How Bivins Pointe Is Responding to COVID-19 
Pointe Personalities
Back
Pointe Personalities: Meet Joan Parker
Posted By: Becky Davis

Nowata might sound like a dusty ghost town in rural America, but it’s actually a thriving oil and gas community near Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the early 1900s, it became known as the world’s largest shallow oil field. Nowata means “welcome” in Delaware Indian, quite the opposite from the legend of a traveler who happened upon a dried-up spring and posted "No Wata" as a warning to others.

It’s the small town where Joan Parker grew up, where her daddy worked in the oil fields before eventually becoming a banker.  It’s also where Joan learned about resilience and courage, both valuable traits that would serve her well throughout her life. 

“I never was afraid of much of anything,” Joan says.  “I think my dad taught me that.  Mom was a worrier but Dad never did worry about much of anything.”

Joan’s dad believed in keeping up with the times, so he bought a new car every other year.  Their home was the first in town to have a dishwasher, but the last to have a dryer.  The weekly wash flapped in the summer breeze on an outdoor clothesline, and dripped dry in the basement during the winter months.

They lived across the road from a nine-hole golf course, so Joan taught herself to play.  “I would go across the road and tee off on number six,” she said.  “I always had golf clubs. They may not have been the right ones, but I had a few and that’s all I needed.”

After high school, Joan earned a degree in history from The University of Oklahoma and started her teaching career.  “At that time, a woman could be a nurse, secretary, or teacher.  So I decided to be a teacher,” she explains.

Following a fast romance she married Dick Parker, a petroleum geologist she met through mutual friends in Midland, Texas.  He was transferred to Amarillo six months after the wedding, but she stayed in Midland to finish the school year before joining him.  They spent 11 years in Amarillo where she taught at Horace Mann, eventually moving to Perryton to raise their three sons.

Joan loved volunteering with organizations like United Way, Senior Citizens, Camp Fire Girls, the hospital auxiliary, Perryton Club, the Beehive Day Care Center, and the Presbyterian church. Teaching adult Sunday school was one of her favorite things, along with baking for various events.  “I was the cookie queen of Perryton,” she says with a grin.  “I gave myself that title.” 

Being a mom to three sons was wonderful – it was just what Joan wanted.  The first two boys – Tim and Hugh – joined their family through adoption.  Then Rob came along, and the family was complete.   

Today, her son Tim is an OB/GYN in Denison, Texas; he and his wife, Melinda, have three children.  Rob is a banker in Amarillo; he and his wife, Mary, have three children.  Hugh passed away in 2016, leaving behind two children and two grandchildren.

Life handed Joan her most significant loss in 2014, when her husband, Dick, passed away.   Faith has always been a big part of her life, and it has given her peace and comfort during the difficult times. 

Now a long-term resident of Bivins Pointe, Joan enthusiastically participates in the faith-related activities offered, including church services on Sundays and Bible chats three times a week.  She also looks forward to playing bingo and farkle, and would love to find some experienced bridge partners.

When her family takes her out for a meal, you can bet on one thing: she’ll order a filet steak, rare.  “I love rare beef,” she says.  “Daddy always said that mom cooked the hell out of meat.  I never liked it that way. I was always good at cooking rump roast, arm roast, really any kind of roast.”

Desserts are also a favorite of Joan’s, especially dark chocolate.  And if key lime pie is on the menu, “I’ll eat mine and someone else’s,” she jokes. 

So if you’re ever in the neighborhood with an extra bag of chocolates, stop by and say hello to Joan.  She’s a great conversationalist, especially on topics she is passionate about like sports, classical music, travel, and history.  And if you’re a bridge player, she really wants to talk to you – but only if you’re an experienced player.  She may be a teacher, but she has to draw the line somewhere. 

By Kelli Bullard


Pointe Personalities: Meet Valerie Trafton
Posted By: Becky Davis

Pointe Personalities: Meet Valerie Trafton

A career as an Activity Director might sound like it’s all fun and games, but that’s hardly the case. For Valerie Trafton, the path that led her to Bivins Pointe took several unexpected turns, including a difficult loss she never could have anticipated.

