north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     In a public career spanning fifty years, Cameron Morrison, United States Senator and Representative as well as governor, is best remembered for internal improvements which earned North Carolina a reputation as the most progressive Southern state in the 1920s. Born in 1869, the “Good Roads Governor” attended school in his native Richmond County. He did not attend college but in 1892 studied law with Judge Robert Dick of Greensboro. That same year he passed the bar and returned to Rockingham to practice.
     
     Morrison switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party in 1891 and opposed what he viewed as abuses of the political system by Republicans and their allies in the 1890s. As a leader of the “Red Shirts,” he promoted white supremacy tactics that included harassment and threats of violence against blacks. Morrison, as mayor of Rockingham, was defeated in a bid for the state senate in 1896 but was elected to a single term in 1900. With the support of party leader Furnifold Simmons, Morrison won the Democratic nomination for governor in 1920, and easily defeated Republican candidate John J. Parker.

     Morrison devoted himself to internal improvements, endorsing practically all of the goals of the Good Roads movement. By generating widespread grassroots support, Morrison prompted the 1921 legislature to fund construction of 5,500 miles of hard-surface roads. Swift action and fiscal daring shocked Morrison’s conservative backers, who warned that the plan would bankrupt the state. Morrison also persuaded the legislature to fund improvements for higher education and the state’s charitable institutions. Despite his earlier history, Morrison sought to improve race relations and all but ended lynching in the state. A Presbyterian, Morrison was a traditionalist on social issues, endorsing Prohibition and opposing the teaching of evolution in the public schools.

     Morrison returned to private life in Charlotte and in 1930 Governor O. Max Gardner appointed him to fill an unexpired U.S. Senate term. Two years later, Robert R. Reynolds defeated Morrison’s bid for a full term in a campaign where the political novice ridiculed the veteran for his wealth acquired through marriage. In 1942 Morrison was elected to the U.S. House but two years later was defeated by Clyde R. Hoey in another bid for the Senate. Morrison died in Quebec on August 20, 1953, and is buried in Charlotte’s Elmwood Cemetery.


References:
William H. Richardson, comp., and D. L. Corbitt, ed., Public Papers and Letters of Cameron Morrison, Governor of North Carolina, 1921-1925 (1927)
Cecil K Brown, The State Highway System of North Carolina: Its Evolution and Present Status (1931)
Frank Porter Graham, “Cameron Morrison: An Address” (1955)
Nathaniel F. Magruder, "The Administration of Governor Cameron Morrison of North Carolina, 1921-1925” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, 1968)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 328-330—sketch by Nathaniel F. Magruder
Howard E. Covington Jr. and Marion A. Ellis, eds., The North Carolina Century: Tar Heels Who Made a Difference, 1900-2000 (2002)
Elmer L. Puryear, Democratic Party Dissension in North Carolina, 1928-1936 (1962)
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Gov. Cameron Morrison

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