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Stephen G. Morrison

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Stephen G. Morrison Obituary
Stephen G. Morrison


Stephen G. Morrison, 64, of Columbia, South Carolina, died on Sunday, October 27, 2013 in New York City, after a brief illness. Mr. Morrison was born in Pasadena, California on August 10, 1949, to I. George and Virginia Z. Morrison. Reared in Midland, Michigan, he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree from the University of Michigan in 1971, where he was a member of the prestigious leadership organization Michigamua. He received his J. D. from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1975; he completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Business in 1997.

Mr. Morrison, a partner of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, lived his life seeking to serve others, including his profession, his community, his church, his friends, and his family. He was a passionate advocate for legal, social, and economic justice. He was committed to the power of education as an engine of transformation. He believed that the arts are essential to the human spirit and that the creativity expressed through the arts can fuel creative solutions in law, business, and industry.

Mr. Morrison was a highly decorated member of the bar and leader in his firm and profession. In a career spanning almost forty years, he tried more than 260 jury trials to verdict in state and federal courts in more than twenty states across the country and argued more than sixty appeals in the nation's highest courts, including an argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. He also participated in International Chamber of Commerce arbitrations in Europe. Mr. Morrison's practice centered on technology law and litigation, business and product liability, and securities litigation.

He was the tenth lawyer to join Nelson Mullins. Mr. Morrison was instrumental in growing the firm through his commitment to client service and mentoring young lawyers. He served the firm in many leadership positions, including as a member of its executive committee, a governing body of seven partners.

Mr. Morrison spent a seven-year interlude serving as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Policy Management Systems Corporation (whose name was subsequently changed to Mynd), an international technology company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, until the sale of the company to Computer Sciences Corporation in 2000.

His service to the profession and talent as a lawyer were reflected by his election as president of Defense Research Institute - The Voice of the Defense Bar, a national organization for defense attorneys; by his election as president of Lawyers for Civil Justice, a national coalition of business and legal professional leaders working to improve the American civil justice system; and by his receipt of the University of South Carolina School of Law's Compleat Lawyer Award Gold Medallion. The South Carolina Defense Trial Attorneys' Association awarded him the Robert Hemphill Award for lifetime achievement and service to the profession.

Since 1982, Morrison had served as an adjunct professor at the University Of South Carolina School Of Law, where he taught courses in legal writing and trial advocacy to over 1,000 students. He had participated on seminar faculties and presented speeches in 34 states and in multiple international venues where he was renowned for quoting poetry, especially that of Seamus Haney. He published numerous articles and essays, primarily in the fields of technology, advocacy, professionalism, evidence, and damages.

Mr. Morrison's passion to serve those in need began in his early years. He spent countless hours in the pursuit of justice for those with little to no access to justice throughout his career. He believed, in the words of the Irish poet, that "a further shore is possible from here" and that " the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up" and he lived his life accordingly.

Mr. Morrison was co-lead counsel in Abbeville et al v. State of South Carolina, working for equity in education funding for the youth of South Carolina. In this case he represented the poorest and most isolated and predominantly African-American children in South Carolina. The S.C. Education Association honored him in 2012 with its Walker E. Solomon Award for working for the eradication of racial inequities in the education profession, school, and community.

He served as chairman of the board of the Columbia Urban League and served on the boards of Benedict College and Allen University. As chairman of the Columbia Urban League in 2001, Mr. Morrison challenged Columbians and South Carolinians to address glaring inequities in our society. "To build a great community, we must be fiercely committed to equality and justice," he said.

Mr. Morrison's fervent advocacy for human rights and his leadership in insisting on equal educational opportunities for every child in South Carolina was recognized by the United Black Fund of the Midlands, which awarded him the Judge Waites Waring Humanitarian Award and inducted him into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame, and by the National Urban League, which presented him an award for outstanding leadership in championing equal opportunity. The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council named Mr. Morrison the Distinguished Citizen of the Year for his leadership in advocacy for human rights.

His community service, support for the arts and humanities, and leadership in bringing people together were recognized by his election to the presidency of the Columbia Museum of Art. Subsequently, he served as a trustee on the Columbia Museum of Art Commission. The museum honored his advocacy for the visual arts with its prestigious Jack Craft Leadership Award. History was another of his passions, and his leadership with the Historic Columbia Foundation helped preserve significant historic places for future generations, including the Modjeska Simpkins House, a place central to our civil rights history and progress.

Mr. Morrison was a past chair of the United Way of the Midlands. In the tough economy of 2008-2009, he co-chaired a United Way campaign that generated $11.4 million for more than 80 United Way supported agencies.

Mr. Morrison's nonprofit work also included service on the boards of Central Carolina Community Foundation, Foundation for Columbia's Future, Homeworks, the South Carolina Humanities Council, the South Carolina Research Foundation, EdVenture Children Museum, the Spoleto Festival Board, the Palmetto Health Foundation, and One Columbia among others.

Mr. Morrison's wisdom and counsel will be missed by many. He had a huge heart and gave generously of his love to many, especially his family to which he was devoted and to the children and people of St. Martins-in-the-Fields.

Mr. Morrison is survived by his wife of forty-one years, Dr. Gail M. Morrison; his son, Gregory S. Morrison, both of Columbia, SC; his mother, Virginia Z. Morrison, of Midland, MI; his sister, Charlotte Holly (Ande) of Pittsburgh, PA; his sister, Janet Nolan (Ed) of Boston, MA; his nieces, Lindsay Holly of Tempe, AZ, Lauren Holly Millsaps (Andy) of Groton, CT, and Ginny Nolan, of Boston, MA; and his nephew, Charles Nolan, of Washington, DC.

A memorial service will be held at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 31, 2013.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Stephen G. Morrison Student Services Suite or the Nelson Mullins Center for Professionalism, both at the USC School of Law (c/o University Education Foundation, 701 S. Main Street, 29208) or the St. Martin's-in-the-Fields Foundation or Building Fund (5220 Clemson Avenue, 29206) or the .

Published in The Greenville News on Oct. 31, 2013
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