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Valerie is the third of four girls born to her parents within a five-year span. “Basically my mom was pregnant through the entire 80’s,” she laughs. 

After high school, she attended Baylor University, where she changed majors several times – from business to marketing, then education, special education, and finally landing on outdoor recreation. Her plan was to use her degree to work for Camp Ozark, a Christian summer camp facility in Mount Ida, Arkansas. 

The plan changed abruptly when her best friend of 21 years, Emily, lost her life in a car accident. Uncertainty gripped Valerie, as she struggled to move forward after Emily’s death. Eventually she found her footing and was able to channel her grief into positive life decisions. “It gave me a bigger perspective on what I wanted to be and do,” she says. 

One of those positive decisions was to marry her boyfriend, Chance, a finance and entrepreneur major at Baylor. Following their wedding in 2012, Valerie and Chance returned from their honeymoon in Antigua, loaded up their belongings, and headed for Amarillo to start their new life together. 

“It was a lot of change really fast,” Valerie says. “Moving cities, moving in with a boy after growing up with three sisters (ewww!), starting a new job. I was struggling to keep my head above water – emotionally, relationally, financially.”

She went through several jobs over the next few years – working for an insurance company, a floral designer, a college ministry, a hairdressing academy – but none was the career path she had anticipated. Working for a summer camp wasn’t practical because it would take her away from home three months out of the year, and they had just decided it was time to start a family. In 2015 they welcomed their first daughter, Laynie, to the family, followed by their second daughter, Sloan, in 2018. 

In April 2019, Valerie decided it was time to job hunt again, and an Internet search led her to a posting at Bivins Pointe. Finally, the pieces began to fall into place. Her degree in outdoor recreation fit perfectly with the position of Activity Director; the only additional requirement was a certification which she was able to obtain through an online course.

Since returning to full-time employment, Valerie says it’s been an adjustment for her family but she knows she is in the right place. “I came in blind, with zero expectation,” she says, “but it’s perfect. I felt God’s hand in all of it.” Her husband, Chance, is a financial advisor with a flexible schedule so he can fill in the gaps when Valerie’s work schedule conflicts with their kids’ activities.

Planning the monthly calendar for the residents and patients is a big part of the job, and Valerie makes it a point to have at least two things scheduled each day. Whether it’s a game, a seasonal event, a special meal or a class, the goal is to encourage socialization and make it fun. Bingo is a favorite activity, along with Farkle and various card games. Exercise class, music, Bible chats, pancakes with the chaplain, ice cream soda shop, and a coffee cart are just a few of the regular activities at Bivins Pointe. Valerie also envisions facilitating classes that are taught by residents, giving them a chance to share their wealth of knowledge and life experience.

Her favorite part of the job? The people. “I love the staff,” she says. “I feel very connected. I also love visiting with the residents. They’re so wise, and their way of life growing up was so different from mine. I learn so much from them.”

Activity Director may not have been her dream job when she was in college, but today Valerie can’t imagine herself anywhere else. “It requires a lot,” she admits. “But it’s life-giving.”

By Kelli Bullard


Pointe Personalities: Meet Ann Pemberton
Posted By: Becky Davis

You might call her Miss P, or you may know her as Ann.  Chances are you called her the more formal name of Miss Pemberton if you were in her 9th grade English class, and for anyone who grew up in Amarillo those chances are pretty good. With a teaching career that spanned 35 years – from 1959 to 1994 – Ann Pemberton taught countless teens at several campuses including Amarillo High, Sam Houston, Bonham and Crockett Junior Highs.

For Ann, the decision to become a teacher was a pretty simple one.  “That was what women did back then,” she explains.  “At the time there were not as many opportunities (for women) so I just assumed that was what I was going to do.”

After graduating from Sherman High School in Texas, she attended Wesleyan College in West Virginia where she majored in education.  After college, she lived in Baltimore for one year and taught in a Maryland school district, but then set her sights on a new opportunity to avoid taking a $1000 pay cut. 

