Photo by David Olaniran/Managing Editor for Visual and Multimedia
Established in 1979 by Jimmy Morris Sr. and his wife Cassandra, the construction agency ‘Morris Rebar’ took Prattville, Alabama by storm. For three decades, the family-run company worked to create job opportunities and prosperity for the citizens of Prattville through the business of commercial construction.
Now titled ‘Morris Builders, LLC,’ the business has been taken over by the second generation of the Morris family, with 2010 Alabama State University alumnus Jimmy Morris Jr. as the owner. Since taking the lead, Morris Jr. has partnered his lengthy business experience with the leadership skills learned as a Hornet to build his family’s business to new heights.
Proud to carry on his parents’ legacy, he works diligently to uphold the prestigious Morris name, provide the best opportunity for his employees, and put Morris Builders, LLC in the best possible position for the next generation of Morris business owners.
Morris Jr. was born in Prattville, Alabama. As the oldest of three boys, he remembers having a childhood full of family fun and fellowship.
“I grew up going to church every Sunday,” he shares. “I was a church musician, so it was always a fun time doing that with the family.”
Though he also enjoyed bowling and fishing, Morris Jr.’s genuine interest was found in the musical arts. Being a child prodigy, he began playing the piano and organ at seven years old.
“I have been playing in the church all my life,” he said, “so I had a strong passion for music.”
His undeniable skill not only landed him a spot in his church’s band but also sparked his connection to the university as his piano instructor was Joel Jones Ph.D., who served as the university’s director of Choral Activities.
Morris Jr. furthered his love for music as a teenager in the marching band at Prattville High School. Along with his role in the band, he also participated in the Beta Club, Key Club, Future Business Leaders of America, and more. While actively managing his extracurriculars, Morris Jr. also made sure to get hands-on experience working with his father’s business.
“At an early age, I learned how to utilize my time well,” Morris Jr. said. “Being a church musician, I had to juggle being a kid, my school work, chores, and handling all other affairs.”
By his high school graduation in 2002, he adopted a work ethic that would set him apart academically and professionally.
Following in the footsteps of his aunt Rose Morris, an ASU alumna, Morris Jr. decided to accept a music scholarship, choosing ASU as his collegiate home. Considering he had previously trained with Jones, Morris Jr. excitedly enrolled into the School of Music as a declared music performance major with a minor in education. With his experience and eventual degree, he dreamed of a career as a music teacher. Inspired by his work with his mentor, he hoped to pass his passion and talents on to musicians of the next generation.
While a student, Morris Jr. engaged in several organizations. Throughout his time on campus, he worked as a Golden Ambassador, a member of the University Choir, the Campus Gospel Choir, and the Student Alabama Education Association. In these roles, he was exposed to all the social and professional advancements that the university had to offer.
“As a Golden Ambassador, I had the opportunities to go to all of the games and meet some really influential people,” he said.
Though his time as a Golden Ambassador allowed him to establish relationships with various notable alumni and members of the administration, Morris Jr. remembers his time following his musical passions in the university’s choir most fondly.
“We got to go on tours,” he said. “We got to sing on campus at various convocations, at graduations, and things like that. It was always fun being a part of those events with people that had the same likes and interests.”
Morris Jr. still enjoys bowling, fishing, and dabbling in his musical talents. He serves as the assistant minister of music at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery and the music director of the Alabama Sounds of Joy Choir.
Building off their history, Jones continued to remain an influential figure throughout Morris Jr.’s college years. While enrolled at the university, Morris Jr. underwent many changes in his personal life that threatened to spoil his academic and musical careers, but Jones refused to allow him to fall through the cracks.
“[Jones] taught me to continue to persevere,” he said. “He taught me to continue to study hard and be the best that I possibly could be.” Jones saw an immense amount of potential in his students, and whether it be as a musician or as an entrepreneur, he knew that Morris Jr. held a bright future ahead of him.
Also, as a student, he began his own independent construction company. In 2005, Morris Jr. received his license for homebuilding and worked as a residential constructor part-time.
