Morris Henry Carroll

He was a strong principal, T.V. Host; outstanding educator. He was known as "Boss Man"
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Morris Henry Carroll

Morris Henry Carroll was a leading educator and spokesman for Black rights during the 35 year period between 1944 and 1979.

A graduate of Southern University, Carroll was the football coach of Monroe Colored High School during the early 1940’s. He was known for his “bulldog” like tenacity, immense personal pride, and his sometimes abrasive style. Carroll was a close friend and confidant of James A. Noe, Sr. a prominent white businessman with considerable political influences in the state. He and Noe formed a friendship that catapulted him into the forefront of the Black community for four decades.

It began with Carroll’s mysterious selection as principal of Monroe Colored High School and ran through his bid for the Monroe City Council just before his death. As the coach at Monroe Colored High, Carroll set out to forge a winning team, practicing late and working hard. His familiar phrase to young ball players in still repeated today “You have to be a man to play football, or a mighty, mighty, mannish boy.” But coaching was not Carroll’s destiny, he had his eye on the principalship of Monroe Colored High. Its principal, M. J. Foster, was easy going and soft and Carroll had great dreams for the school.

While it was never said publicly how it came about there was a sudden resignation by Professor Foster and Carroll was named principal almost before people in the community knew it. Wh
ile few would say it aloud at the time, many suspected that Noe’s wife Anna, a powerful member of the school board, pressed for Foster’s resignation and arranged for Carroll to be named principal.
As principal of Monroe Colored High and with the backing of Noe, Carroll launched a crusade to improve Monroe Colored High and to raise his image among educators, many of whom resented the circumstances surrounding his appointment. Some teachers on his staff even resigned. In the late 40’s he hosted a banquet for teachers who were fighting for equal pay and spoke frequently for needed civic improvements. Using his influence with Noe, Carroll pushed for the building of a new Monroe Colored High School.
The new school was approved and the name was changed from Monroe Colored High School to Carroll High School, after his father, since state law forbade buildings being named after living persons. The school board gave Carroll almost absolute control over the curriculum, faculty and operation of Carroll High. He launched a program to improve the image of Negro students. His call words became “dignity and respect” as he urged students to pursue excellence in and out of the classroom. His stern disciplinary policies struck fear in many students as he reminded them “when I put you out of here you can go to the mayor, the school board or anybody else, but you are out.” Under Carroll students who disrupted classes or acted disrespectfully were often dealt with harshly. Girls who became pregnant in high school were expelled. The political powers of the city or the school board rarely interfered with Carroll High School’s operation. Noe opened a radio station and allocated 30 minutes a week for the Negro community, the weekly commentator, and coordinator of the program was Carroll.

The show was entitled “Voice of the South,” featured music and Carroll’s commentary on Black issues. He was the only Black voice local Blacks heard over the airways on local Black issues. A few years later Noe began a children’s show on his T.V. station entitled “Happiness Exchange” a variety show for Negro children, Carroll was selected to be the commentator there too. High visibility on the airways, coupled with his unquestioned authority at Carroll High School made Carroll an influential personality in Negro political affairs. His endorsement of a candidate was almost tantamount to full Negro support at the polls, and Carroll never backed a candidate not support at the polls, and Carroll never backed a candidate not supported by his friend and backer James A. Noe. Besides, Carroll had amassed a small fortune on his own, building a gymnasium, and a real estate business that was worth millions at his death.

As the 60’s civil rights revolution dawned and the white community resisted efforts to integrate in Monroe, Carroll tried to push for integration while at the same time avoiding activities that would be explosive. C.O.R.E. organize
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Henry Carroll was both loved and feared by many
rs, some of whom were students at Carroll, were suspended from school for singing freedom songs during lunch breaks, and he resisted public displays or nonviolent protests. While he resisted explosive displays, he himself kept decrying racism each week on his program...He and mayor W. L. Howard worked to usher in integration in Monroe with a minimum of violence. Scheduled appearances in Monroe by Martin Luther King, Charles Evers, and other outside civil rights leaders were canceled as Howard, Carroll and his political followers tried to usher in integration without incident. There were some in the community who resented Carroll’s position as an “Uncle Tom” approach, others agreed and praised him for his efforts. After 20 years at the helm of the leadership of the Monroe Black community, Carroll’s unquestioned authority over Caroll High School was shaken an integration forced the school to become a 9th grade center in the early 70’s. With white students present, the school board paid more attention to the activities of the school. Although he managed the integrated situation skillfully and without incident, his success was marred by a fire at the school, which he said was started by those who wanted to see the integrated situation dissolve.
Enjoying less clout under integration Carroll soon retired.

After his retirement, Carroll filed suit for the reapportionment of the city school board, which he won, and soon after became one of the first Blacks to serve on the board. His school board career ended, he took on the Monroe City Council and launched an unsuccessful bid to become the first Black on the Monroe City Council. A new group of Black leaders led by Benny Ausberry, Abe Pierce III and Alfred Blakes, challenged Carroll and put Ausberry in the city council race against Carroll to stop him from winning. There was sufficient reason to believe Carroll might win the post.

Ausberry and several others had filed a suit claiming Monroe’s city government kept Blacks from winning and they demanded a change. Ausberry campaigned on the platform that Carroll was being used by Howard and Noe to try to prove that Blacks could be elected. It was feared that as in past years Carroll’s strong white backing would help him win for the sole purpose of undermining the suit for permanent change

All stops were pulled in Carroll’s council bid. Slick television promotional ads were made by Carroll’s professional white advisors. Noe publically endorsed Carroll and Howard worked diligently in his campaign with advice and finance. Carroll carried 90% of the Black vote in the election, but lost. Ausberry’s suit was later won and the government form was permanently changed guaranteeing Black representation.
A few years later, in 1979 Henry Carroll died. He was loved, feared, and hated but was respected by all.