In Amarillo lived an aunt who offered her a place to stay, and the salary was acceptable.  “I made the handsome sum of $4,000 a year,” she remembers.  “It was a decent way to make a living and a good way to have a role in the community.”

The presence of women in the workforce has changed dramatically in her lifetime, and Ann remembers some significant moments along the way.   During her elementary years, The United States entered World War II, which sparked the beginning of a workplace shift.  Women who had been teaching were needed in other capacities, so a teacher shortage occurred in some areas.  The school Ann attended had to combine two classes, so 1st and 2nd graders met together in one classroom and were taught by the same teacher.

In 1940, only 28 percent of women worked outside the home; by 1945, this figure exceeded 34 percent.  Many women worked as nurses, drove trucks, repaired airplanes, and performed clerical duties. Ann remembers her mother talking about a good friend of hers who became a welder at a defense plant.  

Although the war was an ominous presence during her early years, it never caused her a great amount of fear or anxiety.  Her family lived in South Carolina, and she recalls going to the waterfront and watching the searchlights play out on the water, looking for German submarines that had strayed too close to the shore. 

Ann was nine when the war ended, and one of her cousins returned as a wounded veteran.  The postwar years brought her family back to Texas, where she has stayed other than occasional travels.  Her brother’s family is in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area, so she often visited in the summer and at Christmas. 

A visit to the Mall of America made quite an impression on Ann.  “I thought it was kind of ridiculous, having an amusement park indoors,” she laughs.  “But it was something to see.” 

Ann came to live at Bivins Pointe in 2008, and she’s happy to call it her home.  The walls of her spacious private room are decorated with pieces of art that bring her fond memories: the French street scene that her aunt bought in Paris in the 1960’s, the framed photography by an old friend, the crocheted design that a friend made especially for her. 

She is a self-proclaimed Bingo fan and lover of computer games such as Solitaire, Bejeweled, and Poker, as well as a fan of crossword and jigsaw puzzles.   Bible chat is another one of her favorite activities, led by the Bivins Pointe chaplain.

“I’ve never had a hard life, and I never had to struggle,” she admits.  But she still doesn’t mind being pampered a little every now and then. 

“The CNAs and nurses are so kind and they spoil me.  I tell myself I’m being spoiled because they serve me breakfast in bed, but I take advantage,” she says with a grin.

By Kelli Bullard

 

 

 


Pointe Personalities: Meet Barbara Ferguson
Posted By: Becky Davis

“If a train doesn’t stop at your station, then it’s not your train,” said author Marianne Williamson.  And sometimes, you don’t even realize you’re waiting on a train until it just shows up. 

For Barbara Steele, that train arrived with an unexpected invitation – one that would take her on a lifetime of adventures she never imagined.  The year was 1953, and she had just returned to Dalhart, Texas, the hometown where she was raised. 

The only child of Herman and Erma Steele, Barbara grew up during World War II and remembers the government rationing certain items such as food, gasoline, and even clothing.  It might be her positive outlook that kept her from feeling deprived, but Barbara says she had everything she needed and more.

“My mom sewed my clothes, so I always had Sunday clothes and school clothes – skirts, not pants. We used stamps to buy shoes. And sugar, too,” she says.

Her home was a happy one. “Mom sang around the house all the time, and I learned a lot of the old songs just listening to her,” Barbara recalls.  “I used to think my friends’ lives looked like so much fun because they had siblings, but later I realized that I didn’t have to share my room or my clothes or my parents’ attention.  I think that makes a big difference in the way you grow up.”

This was the 1930’s, and there were three air bases in Dalhart so the town felt like it was overrun with people.  Weekly gatherings at the local church attracted a score of military men, and Barbara felt very grown up playing ping-pong with them. She also performed at the USO and local movie theater – ballet and tap dance were her specialties.  

She left Dalhart to attend Colorado Women’s College in Denver, where she studied Humanities, and then went on to earn her bachelors degree in Home Economics from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her plan was to pursue merchandising with a minor in business, but an illness in the family called her back home.  