“It was a business that I started as a student to build houses between classes and during the summer for extra income,” Morris Jr. said. This work not only allowed him to gain more hands-on construction experience but also to build clientele and management skills.
“My father always said, ‘If you do not know anything about your business, then you are not going to be able to run the business,” Morris Jr. explains. “So as young men, we had to learn how to physically do the work and learn the ropes in order to get where we are in the management roles.”
In 2007, Morris Jr.’s father readied for retirement. As the oldest of the next generation, Morris Jr. was left with the decision of how to continue Morris Builders, LLC.
“I just had to think things over about which one would be most fruitful with opportunities,” Morris Jr. said. “So we combined both businesses.”
By morphing his independent ventures with the family business, Morris Jr. became the company’s leader. He reintroduced Morris Builders, LLC to the public as a newly advanced affair, specializing in residential and commercial construction, reupholstering, and maintenance.
At this point in his life, Morris Jr. was forced to balance time as a full-time student and as the owner of his family’s well-developed construction company. Though it was challenging, he was determined to make the most of both aspects of his life, even if it required them to overlap as he walked around the Hornet’s Nest in his stained work clothes.
“It was rough,” he recounts. “I developed a schedule and kept a written calendar to keep up with it all. I had to juggle school, work, family, and friends, so I was just trying to keep my head above water.”
During this time, Morris Jr. developed a work ethic like no other, which would propel him throughout his career.
In 2010, Morris Jr. graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in music performance and a minor in education. Upon graduation, he began working as a choir instructor for Montgomery County Public Schools while continuing his leadership role at Morris Builders, LLC. Though he could share his love for music with the youth, he found more satisfaction in carrying on his father’s legacy. After three years as a choir teacher, Morris decided to leave the school system and fully dedicate himself to Morris Builders, LLC.
To ensure his success as the head of Morris Builders, he decided to further his education and pursue a master’s of business administration with a concentration in project management from Columbia Southern University. By being enrolled in their online courses, Morris Jr. was forced to rise to the occasion as a student and manager.
“I learned that you have to be focused,” Morris Jr. said. “When you are online rather than in person, your mindset has to be set on that goal. You can never lose sight of that.” He also went on to earn certifications from the Babson College Goldman Sachs 10KSB program and Turner School of Construction Management.
In 2017, he completed his studies and fully immersed himself in his leadership role at Morris Builders, LLC.
“As a manager, I was in charge of employee development, and I would be the one to go out and bid on the jobs and seek out new business opportunities,” Morris Jr. said.
Though he had much experience under his belt, he still valued the advice that his parents shared. Morris Jr.’s parents built their business from the ground up, and we’re eager to pass on the lessons they learned along the way.
“They always stressed that you must value your employees,” Morris Jr. said. “Your employees are what makes your company what it is. If you do not invest in your employees, then your company will suffer.”
Following that ideology, Morris Jr. goes above and beyond to make sure the Morris Builders, LLC’s staff is well cared for. In order to reward the staff and keep high morale, he offers several perks throughout the year.
“We give them different benefits, paid days off, gift cards, and other assets to incentivize them.” These bonuses, along with the congenial work environment, allows for a productive and motivated staff.
To carry Morris Builders, LLC to the next level, Morris Jr. adopted a new style of project management. Whereas he once worked exclusively on specific properties and projects, he now spends more time planning Morris Builders, LLC next move in the game of construction.
“My management role is to be the person that acquires more contracts,” Morris Jr. said, “being the face that introduces Morris Builders, LLC to different regions and aspects of work.” Morris Jr.’s approach has earned him deals with several commercial, governmental and residential estates.
Though he has had great success, it has not always been easy. At the beginning of his administrative tenure, Morris Jr. was often plagued with the challenge of finding steady and consistent work for his staff. He expresses that this was a difficult position to be in as it affects more people than just himself, “You are not just dependent on yourself. You have your employees and their families to take into consideration also.”
Because of his stance in the community, Morris Jr. was honored with the class of 2019 “50 under 50” the university’s notable alumni award, and also the Class of 2020 “20 under 40” Young Professional of Autauga County Award.
