John I. Morgan

Today would have been my dad’s 100th Birthday. He was born in an old white house at the head of a hollow in Roan Mountain, Tennessee, on July 29, 1911. He suffered the loss of his own father in childhood, and was raised by my grandmother and by his six older siblings. He attended Cloudland High School, played basketball there, and once told me that he received Christ as his Savior and was baptized in Doe River in the middle of the winter during the championship season. His teammates urged him to delay his baptism for fear he’d fall sick, but he didn’t listen to them. He attended the University of Tennessee and got his degree in vocational agriculture. After a short stint in the army, he was sent back to Carter County to head up the agriculture effort during World War II. There he met and married my mother, Edith Palmer Morgan. They built a house on Riverview Drive in Elizabethton, where they raised my sister Ann and me. Dad taught vocational agriculture for over thirty years at Unaka High School. He was also elected as a magistrate in Elizabethon, and he owned and operated Sunset Apple Orchard on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. In his retirement, he assumed control of David Pipe and Metal Frabricators, Inc.

He and mom were longtime members of the First Free Will Baptist Church of Elizabethton, where dad was a deacon and a Sunday School teacher. He also served for several years as assistant clerk of the National Association of Free Will Baptists.

He was a terrific dad, and my sister and I are eternally grateful to him and to my mom for their lifelong love. Scenes flash through my memory like postcards: Sitting in his lap watching Gunsmoke in grainy black and white, his comfort when my pets died (especially Tippy), summer vacations all over the country, his notes to me in college with the $20 bills that fell out of them, his concern about my finding and pastoring a church, and his delight at holding his grandchildren. My sister has a similar cache of memories. I could recite many moments when he was such a good dad and so wise in his counsel, but I’m getting a little dewy-eyed with just writing what I’ve written. So I’m going to stop.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

PS – In the picture above, Dad is standing in the center beside his mom with all the brothers and sisters around. It was made about 1954 in Roan Mountain at our home there. I’m the little boy in the front being held by my Uncle George.