After attending summer school at West Texas State University (now WTAMU), she got a temporary teaching certificate and spent the next year teaching a class of 6th graders.  She had 36 students, and she was required to teach all subjects. After that first year she didn’t return, and friends assumed the position was too demanding. But that wasn’t exactly the case.

While Barbara was getting initiated in the world of teaching, something was brewing in the small town of Stratford about 30 miles away.  Bob Ferguson, a young attorney and county judge, was finding it difficult to activate a social life in such a small town, so he started making the trek to Dalhart.  One Sunday morning, a young woman in the church choir caught his eye, and he asked a friend to arrange a blind date. Luckily for him, Barbara Steele said yes even though she had never laid eyes on him. “I was blind, but he wasn’t,” she jokes. 

They married in the summer of 1953 and settled down in Stratford.  She did some substitute teaching until their first daughter, Beth, was born in 1954.  A partnership opportunity for Bob took them back to Dalhart, where their family expanded with the births of Susan in 1956 and Lee in 1960.

Barbara may not have known she was waiting at the station for Bob Ferguson, and she certainly didn’t know that this life of adventure would involve a lot of train rides.  “Bob loved trains,” she says.  “He was like a little boy about trains.” He delighted in taking her on rail trips that spanned the U.S. and Canada – including the east and west coasts, Montreal to Nova Scotia, Vancouver, Lake Louise, Texas to California, and Utah. On one of their California trips there were docents from the railroad museum in Oakland on board, and they gave lectures which thrilled Bob. 

Bob also loved to dance, but they didn’t dance regularly for the first 25 years of their marriage. At a wedding reception, he mentioned that if she would quit leading, he would dance with her. Soon after, they took up round dancing and learned some steps that translated well to the dance floor. “Bob took two years of dance lessons,” she says, “and I used to say he was going to get his doctorate in dancing.”

In 2006 Bob retired and announced a move to Granbury, Texas, to be near their grandchildren. The announcement surprised Barbara. “He was 82,” she says.  “When I was 82, I couldn’t even move across the hall.”

Granbury became their home for the next seven years, and Bob took up walking regularly – sometimes as much as six miles in a day. He would anxiously await the arrival of the latest Texas Highways magazine, and then plan a road trip.  Port Aransas was a favorite destination, and they loved watching the porpoises and dolphins lead the boats into port. Fishing wasn’t on the agenda, but they liked to go boating with friends who lived in the area. Their road trips often included visits to museums and art galleries, a passion they shared.

A unique prayer group formed during their time in Granbury, and the weekly meetings impacted Barbara’s spiritual life.  “It really was powerful,” she says.  “It allowed us to get to know people from all walks of life.”  It also prompted them to be re-baptized, signifying a renewed commitment to the Lord. Lifelong Methodists, they met a couple who led music at the Baptist Church and decided to attend. “Bob didn’t like me saying that we went to the Baptist Church because of the music, but we did,” she explains.

In 2012 they returned to the Texas Panhandle, moving into a retirement community in Amarillo. It was in 2013 that Bob and Barbara took their last train trip together. To celebrate Bob’s 90th birthday, the family rode the North Pole Express out of Grapevine, Texas.  In 2016, Bob passed after a short illness. He was 93. Today Barbara enjoys hearing updates about their three children, eight grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. She feels very blessed to have lived the life of adventure she shared with Bob for 63 years.

In September 2019, she came to call Bivins Pointe her home. Life is a little slower these days, but she still sees it as a grand adventure. And she’s so very thankful she didn’t miss the train.

 


Pointe Personalities: Meet Jean Harris
Posted By: Kelli Bullard

A stack of books towers on the bedside table next to Jean Harris, as she thumbs through the pages of a novel. It’s one in a series that she borrowed from a friend, and she’s determined to finish it today – even if it means burning some midnight oil. 

In the few short months she has been at Bivins Pointe, Jean has read many of the books in the library (at least any that interested her), so now the Bivins Activity Director makes weekly visits to the public library, checking out titles she thinks Jean will like. Mysteries are a favorite, but she also likes romance, biographies, and memoirs.  Most any genre appeals to her, except science fiction.

