John Miller Morris

1953 - 2017

John Miller Morris, Jr., 64, passed away on February 16, 2017, in a San Antonio hospital after surgery, attended by friends who traveled thousands of miles to come to his bedside. He is survived by a daughter Erin Claire Noakes of Washington D.C. He will be missed by his longtime companion, many friends, colleagues, and neighbors.

John grew up in Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle and his early experiences in the southwest shaped his work, home, and life. He was an Eagle Scout and high school underground newspaper editor demonstrating his civic priorities from an early age. He obtained a bachelor degree (Plan II Honors Program), two master’s degrees (Community & Regional Planning and Slavic Literature and Language), and a doctoral degree (Geography and Planning) from The University of Texas at Austin where he also competed in fencing. His love of the land and his personal heritage was demonstrated through his long involvement in the family’s business, the C.B. Morris Company, one of the first family farm corporations in Texas.

As a scholar, he authored and edited multiple books on his way to his full professorship at the University of Texas at San Antonio, including El Llano Estacado which remains the definitive work on the history, geography, culture and peoples of that region. He also received multiple awards including the UT Regents Outstanding Teaching Award and the Piper Professor Award for his “dedication to the teaching profession and for outstanding academic achievement.”

John was well-respected throughout the state and was a member of many professional organizations including the Texas Institute of Letters, the Texas State Historical Association, and the West Texas Historical Association (current president). He was also a charter member of the Sensitive Men, a monthly brunch/politics/Frisbee fellowship in Austin and a vital member of the Pros & Cons, a group of scholarly colleagues who met monthly for critical dialogue and conviviality.

John was also an integral force in keeping his Austin neighborhood and the surrounding area on RM 2222 beautiful, livable places. He worked tirelessly to improve and expand Long Canyon’s unique hiking trail system. He served on the homeowner’s association board for numerous terms. He worked with developers in the RM 2222 corridor to assure that developments would be tasteful, as unobtrusive as possible, minimize environmental impacts, and in character with the Hill Country.

He was brilliant, outgoing, inquisitive, energetic and unique. One of his many legacies is a 140-year-old Victorian house he rescued from demolition in the west campus area in 1978, moved twice, and lovingly restored in the woods and hills of west Austin. If you would like to share a memory of John or would like more information about memorials, please email

Memorial contributions may be made on his behalf to the John Miller Morris UTSA scholarship here:

Published in Express-News on Mar. 5, 2017