A 2004 gift of plaques and awards given to Irving Morris provides the opportunity to remember a community leader and champion of civil liberties in Delaware. Morris began his legal career in Wilmington in the early 1950s and retired in 2001.
Morris’s first crusade for justice was representing three men convicted of rape in 1948 and sentenced to life in prison. They claimed that they were innocent and that they had not had a fair trial. Morris fought for them for five years, often meeting defeat. In 1958 the US District Court and the US Circuit Court of Appeals declared that the men indeed had not had a fair trial. They were freed on bail and the state did not retry the case. For Morris, the question was not guilt or innocence, but whether the men had been fairly treated by the system. His 2011 book The Rape Case chronicles this quest for justice.
The plaques document Irving Morris’s service as president of the chair of the Wilmington campaign for State of Israel Bonds in 1963-4, campaign chairman for the Jewish Federation of Delaware in 1969-70, as president of the Delaware State Bar Association in 1978, and president of the American Civil Liberties Foundation in Delaware from 1993 to 1996.
In 1993, Morris received an award from the Delaware State NAACP for his services in Public Education Litigation. This honored his many years as an attorney in the Evans v. Buchanan case, which involved the long fight to desegregate schools in Wilmington and New Castle County.
Throughout Delaware’s history, citizens like Irving Morris have worked tirelessly to defend and expand the civil liberties of all citizens. Their lives benefit and inspire all of us.