Sometimes a mystery will stump her to the point that she has to skip to the end.  “That’s part of my goal when I’m reading a mystery; I’m going to figure this out,” she says. “Once I know who the murderer is, then I can go back and read the rest of the story.”

Jean’s love of reading began in childhood, when she would grab four or five library books on her weekly visit – Nancy Drew mysteries and such. If you wanted to find her on a hot summer day, you’d have to look up in the big oak tree outside their home in Rocksprings, Texas.  Nestled in the spot where the trunk joined a large branch, Jean would lean against the cool bark and read for hours.  “It was a nice place to read, and the breeze would really cool me off,” Jean explains.

Rocksprings was only one of several places she lived as a child.  Jean’s dad was a geophysicist for an oil exploration company, so frequent moves were the norm – to the point that she attended ten different high schools. Wherever the job took her dad, the family pulled up stakes and followed. Houston, San Angelo, and Junction were the Texas towns where they took up residence, along with places like Roundup, Montana; Green River, Utah; Ely, Nevada; Winslow, Arizona; Cortez, Colorado; and Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Willows, Red Bluff – all in California.

“I’ve lived in so many places, I’ve never been interested in taking trips,” she says.  Jean and her sister, Barbara Jo, spent Christmas holidays and summer vacations with her parents wherever they might be, but that was enough to fulfill her travel quota as an adult.

Two years apart in age, Jean and Barbara Jo were constantly being told they looked alike. “People would ask if we were twins, even in our 40’s and 50’s,” Jean says.  “We couldn’t see [the resemblance].”

After high school Barbara Jo returned to Texas to attend college, and two years later Jean followed in her footsteps.  After majoring for three years in microbiology (known as bacteriology at the time), Jean decided she didn’t want to spend her life growing things in petri dishes.  So she changed her major to history and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. 

An opening for a history instructor at Amarillo College caught her eye, so Jean applied and was hired.  Barbara Jo landed a teaching position with Amarillo ISD. 

In the early teaching years, Jean sewed her own clothes, a skill she had learned in school.  “Back in the dark ages when I went to high school, we had home economics class where we learned to sew,” Jean explains.  “My sister didn’t have the patience for it, but I liked it.”

She also enjoyed knitting, crochet and needlepoint, which were other hobbies that Barbara Jo never cared for.

Teaching history at the college level was very fulfilling to Jean.  “It always made me happy to see students learning things they didn’t know,” she says.  The curriculum spanned a lengthy time period in American history – from early colonization to the Civil War and Reconstruction, through WWI, WWII, the Korean conflict and Vietnam. 

Jean didn’t use a textbook much; she would give reading assignments to the students and then go over the main points in class.  “If I couldn’t remember all five parts of Alexander Hamilton’s financial program, I would have notes to refer to,” she says. “But mostly I could lecture from memory.”

She also didn’t expect students to remember dates.  “I’d much rather you know what happened than precisely when it happened,” she would tell them.

The best compliment she ever received came from one of her students.  He said he had been trying to figure out all semester if she was a Democrat or a Republican. “You really can’t tell?” she asked. 

When he responded “no,” Jean was thrilled.  “I told him it’s not up to me to indoctrinate you into one political party or the other.  It’s my job to teach you to think for yourself.  I hope that’s what I was able to do.”

One of her favorite time periods to teach was the 1820’s and 1830’s, when John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson were fighting politically.  “Adams accused Jackson of being a murderer and an adulterer. Jackson’s followers accused Adams of being a pimp for a Russian czar and buying gambling devices for the White House.  Those gambling devices turned out to be a chessboard and pool table,” she says with a grin.

“It got down and dirty.  We think it’s bad today but it’s nothing like it was then.”

Jean retired from teaching in 2005 after a career than spanned 41 years. Her sister Barbara Jo passed away in 2006; her mom had passed in 1998 and her dad in 1970.

Jean came to Bivins Pointe in the fall of 2019, and she has enjoyed getting to know several residents who are also former teachers.  Her passion for reading shows no sign of waning, and she’s always up for a good book. 

