• Identification31/6/140
  • Title
    • Guide to the Lorraine H. Morton (1918- ) Papers
    • Morton, Lorraine H. (1918- ) Papers
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Date1942-2014
  • OriginationMorton, Lorraine H., 1918-
  • Physical Description21.00
  • RepositoryNorthwestern University Archives Deering Library, Room 110 1970 Campus Dr. Evanston, IL, 60208-2300 URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives Email: archives@northwestern.edu Phone: 847-491-3354
  • AbstractLorraine Hairston Morton served as Evanston’s Mayor from 1993 to 2009. After completing graduate studies at Northwestern University, Morton was a teacher and principal in Evanston’s District #65. The Papers include six boxes of documents including speeches, correspondence, event programs, photographs, newspaper clippings, periodicals, and campaign information detailing her leadership. 15 boxes contain awards given to Morton for her service.

Lorraine H. Morton was born Constance Lorraine Hairston on December 8, 1918 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was the youngest child of Keziah Hairston, a schoolteacher, and William Patrick Hairston, a prosperous businessman who helped found the Winston Mutual Life Insurance Company (now the Golden Gate Insurance Company). Educated in the Winston-Salem public schools, Hairston received a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1938 from Winston-Salem Teacher’s College (now Winston-Salem State University). She then pursued graduate work and received her Master’s in Curriculum (Education) from Northwestern University in 1942. Northwestern honored her in 2008 by bestowing her with a Doctorate of Law.

While at Northwestern, Hairston met her husband Dr. James Thomas Morton (1911-1974), a Northwestern alumnus of the class of 1942. They married on December 28, 1941. Born in Greenwood, South Carolina and raised in Evanston, Illinois, Dr. Morton was also an alumnus of the University of Illinois, where he majored in psychology. He taught at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina from 1936-1940 and was named Dean in 1942. Both Mr. and Mrs. Morton worked for a time in Tuskegee, Alabama. She taught at the Tuskegee Institute Laboratory School. After earning a Masters and Doctorate in psychology at Northwestern, Dr. Morton was drafted into the United States Army for service in World War II and became the first African-American chief psychologist for the Veteran’s Administration. He later was served at Veterans Hospitals in Tuskegee, Alabama and Downey, Illinois.

Upon returning to Evanston with her husband in 1953, Lorraine Morton became a teacher for the District 65 school system. Her husband started practice as a clinical psychologist, returned to work for the federal government, and worked at Evanston Hospital. He died on March 8, 1974. Mrs. Morton was the first African-American schoolteacher in the District 65 system that taught outside Evanston’s segregated Foster School and was also among the first group of teachers to be given merit pay in District 65. Mrs. Morton taught at Foster Elementary School from 1953-1956, Nichols Middle School from 1957-1966, and Chute Middle School from 1966-1977, teaching language arts and social studies.

In 1977, Morton was appointed as principal of Evanston’s Haven Middle School and maintained that position until she retired in 1989. Haven Middle School, which had experienced problems with vandalism, student misbehavior, and poor academic performance dramatically improved under her administration, an accomplishment for which Morton received high praise from many Evanstonians. She was elected President of the Junior High School Association of Illinois due to her exemplary leadership qualities. She also holds life membership in the Illinois Congress of Parents and Teachers. During her almost forty-year tenure as a teacher and a principal, Morton was noted for engaging in extensive community service, implementing team teaching, and desegregating the schools of Evanston and New Albany, Mississippi.

Morton continued her long career of service and public engagement when she accepted Mayor Jay Lythe’s reference to become alderman of the Fifth Ward of Evanston, a City Council position she held from 1982-1991. While Fifth Ward Alderman, she served on the Housing and Community Development, Police Services, Planning and Development, Human Services, and Rules Committees, as well as on the Unified Budget Panel. Additionally, she also served on special committees on fair housing, libraries, and gangs, and she was Evanston’s Legion Commissioner.

In 1993, Lorraine Morton ran for mayor of Evanston with the campaign slogan “Morton for Mayor.” Campaign materials featured images of trains and lists of people who were “on board” with her campaign. After a run-off election against Ann Rainey, alderman of Evanston’s Eighth Ward, Morton was elected Evanston’s first African-American and first Democratic mayor. She would eventually become Evanston’s longest-serving mayor as well, holding that office for sixteen years (1993-2009). Among the many accomplishments that characterize her lengthy mayoral tenure, Morton oversaw and directed a large-scale renovation and revitalization of Evanston’s downtown by modernizing public services, ameliorating the tax code, and attracting more businesses and buildings. Mayor Morton was known also for her great accessibility and for her open-door policy for her constituents.

