Friday, May 4, 2012

Luzon Burritt Morris (1827-1895)

   A prominent Connecticut lawyer and legislator, Luzon Burritt Morris etched his name in the annals of history in 1892 when he was elected as the 52nd Governor of Connecticut. For some reason, this oddly named Governor remained "faceless" for many years due to the fact that I could never find an actual portrait of him! In 2002 or so I stumbled across a picture of a statue of him and that remained the only actual "portrait" that I could find until the discovery of the above print in the 1891 work Representative Men of the State of Connecticut. Since that portrait's discovery a few months ago I've managed to find three additional pictures of him (courtesy of Google books) and I'm proud to relate that because of this following profile, there will now be at least a few new pictures of him available online!
   Luzon B. Morris was born on April 16, 1827 in Newtown, Connecticut, the son of Eli Gould and Lydia Bennett Morris. Luzon attended schools local to the Newport area and during his teenage years was employed as a toolmaker and blacksmith. Morris eventually accumulated enough savings to put himself through school and in 1848 enrolled in the Connecticut Literary Institute. After graduating from here he moved on to Yale University, where he received his law degree. While still pursuing his education, Morris began to test the political waters, being elected to the Connecticut General Assembly in 1855 and 1856 and in the latter year was admitted to the state bar. Also in 1856, Morris married his wife Eugenia Tuttle, with whom he later had three sons and three daughters.

   In addition to his law practice and early legislative service, Luzon B. Morris also served as Probate Judge for the district of New Haven from 1857 to 1863. Over the next few decades, he earned a reputation as one of the most distinguished members of the Connecticut bar and was reelected to the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1870, 1876, 1880 and 1881. In 1874 Morris was elected to the State Senate, and during his term served as the chairman of the senate judiciary committee. He is also recorded as serving as President Pro tem of the senate during his one year term.
   While Morris continued honing his political and judicial career, he is also mentioned as having a keen interest in the financial affairs of his home state. The Representative Men of Connecticut notes that Morris served as the Vice President (and later President) of the Connecticut Savings Bank of New Haven for over two decades. He was later named to the New Haven Board of Education and eventually served as its president.
  During his time in the legislature and afterward, Luzon Morris put his law expertise to use by serving on a number of committees that aided in the revising of probate laws in Connecticut. His work in these areas eventually caught the eye of Connecticut Democratic party leaders, who in 1888 urged him to run for Governor. In that year's gubernatorial election, Morris faced off against Republican nominee Morgan Gardner Bulkeley (1837-1922). 
   When the results were tallied in November 1888, Morris had accumulated more votes than his opponent but neither candidate had the required 50% to claim an election victory. In accordance with a then existing state law, the decision was left in the hands of the Connecticut General Assembly. Seeing that the Assembly had a large Republican majority, Morgan Bulkeley was declared the victor. Similar election chicanery occurred when Morris ran again in 1890 (this time losing the Democratic nomination to Samuel Merwin) but it is reported by the 1905 work Governors of Connecticut that even in the face of skewed election results and political bickering, Morris remained "perfectly conservative and very dignified."
           This portrait of Morris appeared in the "Governors of Connecticut", originally published in 1905.

    Luzon Burritt Morris eventually won the Connecticut governorship in 1892, defeating Republican candidate Samuel Merwin by a vote of 82, 878 to 76,745. He officially took office in January 1893 and during his two-year term pressed for improvements in existing Connecticut state election laws. During the second year of his term, Morris was named as the director of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company and continued serving in this post after his term as Governor concluded. Also during his tenure, Morris had to contend with the financial panic of 1893-94, and it is mentioned that his overall popularity with voters suffered immensely because of this! Morris did not seek reelection in 1895 and died of a stroke on August 22 of that year, aged 68. Following his death, he was interred at the Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven. Morris's obituary below appeared in an August 23, 1895 edition of the Glens Falls Morning Star.

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