Montana State Supreme Court Justice Brian Morris really didn't have a choice when it came to attending Butte Central High School. But he did look forward to it as a young boy.
"My parents expected it, but I had no reservations about going to Central. I had grown up a Butte Central sports fan, and my highest aspiration as a kid was to play for the Maroons." "Buddy Walsh (renowned football and wrestling athlete who attended Central, Montana Tech and University of Montana) was my hero when I was 6 years old." "Back in those days, there was only one NFL game on television and one college game. So you attended all the high school games to see live athletics," he said.
Morris, of course, was no slouch in the sports department either. He was an All-State athlete and a Stanford University football standout.
Morris competed in football, basketball and track at Central. He set a school record by rushing for 1,640 yards his senior year of 1981. He also set school records that year with 236 carries and 1,732 total yards, and led the Maroons to the state championship game. In track, Morris won both hurdle races at the 1982 state track meet as the Butte Central boys won their first and only Montana track championship. Morris went on to star in football, as a fullback, at Stanford University. He was a starter in the 1986 Gator Bowl.
In addition to being an outstanding student, Morris earned first-team All-State honors in football in both his junior and senior years, and won the state meet in both high and intermediate hurdles in his senior year. Morris also played basketball for three years for Butte Central.
"But I don't think I was even honorable mention in the (Western A) conference in basketball," he said.
Morris didn't lose too much ground in college either. In his junior and senior years, he was honorable mention all Pac 10, first team all-academic Pac-10 and all-academic District 8. In his senior year, Morris earned an NCAA post-graduate scholarship, one of eight that is awarded nationally each year.
What is one of your favorite memories of Central?
The lifelong friendships that I developed. My wife sometimes gets after me for not being more social and having more friends. I always tell her that I have plenty of friends — it's just that most of them happen to be people whom I met in high school.
What is your proudest moment in your career, or what goals did you accomplish or project of which you are most proud?
Trying to be a good father to my three boys.
Who might have been a favorite mentor to you at Central and why?
Dave Kortum. He was my science teacher for earth science, biology and chemistry. Dave always pushed me to work harder, to question assumptions and to see what opportunities could be found in the wider world.
I can remember when we tried to duplicate the Teton dam disaster in the classroom and flooded everything. He was good about it.
Sister Kathleen was very good at teaching geometry. She always had something concrete to demonstrate with, such as a peeled orange for a sphere or playing cards to prove the theories about how planes intersect.
Brother Tony Favero, who was bit shy, was very knowledgeable about physics. He was very committed to his teaching.
Overall, though the classes were small, the faculty kept you on your toes. Brother Ford, for example, was in charge of ensuring your hair was cut properly and you had no facial hair.
Also, I chose law because of attorneys I knew in Butte, such as R.D. Corette and Don Robinson. They were there to help people with their problems. I grew up around lots of people who had legal problems, such as crime, divorces. Things were rough for them. I liked the idea that as a lawyer I could help them.
What extra-curricular activities did you participate in? Any fond memories of these?
Mostly sports — football, basketball and track. I remember the camaraderie created through the shared sacrifice and work in preparing for the season and in practices, as much as I remember any particular game. Team sports established a sense of belonging to something larger than yourself and impressed upon you the responsibilities that you owed to your teammates. I also recall fondly the satisfaction of winning the state track championship in 1982 after near misses in football and basketball.
We always got up for the Butte-High, Butte Central game. We lost in overtime to the Bulldogs that year. It was a heartbreaker.
I can remember riding the old, 1950 Bluebird bus that had the flat back seats to games in 100-degree temperatures. It took us two hours to ride to Dillon. By the time you got off the bus, you were fired up to play hard.
How do you stay connected to Butte Central?
Through my friends who were classmates, many of whom continue to live in Butte, such as Ed Randall, Toby Richards, Tim Cronnelly, Don Peoples Jr., Tim Norbeck, Kevin Dennehy and Joe McClafferty. I also try to attend all of my class reunions.
What advice would you give high school students today?
Work hard to learn the basic skills of math, science and reading. The world today offers opportunities unimaginable to my generation, but you need these basic skills to pursue these opportu-nities successfully. No longer will you be competing against the best and brightest in the country, but against the best and the brightest See MORRIS, Page D5 in the world.
It's funny how things can change so quickly. When I was at Stanford, the Apple computer was just out. There wasn't enough memory to type a term paper on it. However, you still need the basics to understand how today's world functions. Central gives you that.
Can you give us an example about how a Catholic education has played a significant role in your life today?
My Catholic education influences how I view the world and how I go about deciding cases as a judge. The eight Beatitudes, in particular, serve as a guidepost for my thinking. We used to put on a Thanksgiving dinner each year at Butte Central for elderly living in nursing homes or by themselves and unable to travel easily. We would cook the meal and organize transportation to get all of the people to the gym for dinner. In looking back now, it makes me hope that someone will care about me when I reach that stage in life.
Brian Morris Age: 45 Current address: 907 State St., Helena, MT 59601 Job title: Justice of the Montana Supreme Court since January 2005. Term expires January 2013. Formerly worked as solicitor for the Montana Department of Justice and in private law practice in Bozeman.
Personal data: Wife, Cherche and sons, Willem 11, Max 9, and Aidan, 8.
Parents: John and Joann Morris of Whitehall When did you attend Central?
1978 through 1982