Almost Bigger Than Life

August 5, 2019

In previous articles, I have told the stories of two of the Dade Countians we celebrated at this year’s Dade Historical Society Cemetery Walk at Brock Cemetery. Both these individuals were from the Brock clan but, beginning today, we move to another family, the Morrisons, to explore how these two families are connected and why they share a burial ground in our midst. We will also see how the merger of these two families turned out to be as much of a plus for the county as it did for the families themselves.


Like the Brocks, the Morrisons were some of the earliest settlers to appear in the county as the Cherokees were moved out; and, also like the Brocks; they were privileged folk in terms of assets and possessions and could afford a much more comfortable lifestyle than most of their neighbors. Also in common, these two families’ fortunate circumstances seem to have led the respective elders to promote in their children a sense of responsibility to the community and their fellow citizens. This is evident through the years in their choices of professions and their degrees of participation in the life of the community.


Douglas Eaton Morrison was no exception to this tradition, but before he became a Dade County mover and shaker in his later years, he crammed an amazing number of achievements and activities into his earlier life. “The Colonel,” as those who knew him well called him, was born at New England on 9 February 1893. Older locals will remember the beautiful white, two-story house which stood on the west side of Highway 11 and was home to William Granville “Bud” Morrison, his wife, Allie Hassell Brock, and their large family. It was their marriage that cemented the ties between the Brock and Morrison families. As the colonel remembered, many features of the house were handcrafted and unique. Sadly, some years after the Morrison family sold the home and moved to Creek Road, the house burned and its former location is now vacant except for a local business near the site.


Colonel Morrison was one of the younger children in the family and he apparently learned early to be assertive and go for what he wanted, although it took him a while to figure out what that was. He attended Central High School in Chattanooga and then went on to the University of Chattanooga to study law for a year. That apparently didn’t satisfy him, so he then went to Texas A and M University for a year and a half to study electrical engineering.


Maybe a bit homesick, he then returned to Georgia to continue his studies at Georgia Tech and there he certainly made his mark. In the annual for his senior year, it took half a page to list all his activities and accomplishments; the fellow listed below him got four lines. He played football, basketball, and baseball throughout his years at Tech, was a dorm inspector, vice president of the Chattanooga Club, captain of the football team in 1915, on the governing board in 1915 and ‘16, president of his graduating class in 1917--and just for good measure, he was in the glee club!


Most notable of all was that he was captain and quarterback of the football team when Tech slaughtered Cumberland College by a score of 222-0, the most lopsided score in football history. Although this sounds like terrible sportsmanship, we were told by family members that the Tech team were determined to pay back the Cumberland guys for what they deemed an unsportsman-like act in a previous baseball game. Whatever the cause, the game will never be forgotten and a Dade County boy was right in the middle of it.


After graduation from Tech, Douglas Morrison entered the Army’s Officer Candidate School and was afterward commissioned a second lieutenant. During his military career, which extended into World War II, he was stationed in a number of interesting and very different places including France, Belgium and the Philippines.


During his time at Fort Monroe near Chesapeake, Virginia, Douglas met and married a young New Englander named Catherine Clarke, who was a number of years his junior but a force to be reckoned with in her own right, She will be the subject of the next and last article remembering the Dade Countians featured in this year’s cemetery walk.


On his retirement, “The Colonel” and his wife returned to his hometown and immediately became involved in any number of activities and events aimed at making it a better community to live in. He became a successful farmer and merchant and served for more than 20 years as a supervisor for the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation District. He was a member of the Coosa Valley Planning and Development Commission and for some time served as chairman of the board of the Bank of Dade. He was a leader of the local Lion’s Club and an active church member, and he was honored as Dade Man of the Year in 1960. He died at the age of 80 having spent a lifetime serving his country and his community.


There are many Dade Countians still with us who knew Douglas Morrison and remember him well and it was interesting to hear some of their comments about him as we prepared for the cemetery walk. Like many career military people who have gotten into the habit of command, he did not suffer fools gladly and he did not waste words being diplomatic. One of the terms used by an acquaintance to describe him was “profane.”  Apparently, he had adopted the military tendency to lard his conversation with a liberal number of “cuss words” to get his point across. It was so much a part of his personality that most people seem to have accepted it with equanimity or, if not, they had the good sense not to say so.


He also gained and retained the habit of giving strict orders to whomever he thought needed his direction--in the military or out. While he was still in service, he directed the construction of a home for his parents next to his own property on Piney Road. He sent detailed letters to his brothers, who were overseeing the job on site, laying out exactly what kinds of materials were to be used and of what quality and cautioning them to keep to his requirements faithfully. Apparently, they did as he ordered. The house still stands as a testament to all their efforts and to the will and leadership of “the Colonel”-- a truly memorable Dade Countian.

--Joy Odom


NOTE: Please mark your calendar for a special event at the library on Thursday night, September 5, from 7-9 p.m. The Historical Society invites you to join us for a Symposium on the Caves of Dade County.  Dade has more caves than any other county in Georgia.  It has been explored for decades by people more interested in what is under the earth than what is on or above it.  Many people have cut their teeth on the “easy” caves of Dade and honed their skill in the more difficult ones. We have engaged several experts who are renowned and respected nationally to come and teach about our own surroundings. By the way, several of these experts are residents of Dade. More on our speakers in future articles. Join us on September 5 from 7-9 at the library.

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