As mayor, she represented Evanston on municipal, regional, and national levels. She was involved in organizations ranging from the Evanston Historical Society to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. She was Deacon at the Second Baptist Church in Evanston, a State of Illinois delegate to the White House Conference on Libraries and Informational Services in 1991, and on the Cook County Advisory Board with the Department of Children and Family Services. Among the many groups and organization with which she was involved are the League of Women Voters, Rotary International, Kiwanis International, the NAACP, the National Council of Negro Women, the Links, Inc., the National Association of University Women, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. Underscoring the extent of her community engagement, the Evanston/Northshore chapter of the NAACP presented Mayor Morton with its prestigious Community Service Award in 1986.

Locally, she was a member of the Northwestern University Women’s Board, the Evanston Coalition of Black Women, the Family Counseling Service of Evanston and Skokie, Senior Action Services, Over the Rainbow, and Leadership Evanston. Her involvement with these organization extended beyond just nominal membership, as evidenced by the numerous awards and honors she received from them over her lifetime. Mayor Morton was declared the 1986 Woman of the Year by the Evanston YWCA and again by the Service Guild of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church. She received an Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions from Illinois Governor James R. Thompson, a Saint Francis Hospital Community Service Award, and the 1989 Arts and Youth Award from the Evanston Arts Council for her commitment to service in Evanston.

Both her alma maters have recognized Mayor Morton as an exceptional role model and alumna. Winston-Salem State University created the Lorraine Hairston Morton Endowed Scholarship in 2010 for students majoring in education who are committed to community service. Northwestern University, too, offers a scholarship in Mayor Morton’s name – the Lorraine H. Morton Scholarship for the Master of Science in Education Program in the School of Education and Social Policy. Further, Northwestern presented her with an Alumni Merit Award in 1996 before bestowing the honorary doctorate in 2008. She also holds an honorary doctorate for public service from Kendall College of Chicago. Upon Mayor Morton’s retirement in 2009, the Evanston City Council renamed the civic center the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center in recognition of her service to the city. A portrait of Morton now hangs in the entrance of the center. The portrait was commissioned by the Evanston City Council and painted by noted portrait artist Richard Halstead.

Morton has one daughter, Elizabeth Morton Brasher, and two granddaughters, Elizabeth Keziah and Constance Moriah Brasher.

  • NamesMorton, Lorraine H., 1918-
  • Subject
    • Mayors--Illinois--Evanston
    • Politicians--Illinois--Evanston
    • Women mayors--Illinois--Evanston
    • Women politicians--Illinois--Evanston

Speeches, clippings, buttons, and a Morton for Mayor car topper were donated to the Northwestern University Archives by Elizabeth M. Brasher, Lorraine Morton’s daughter, on May 25, 2012 as Accession #12-96. The first addition was donated by Lorraine Morton on March 12, 2013 as Accession #13-844 and included clippings, cards, buttons, letters, and photographs. A second addition was donated by Ms. Morton on March 18, 2012 as Accession #12-97 and included 1993 mayoral campaign materials. The third addition to the collection, donated by Ms. Morton on May 9, 2014 as Accession #1-60 included awards and letters.

The series consists mainly of two types of material spanning Morton’s life and work as mayor of Evanston from 1993 to 2009: paper materials and three-dimensional awards presented to Morton by local and national organizations. The paper materials are held in five full-sized boxes and one oversized box. The awards are held in 11 full-sized boxes and three oversized boxes. Seven of the full-sized boxes and two of the oversized boxes consist of 42 award plaques. Four of the full-sized boxes and two oversized boxes contain 23 variously shaped glass and plastic awards made of glass and plastic.

The paper material consists of records from both Morton’s mayoral work and personal life. They are organized by category and then by date. The categories of material in order are: biographical materials, correspondence, political files, speeches, and oversized biographical materials. The newspaper clippings largely detail Morton’s work as mayor as well as her campaigns for public office. The periodicals are from area publications and detail Morton’s achievements as mayor. The event programs are from civic events, Northwestern University events, and local school events that Morton attended. The correspondence features personal correspondence and letters written to Morton by various officials and community members during her time as mayor and as school principal. The political files contain campaign material, including donation information and documents from her term as Evanston’s mayor. The speeches are organized topically and sorted by date.

The awards are sorted by physical format into traditional plaque awards and three-dimensional glass or plastic awards. The plaque awards are sorted first by size and then by date. The plaques commemorate Morton for her time and service as principal of Evanston Schools and as mayor of Evanston. The non-plaque awards are sorted by shape and date. Like the plaques, they are given to Morton for her achievements as mayor.