An Iowa-born Hollywood actor with recurring roles on “The West Wing” and “The District” is back in his native Des Moines to perform a one-man, one-act play tonight honoring an icon in Iowa’s civil rights movement. GregAlan Williams will portray James Morris Senior, who was editor and publisher of Iowa’s oldest black newspaper, the Iowa Bystander, for more than 40 years. Williams says Morris “bought the paper in 1927 and literally became..an Iowa sage and very often on many days the conscience of Iowa itself as far as human and civil rights were concerned and equal rights for all of its citizens.” Williams says Morris helped move civil rights issues forward in Iowa and calls the paper Morris’ greatest contribution to the state. He says it contained national and local news about African-Americans and it was a local newspaper because the other papers didn’t carry news about African-Americans.Williams says Morris was a leader and a role model for his generation of blacks living in Iowa. He was among the first black officers trained at Fort Des Moines during World War One through the Colored Officers Training Program. In 1925, he helped found the Negro Bar Association, now known as the National Bar Association. Morris and his wife, Georgine, founded the Iowa State Conference of the NAACP in 1939. The premiere of this unnamed one-man play, written and directed by Williams, will be the centerpiece of an evening to honor Morris.In honor of the Morris family’s contribution to law, journalism and the civil rights movement, a group of Des Moines community leaders established The Morris Scholarship Fund in 1978, which still helps send young Iowans to college. For more information on the fund or the play, call (515) 282-8192.
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