REVEREND E.C. MORRIS,D.D.
Born on May 7, 1855, near Springplace on the Connesauga, in the chestnut hills of North Georgia, of slave parentage, was born E. C. Morris, now the President of the National Baptist Convention, which is the largest deliberative body of Negroes in the world, the editor-in-chief of the Sunday School series issued by the National Baptist Publishing Board, the President of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, and pastor of the Centennial Baptist Church of Helena, Arkansas. His early education was through the common school, but practically from nature and necessity. From earliest childhood he was peculiarly interested in men and things; hence, now possesses a large stock of knowledge concerning human nature, is an advocate of prudence, conservatism and manliness in all affairs bearing upon the relation of the races in this country. He stands for self-help and racial integrity and believes that when man has acknowledged his inability and failure to ameliorate the ill conditions in this country, God will settle the same and cause the deserved recognition of all men, black and white.
He saw with his father the first train that passed through North Georgia, though the spectacle was quite an amusing draft on his youthful nerve, for, says he, “Had I been older than five years, it is questionable that my father, by whose hand I was led, could have detained me from the urgent business I felt I had back home when that mysteriously terrible locomotive came rushing down the track seemingly intent upon spending its fury upon no one else but me.”
When Elias was ten years old, his parents, James and Cora Morris, moved into Alabama, settling at the little town of Stevenson. But Elias had a short while before begun living with the late Rev. Robert Caver, his brother-in-law, at Stevenson, and so lived until he arrived at the age of twenty-one. Mr. Caver taught the young man the shoemaker’s trade and the latter earned his bread upon the shoemaker’s bench until thirty and three years old. He felt a call to the gospel ministry immediately upon his conversion at the age of nineteen, which took place just at the time when he had grown so inimical and impatient toward a revival that had been going on for several days in the church at Stevenson that he had plotted mischievous disturbance of the meeting.
He grew in grace and general ability, and in 1879 accepted a call to the pastorate of the Centennial Baptist Church of Helena, Arkansas, which position he has held continuously to the present time. His ability as an organizer is fully recognized among his people. He established and for the first two years edited the first religious paper published by the Negroes in the State of Arkansas. In 1884, he organized the Arkansas Baptist College and for sixteen years has been Chairman of its Board of Trustees. For nineteen consecutive years he has been annually elected President of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. In 1894 he was elected President of the National Baptist Convention, whose constituency numbers about a million and a half, and has been elected every year since to the same position. Under his leadership, this society has been firmly unified and has enjoyed the greatest prosperity in its history. It was his address before this Convention at Washington, in 1893, that inspired an indomitable and uncompromising determination in the minds of the colored Baptists to begin publishing interests of their own. It was his active brain that conceived the idea of the National Baptist Young People’s Union Board, which Board is located at Nashville. And so his progressive acts have multiplied as he has advanced in age and responsibility. Dr. Morris is an acknowledged adviser of the colored people of his community, in all matters relating to their general uplift. He is a friend to humanity and a lover of his race. He is a possessor and advocate of wholeheartedness and sincerity, being charitable to a difference or a fault. His influence begins at home and spreads abroad, and all distinctions that he bears are borne with gentlemanly modesty, believing leadership to him a duty rather than an honor.