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2011 Men of the Year Honoree: Jim D. Morris

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Jim D. Morris has not one, but two nonprofit campuses named in his honor.

The Arc of the Ozarks and Boys & Girls Town of Missouri dedicated their Springfield campuses in his name after Morris made sizable donations to the organizations.

The Morris moniker also is upon Missouri State University’s Center for Continuing Education, the Gillioz Theater Art Center and a Missouri state park in the Bootheel.

“I have always had a desire to help and assist organizations that benefit the less fortunate, especially those that assist underprivileged children,” Morris says. “I want all children to have the opportunity to succeed.”

Born into a southeast Missouri farming community, Morris grew up picking cotton and peaches. His passion turned to the oil industry, and in his early 20s, Morris pursued and earned the Standard oil agency in his hometown of Campbell. Standard offered Morris the Branson agency in 1961, and that began a lucrative 50-year career in southwest Missouri.

Morris Oil recorded first-year fuel sales of 250,000 gallons and grew to sell 50 million gallons a year, operating and supplying 60 stores and employing more than 100 during the 1980s and 1990s.

Morris bought into the Branson hospitality scene, and Morris Group Hotels at one time owned more than 1,000 guest rooms across properties in Branson and Springfield.

Morris’ career also points to his work in founding Signature Bank, before it merged with The Bank, and in building the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater in Branson.

Among a long list of philanthropic contributions is his role in co-founding, along with Brad and Doug Pitt and the Pitt-Jolie Foundation, the Care to Learn Fund in 2008 to help meet students’ basic needs at area schools.

He’s also provided seed money for the Ozarks’ grief center Lost & Found, granted 160 acres near his hometown for Missouri park space and donated a piece of land for future development of a new city tourist information center. He gifted $500,000 to the Arc of the Ozarks’ campus development project in early 2010 and established an endowed fund for Boys & Girls Town in late 2010.

“Although he has had a great impact on business, I think he has made an even bigger impact on the well being of children in the Ozarks,” said Nancy Fazzino, former executive director of the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools. “I think that the biggest compliment for someone is to leave a lasting legacy of hope and spirit of goodness for the children and the community. Mr. Morris has been instrumental in making life better for thousands of children in the Ozarks.”

From 2011 Men of the Year
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