wife and two children and spent the next five years using his expertise as a rancher by hobby and a radio broadcaster by college degree to run a Bolivian radio station on behalf of a Methodist church in a small rural community.
Later, Morriss made more than 25 trips to Honduras to build houses and schools for the poor, said Dick Rathgeber, an Austin developer and friend.
He was ultimately able to provide clean water and electricity to thousands of people in the region, Rathgeber said. "Morriss was a perfect example of a life well-lived," he said.
He is survived by his wife, Annette; son, David; Williams; and four grandchildren. Visitation will be at 6 p.m. today at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar Blvd. Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Tarrytown United Methodist Church, 2601 Exposition Blvd.
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Apr. 1 to Apr. 16, 2009