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Edwin Porch Morrow Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Edwin Porch Morrow passes away in 1935.

Edwin Porch Morrow was an American politician.

Morrow was born in Somerset, Kentucky on November 28th, 1877. He had a twin brother and they were the youngest of the family. Morrow's father was a founder of the Kentucky Republican Party and a failed candidate for Governor of the state under the Republican ticket. At the age of 14, Morrow entered preparatory school at St. Mary's College. From there he went to Cumberland College, which is now the University of the Cumberlands.

In 1898, Morrow enlisted in the Army to serve during the Spanish-American War. He trained in Kentucky and Alabama, although never saw combat. He was stricken with typhoid fever and was mustered out of service as a second lieutenant in 1899. In 1900 he enrolled in he University of Cincinnati Law School where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws Degree in 1902.

Morrow opened his law practice in Lexington, Kentucky. There he was called on by a judge to serve as the defense attorney for William Moseby, an African American man who was charged with murder. Moseby's first trial ended in a hung jury and it was believed with a confession Moseby gave, the second trial was surely going to end in conviction. Shortly after his confession, Moseby recanted. Morrow discovered the confession was obtained when Moseby's jailers told him there was a lynch mob outside and if he didn't confess they'd turn him over. Morrow also proved much of the testimony against Moesby was false as well.

In 1904, Morrow was appointed as the City Attorney for Somerset, serving until 1908. In 1910, President William Howard Taft appointed Morrow as the United States District Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. He served as U.S. District Attorney until he was replaced by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913.

In 1919, Morrow was elected as the 40th Governor of Kentucky. Prior to being elected he had sought the Governor's office once before in 1915. As part of his campaign one of his slogans was "Right the Wrong of 1915." He ran on a Progressive platform which included an amendment to the State Constitution to grant Women's Suffrage. He ensured his victory after declaring the previous, Democrat, administration was corrupt. He proved this by presenting a contract which had been approved by the state Board of Control with a non-existent company. Morrow won the election by 40,000 votes, giving Republicans their largest victory in Kentucky.

In January of 1920 Morrow signed the bill ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment which prevented states and the Federal Government from denying anyone the right to vote based on sex. In the early part of Morrow's Governorship he had a Republican majority in the Legislature and was able to get things done including replacing the Board of Control with a nonpartisan Board of Charities and Corrections, centralizing highway works, revising property taxes and improvements to the educational system.

In law enforcement, Morrow used his Gubernatorial powers to try to create change in the Kentucky Justice system. He did this in part by urging the enforcement of existing laws preventing people from carrying concealed weapons and by restricting the activities of the Klu Klux Klan. He also tried to affect change using force when necessary. An example was shortly after he entered office, he called out the National Guard to protect Will Lockett, a black World War I veteran on trial for murder. Lockett freely confessed to the crime and the trial was simply a formality. Despite Lockett's confession a lynch mob began to assemble around the courthouse where Lockett was being tried. When Morrow sent the National Guard he told the adjutant general "Do as much as you have to do to keep that Negro in the hands of the law. If he falls into the hands of the mob I do not expect to see you alive."

During the trial, violence erupted when a photographer asked a group of men in front of him to put their fists in the air so he could take a picture. Others in the crowd thought this was a signal to storm the courthouse. In the ensuing violence a police officer was so badly injured. His arm had to be amputated. The National Guard opened fire killing six people and wounding fifty. Some in the crowd tried to loot local stores trying to find weapons to retaliate. Eventually order was restored. The incident is considered by some to be the first forceful suppression used to stop a lynch mob in the South.

Morrow also did not hesitate to remove people he felt were corrupt under the law. The two examples of this occurred first in 1921, when he removed a jailer in Woodford County for allowing a lynch mob to take a black inmate. After Morrow removed the jailer the locals refused to help in the investigation and the perpetrators of the lynch mob were never found. The second occurred in 1922, when a white traveling salesman was accused of assaulting young girls. The parents of the girls refused to press charges and the man, Jack Eaton, was released. Later he was captured by a mob who cut him several times and poured turpentine into his wounds. An investigation of the incident showed the local sheriff had delivered Eaton into the hands of the mob. Morrow immediately had the sheriff removed. Even though Eaton was white, African Americans cheered Morrow's actions hoping it'd bring about change and help protect against future lynchings.

Little was accomplished during Morrow's final year in office since the Republicans had lost their majority. An anti-lynching law was passed and an abolition on convict labor was established.

After leaving the Governors office Morrow returned to his legal practice. He did try unsuccessfully to run for the United States House of Representatives.

Morrow passed away on June 15th, 1935 from a heart attack.

Morrow was a member of Somerset Lodge No. 111 in Somerset, Kentucky. Records indicate he demitted from the lodge in 1928 just before he became Governor.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.