Springfield - Jim D. Morris, beloved family man, community leader and philanthropist, of Springfield, Mo., passed away on January 9, 2021, at the age of 86. He was born on May 16, 1934 in Campbell, Mo. to Homer and Daisy Morris.
Jim grew up in Southeast Missouri picking cotton and peaches and spending winters in Venice Beach, Ca., shining shoes on the Boardwalk. Jim had a great enthusiasm for life and he lit up the room with his bright eyes and friendly smile. He was a devoted family man and a man of faith. Jim considered his marriage of 68 years to his loving wife Catherine to be one of his proudest achievements. He was a kind, loyal, and a trustworthy friend who loved to have a good laugh.
Jim had a strong work ethic and he held the highest level of integrity. Jim enjoyed business and the art of negotiation. He had a benevolent disposition and he gave credit to an act of goodwill as a turning point in his own life. In 1952, he worked for an agency of Standard Oil, delivering petroleum products. When Jim was 23 years old, in 1958, Morris Oil Company was founded, thanks to an unprecedented loan from Standard Oil. The Standard Oil officials nicknamed him "the kid." He relocated the company to the Springfield/Branson area in 1961 and at the height of the company, Morris Oil was moving 50 million gallons of fuel a year, operating and supplying 60 stores in the state. Jim's business accomplishments excelled in his extensive experience in Real Estate Development. He served on bank boards for 50 years, including Oak Star Bank and Signature Bank. He was proud of his work on the founding of Signature Bank in 1997 which became one of the fastest growing banks in the United States and merged with The Bank and was later acquired by BancorpSouth in 2007. He served as Chairman of the Board for the Springfield/Branson Regional Airport for three consecutive terms. He was President of the Petroleum Marketing Association for the State of Missouri.
Jim was an avid philanthropist. He was altruistic with his resolute to help children to have the opportunity to succeed. In 2008, Jim co-founded the Care to Learn Fund for Springfield Public Schools with Doug Pitt and the Jolie-Pitt Foundation. His gifts allowed MSU to renovate the Jim D. Morris Center for Continuing Education and for the Jim D. Morris Strength and Conditioning Center. In 2012, Columbia College honored him with the naming of the Jim D. Morris Hall. Jim D. Morris Campuses are located at the Boys and Girls Town in Springfield and The Arc of the Ozarks. He donated real estate and funding to the Gillioz Theatre/Jim D. Morris Art Center and the Discovery Center. Morris State Park, a unique historical landscape on Crowley's Ridge, is protected land he donated to the State of Missouri. Jim was appointed by Governor Matt Blunt to the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
Jim D. Morris was a visionary and his legacy will live on. He received the Springfield Business Journal's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. He was named a member of the SBJ's "2011 Men of the Year," and his company was selected as SBJ's 2012 Philanthropic Business of the Year. Jim D. Morris was presented with "The Missourian Award" in 2012. In 2015, Columbia College honored him with an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents and his two sisters, Erma and Myrna, and is survived by his younger brother, Larry. He will be dearly missed by his wife, Catherine and his daughters, Debbie, Pam, Stephanie, his grandson Brandon and wife, Kelsey, and his great-grandchildren, Paxton and Ari.
A private graveside service will be held for the family at Klingner-Cope Family Funeral Home at Rivermonte Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Care To Learn at 1740 S. Glenstone Ave., Suite R., Springfield, Mo. 65804 or CoxHealth Foundation, Hannah's Hope at 3525 S. National. Suite 204, Springfield, Mo, 65807.