Spoiler alert: She’s had a lot of practice solving mysteries, so she might tell you the identity of the murderer before you get to the ending. Please don’t hold it against her.  

 

 


Pointe Personalities: Meet Jeff Messer
Posted By: Becky Davis

He preached his first sermon at age 10 to an audience of 54 people on a Wednesday night.  Jeff Messer knew he was called into ministry from a young age, but he just didn’t know exactly what that would entail.  “At the time I never would have seen myself doing what I do now,” he says.

He remembers the first time he saw Gates Hall on the campus of Wayland Baptist University in Plainview and somehow realizing it would be part of his destiny.  “I was ten or eleven at the time and I just knew I would go to Wayland, but I later discovered that you don’t just ‘go to college.’ So I had people who helped me along the way,” he says.

The first in his family to attend college, Jeff accepted a bi-vocational pastoral position while he was still a student at Wayland.  After graduation, he went on to pastor churches over a span of 28 years, in locations such as Wellington, Shamrock, McLean, and Amarillo.  

Life took an unexpected turn when he was asked to go into youth mission work for a private school in Amarillo.  He spent the next ten years facilitating mission opportunities for students at Bible Heritage Christian School.  Those opportunities included projects with City Church in Amarillo and homeless work with Mission Waco/Church Under the Bridge.  It was an enlightening experience, especially for the students. “We were serving homeless people under the I-35 bridge, right down the street from an affluent private university. It opened the students’ eyes to a way of life they never knew existed,” Jeff says.

The next unforeseen life change came in the form of a nudging from his wife, Donna.  She saw a job posting for a chaplain position at Bivins, and mentioned it to him.  “A nursing home?” Jeff asked.  Never in his wildest imagination had he considered a step like this.  He decided to fill out a last-minute application, and then a few weeks later received a call to come for an interview.

During a tour of the facility, a memory care patient said to Jeff, “Well Land o’ Goshen, when did you get in town?” 

Jeff knelt down to be eye-level with this woman he didn’t know, and said the first thing that popped into his mind. “Well, just this morning.”

“Are you going to stick around?” she asked.

“I sure hope so,” was his sincere answer.

That was in 2005, and Jeff Messer has been at Bivins ever since.  As chaplain, he enjoys leading Bible chats with the Bivins Pointe residents three times a week, holding a non-denominational church service on Sundays, and taking time to visit with the long-term residents and rehab patients every day.

 “God has graciously allowed me to journey with these people who have lived such rich lives.  Their stories are what movies and novels are made of,” Jeff says.  ‘I get to visit with people who have such rich and varied faith backgrounds, and I get to teach Bible to people who sometimes know it better than I do.”

When he’s not involved in his chaplain duties, Jeff enjoys writing, cooking with his grandkids, and spending time with his family.  He and his wife, Donna, have three adult children.  Son T.J. is minister, daughter Leigha is a P.A., and their youngest son, Dustin, is a pastor in the Dallas area.

When asked what the future holds, Jeff says he plans to be at Bivins Pointe as long as he possibly can.  His respect for the Bivins legacy traces back to his childhood when the City of Amarillo’s library was housed in the old Bivins family home.  As 10-year-old Jeff perused the book selections inside those walls, he was beginning a journey that would connect him to the Bivins legacy for many years to come. He didn’t know what lay ahead, but as he looks back on that time he is convinced there was a divine plan unfolding.

“God knew all along what I didn’t know,” he says. “I could never have imagined this, but I’m glad He could.”

By Kelli Bullard


Pointe Personalities: Meet Tom Morris
Posted By: Kelli Bullard

Much has been written about one of Amarillo’s favorite sons, but his 100th birthday provided a perfect opportunity to celebrate the life of Tom Morris one more time. He is a member of the Greatest Generation, but he stands out as a leader and role model, even among them. The accomplished lawyer recently sat down and answered questions about his childhood, his successful career, and his WWII experience.

