The city of Montgomery and the Montgomery Police Department are mourning the death of police department’s chaplain over the weekend.
The Rev. E. Baxter Morris, who served as MPD chaplain as well as senior pastor at First Baptist Church on N. Ripley Street, died Sunday while surrounded by loved ones, the city said.
“Reverend Morris was a man of God, and he was a man for God,” Mayor Steven L. Reed said. “He answered the Lord’s call to service, time and time again, giving of himself to teach and love others. As one of the great pillars of our community, he championed our people and advocated for everyone. Rev. Morris donated his time to mentor and support our police officers and emergency first-responders, helping to spearhead the Good Shepard program. Along with his wife Rebie, Rev. Morris personified what it means to be a servant leader who exuded a Christ-like love of the Church, family and community.”
“Chaplain Morris was very dedicated to the officers of the MPD as well as, their families,” Chief Ernest Finley said. “His presence at the department and the servitude that he provided will be greatly missed. Chaplain Morris was a comforting presence within our ranks and was always ready to give encouragement to everyone. He was an essential link that joined MPD with Montgomery’s Clergy and Community Leader’s. He truly had the heart of a servant. Please keep the Morris family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
Morris dedicated more than 20 years of service to the Montgomery Police Department as chaplain and led the congregation at the Brick-A-Day Church on North Ripley for just shy of 50 years, from 1972 until his death over the weekend.
The historic church played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement. In 1961, it became the refuge for the passengers on the Freedom Ride who were met with mob violence at the Greyhound Bus Station in Montgomery.
The church was filled with some 1,500 worshipers and activists, including Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, Diane Nash and James Farmer when it was besieged by 3,000 whites who threatened to burn it as bricks were thrown through the windows and tear gas came drifting in.
The events of May 20-21, 1961, including the “siege of First Baptist”, played a crucial part in the desegregation of interstate travel.
Morris was a graduate of Selma University with a Bachelor of Theology Degree. He studied at Alabama State University, Samford University Extension Division and the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education.
He is past moderator of the Montgomery-Antioch District Association of Baptist Churches, lecturer of the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education, lecturer of the State Congress of Christian Education, Missionary for the Alabama Baptist South East District State Convention, lecturer of the Alabama Baptist South East District State Convention Women’s Department, inspector general 33° United Supreme Council A. A. S. R. of Freemasonry, S. J. Inc. Prince Hall Affiliation.
Reed ordered all flags in Montgomery to be flown at half-staff in honor of Morris’ service to the city.