Fortunately, from their recent years of exemplary projects, Morris Builders, LLC. has established itself as a reputable business with an expanding and notable clientele. Morris Jr. insists that their growth is a direct reflection of their skill.
“It is our standards, our productivity, the way we deliver the product, and by meeting all the benchmarks for our projects we have set ourselves apart from the competition,” he said.
This prestige has granted Morris Builders, LLC. the opportunity to work on many high-profile buildings, two of Morris Jr.’s favorites being The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, and the FBI Complex of Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
While also acknowledging the business’ prosperity, Morris Jr. credits his success to his characteristics as a “people person.” He believes that his attentive, understanding and approachable nature allows him to lead his staff at Morris Builders effectively.
“I can articulate what is needed to secure the job and get it done,” he said. That confidence and articulation is the product of years of learning, working, and leading.
The original owner of Morris Builders, Morris Sr., is exceptionally proud of the success that his son has achieved.
“It surprises me to see [Morris Builders] grow this far. It is my three boys that run that business, and as their father, I am proud of them,” he says. “It was hard during my time because [construction] was mostly the white man’s business, but these guys have done a tremendous job. This is a competitive field, but they are holding their own. Jimmy is holding things down. He is trying to make something that he and his brothers can make a good living off of. That makes me feel wonderful.”
While he is elated by what he has accomplished, Morris Jr. believes holding the honor of carrying on his father’s legacy to be the most rewarding aspect of his career. He hopes that his work not only makes his family and community proud but also sets the tone for future generations of businessmen and women.
“Being a young Black man carrying on my father’s legacy, and being successful at what we do, it gives me a great reward,” he said. “I am happy to be in a space where I can be an example for other young Black men, not only entrepreneurs but in whatever field they aspire to go into.”
Morris Jr. continues to appreciate the lessons learned while a student at ASU, whether academic or life lessons. Though he has not directly utilized his degree from the Alabama State University, he believes that the university taught him the art of grit. “ASU prepares you by showing you that you can overcome any trial, tribulation, or obstacle that comes your way,” Morris Jr. said. “Things will happen, but you can persevere and keep on to your goal.”
Today, Morris Jr. continues to reside in Prattville, Alabama as the legal owner of Morris Builders, LLC. He is assisted by his mother and two brothers Justin Morris, the field operations manager, and Jamye Morris, the safety and quality control manager. Outside of his business, Morris Jr. still enjoys bowling, fishing, and dabbling in his musical talents. He serves as the staff musician at “The Lilly” Baptist Church, assistant minister of music at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery and the music director for the Alabama Sounds of Joy Choir. He has traveled internationally to Croatia, Germany, and Spain to spread his love for music.
“I enjoy spending time with my nieces and nephews, going on mission trips, and just spending time with my family and friends,” he said.
Morris Jr. participates in a multitude of organizations in his community. He serves on the advisory board for the Prattville Baptist Hospital, Alabama Department of Transportation, Alabama Road Builders Association, Capital City Club Board of Governors, Hope Credit Union, Prattville Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee, River Region Pregnancy Center Board of Directors, and the Tuskegee University Department of Construction Science and Management Industry. He is also an official member of the Alpha Upsilon Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., US SBA Emerging Leaders, Alabama Home Builders Association, and many more. As he hopes to inspire the next generation, Morris Jr. advises all students who aspire to be entrepreneurs to get as much experience in a business setting as possible.
“The key to building those skills is to intern with any business,” Morris Jr. said. “Seek out those opportunities to learn the in’s and out’s of management and facilitating the daily operations.” He understands not every person has the fortune of being raised in a business environment, but he emphasizes hands-on experience trumps any course.
To all ASU students, Morris Jr. advocates the importance of focusing. He expresses that these times are full of distractions and obstacles, but these are also the years that can make or break a career.
“Keep your eyes on the goal,” Morris Jr. said. “Stay focused and continue the mission that you are set forth to do.” He knows that with the right amount of focus, one cannot only carry on a legacy but even start one their own.