Born in Penelope, Texas on November 12, 1919, Tom grew up in Maypearl, 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth.  At 17, he was named valedictorian of the Maypearl High School class of 1937 and then went on to attend North Texas Agricultural College.  After graduating with honors, he entered the University of Texas Law School. The dean discouraged him because he had only two years of college; nevertheless, he made top grades and was named Dean Hildebrand’s Quizmaster, a role awarded to the best students.

Tom was scheduled to graduate in May 1942, but December 7, 1941 changed everything. He had already enlisted in the Navy Air and received a deferment, but after the attack, the Navy directed him to report for duty January 2, 1942. He passed his solo flying test in April and was sent to Pensacola to be trained as a dive bomber.  That training included 75 hours in the Yellow Peril biplanes, then more hours in the Vultee Vibrator and the SNJ. He received his wings in November and was sent immediately to Opalaca to complete training for aircraft carriers.

It was during a training run in Jacksonville, Florida that the unthinkable happened. “We were doing practice dive-bombing runs,” Tom explains. “As the eighth plane and my plane were making turns, we collided.  He bailed out, but I tried to land my plane.  I came up short and plowed into some pine trees.  My plane was totally destroyed, but I was rescued.  I had multiple fractures and spent six months in the Navy Hospital.” 

After his recovery, Tom joined a squadron which was going aboard the new carrier, the USS Ticonderoga.  In January 1945, two kamikaze bombers struck the Ticonderoga, resulting in a loss of over 300 personnel, and the ship was temporarily out of commission.  After repairs, the Ticonderoga returned for the battles of Okinawa in the summer of 1945.

“We knew that when we returned to the Pacific, it would be for the invasion of Japan,” Tom says.  “We spent 30 days in the Imperial Desert. That was tough flying, with temperatures about 115-120 degrees.  We completed preparation and were about to board the carrier when President Truman dropped the ‘Bomb.’  The rest is history.”

 With enough points to muster out in October 1945, Tom returned to law school and graduated from UT with high honors in June 1946. He was quickly asked to join the faculty. “I was flabbergasted but immediately accepted,” Tom says. After serving two years on the faculty, Tom and a friend established a law practice in Harlingen, Texas. In 1949 he and his wife, Estella, took a driving tour of Texas to “find a better place.”  They turned down offers in Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, and Houston.  Estella had grown up in Spearman, so they decided to move back to the Panhandle, settling in Amarillo in September 1949. 

Tom joined the firm of Gibson, Ochsner & Little in 1950, and remained there for 50 years.  One of his greatest career successes was in the landmark case of Graham v. Deere, a patent infringement case. He spent nearly 10 years on that case alone. The major case was decided by the United States Supreme Court in February 1966.  It established the law on a major point of patent law, and it has remained in place ever since with the case being cited as the authority more than 40,000 times.

At the age of 83, Tom went to work at the Underwood Law Firm in Amarillo, due to the closing of Gibson, Ochsner & Adkins. At 85, Tom was named one of five outstanding lawyers with over 50 years’ experience by the Texas Bar Foundation. 

In April 2017, Tom Morris was the 21st lawyer to be named a “Texas Law Legend” by the State Bar of Texas. In a speech at the Texas Tech Law School, he challenged aspiring attorneys with what he considered essential ingredients of a successful and rewarding career.

“Represent clients to the best of your ability.  Love what you do.  Dedicate yourself to study, to work. It’s not about self-aggrandizement but about doing what duty demands.”

Tom Morris still practices what he preaches.  He loves the law, and his devotion to it has rewarded him with respect from colleagues throughout his career.  He continues to show up five days a week at the Underwood Law Firm in Amarillo, where his partners continue to sing his praises.

“Mr. Morris has always set the highest level of professionalism,” says Gavin Gadberry, Underwood Law Firm President.  “He has taught all of us that the duty of an attorney to be a zealous advocate does not mean you check your courtesy and respect at the door.” 

“If a 100-year-old lawyer can work tirelessly without shortcuts to represent his clients, all lawyers can,” says Slater Elza, attorney and shareholder at Underwood Law Firm.  “His work ethic has been the one thing I took from the years we have worked together.”

Adapted from Amarillo Senior Link magazine; click here to read the full story)