Alton C. Morris

1988 Florida Folk Heritage Award

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Alton C. Morris was a fourth-generation Floridian from the Lake Okeechobee region. Morris began his research into Florida folklife as a field worker for the Folklife section of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Writers Project in the 1930s—where he worked alongside Zora Neale Hurston and Stetson Kennedy. He used the results of that fieldwork to complete his dissertation on Florida folk songs at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In 1950, it was published as Folksongs of Florida (1950; reprinted 1990), to date the only such collection of Florida folk songs.

Morris was a longtime professor in the English Department at the University of Florida, where he taught folklore classes. While teaching at UF, he also served as the editor of the Southern Folklore Quarterly from 1936 to 1966. In the early 1950s, Morris convinced the leadership of the Florida Women’s Music Club to hold a Florida Folk Festival. He continued to play an influential role in the festival’s first years. He also wrote Places in the Sun: The History and Romance of Florida Place Names (1978). Morris passed away in 1979.