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Johnnie L. Morris, III, graduated from Morehouse College, Atlanta, Ga., earlier this month, with 400+ other excited and hard working students. He completed four years, walking across the stage for a final time with his BA in English. He will continue his education following a career in journalism and law.
Like his classmates and school personnel, Morris was quite surprised when guest speaker and billionaire investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith pledged to pay off the student loan debt of the Morehouse 2019 graduates. His gift to the nearly 400 graduating seniors is about $40 million.
"My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans!" Smith told the graduates during his commencement address. “You great Morehouse men are bound only by the limits of your own conviction and creativity.”
“What a gift!” exclaimed Johnnie. “This is a blessing that is just so unbelievable. I will be forever grateful to this man and my parents for having so much faith in me through the years.”
Morris was also recognized as an Adams Scholar for his leadership and success; and for committing 1,000 hours of community service in the program, helping with student teaching, serving at the food bank and he was editor for the program.
“We just didn't know how we were going to pay these student loans,” said Morris’ mom, Emma Morris, wiping tears from her eyes. “We've been praying for a way to help Johnnie, and now this. Johnnie will go on to do great things. Mr. Smith will not regret his gift to Johnnie. Not ever. Johnnie will make him proud.”
According to their website, Morehouse College is a private, historically black, men's college. The college is one of the few remaining traditional men's liberal arts colleges in the United States. Founded in 1867 by William Jefferson White, an aggressive expansionary program undertaken by the college's 6th President Benjamin Mays, during the 1950s and 1960s, established Morehouse as the largest men's college in the United States, with an enrollment of over 2,000 students. Along with Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse School of Medicine and nearby women's college Spelman College, Morehouse is part of the Atlanta University Center. Morehouse is one of two historically black colleges in the country to produce Rhodes Scholars, and it is the alma mater of many African-American community and civil leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr.
Johnnie is a native of Monticello and the son of Johnnie, Jr. and Erma Harris Morris of Monticello. He is a graduate of Rickards High School in Tallahassee with honors in 2015. He is one of six siblings, all furthering their education and following in successful careers.
A non-profit outreach ministry has already been set in place by the family of Johnnie Morris. 'Behind the Scenes' ministry will work with young students age 12 to graduation, leading them to be better students; helping them to get into college and encouraging them into a career path that will make a difference in their lives and a difference in their community.
Johnnie has a passion for storytelling. He would like his legacy to be about uniting people and encouraging them to further their education. He wants people to follow their dreams and be the best they can be in whatever they choose to be.