Skip to main content

Shirts, Morris A.

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: 1922-1997

Biographical History

Morris A. Shirts (1922-1997) was a professor at Brigham Young University and Southern Utah State College (Southern Utah University).

Morris Alpine Shirts was born April 11, 1922, in Escalante, Utah, to Morris and LoNeta Hall Shirts. He attended Escalante High School and Dixie College before receiving a bachelors degree from Brigham Young University in 1947. He was awarded a masters degree from BYU in 1951, and received an Ed.D. from Indiana University in 1952.

Shirts served in the 20th Air Corps in the Pacific theater as a B-29 radio operator during World War II. He married Dorothy Maxine Baird of Salt Lake City, whom he met as a student at BYU, on October 27, 1945, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. They both continued their education at BYU, after which Shirts taught math and science at North Sanpete High School, also acting as district audio-visual director. While in Mt. Pleasant, he started KNS, the first student radio station in Utah.

In 1952, Dr. Shirts was hired by BYU to teach audio-visual education and was later principal of Brigham Young High School. From 1957 to 1959, he was an advisor to the National Teachers College in Teheran, Iran. In 1959, he came to Southern Utah University (then CSU) where he taught audio-visual education, and served as a department chair and then dean of the College of Education. He was instrumental in obtaining approval to change CSU to a four-year college and was beloved by scores of students whom he helped train for careers in teaching. He retired in 1983.

Shirts was an avid southern Utah historian and was in demand for years as a speaker for local and visiting groups. With Professor Paul D. Proctor of BYU he coauthored a book about Silver Reef entitled "Silver, Sinners and Saints." A book about the settling of Cedar City, "A Trial Furnace: The Story of the Iron Mission," which he researched for three decades, was completed by his daughter-in-law, Kathryn H. Shirts, and published in 2001. His Iron Mission studies led him to investigate the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and he was on the committee to erect a new monument overlooking the massacre site. The site of this monument was based on his extensive knowledge of the area. His friendship with both the Lee and Fancher families allowed him to play a leading role in bringing them together at the dedication ceremonies held on September 15, 1990, in Southern Utah University's Centrum. After Shirts' death, Frances A. Smeath wrote a monograph entitled "Historical Topography: A New Look at Old Sites on Mountain Meadows," based on his Mountain Meadows research.

Shirts spent a great part of his life in volunteer service to boys. Coaching Little League Baseball was a commitment to be with his four sons that lasted nineteen years. He wrote "Warm Up for Little League Baseball," which went through several editions, and "Call it Right!" with Kent Myers and Klein Rollo to train Little League umpires. He also wrote "Playing with a Football" with Thomas Kingsford. He served as scoutmaster of the Cedar City Seventh Ward, at one time with as many as fifty-three scouts in the troop. An eagle scout himself, he patiently helped many boys follow the trail to eagle, sixteen of them in one memorable court of honor. Troop 347 was honored as being one of the outstanding troops in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints twice during this period. Shirts was President of the Cedar Breaks District BSA, and Vice President of the Utah National Parks Council. He worked tirelessly for three years to help establish the Thunder Ridge Scout Camp near Brian Head for the BSA and personally arranged for the National Guard to put in the access road. He initiated the Rainbow Canyon Hiker Award to help scouts safely enjoy the Zion Narrows, Zion West Rim, and Kolob Arch Trails. Shirts received the Silver Beaver award in 1964. He actively served in many positions in the Church including counselor in the Cedar West Stake Presidency and temple worker.

Shirts represented southern Utah on the Governor's Commission for the National Bicentennial in 1976. He received many awards from groups in the area. He had many hobbies, including singing, playing guitar and harmonica, constructing bows and arrows for archery hunting, operating ham radio, and restoring Studebaker autos (at a least a dozen over the years). However, his most cherished time was spent with his wife Maxine and their children: Russell, Randy, Andrea, Robert, and Steven. He was proud of their achievements and attended as many of their games and activities as possible.

Shirts died at age seventy-four, at his home in Cedar City, Utah, on January 7, 1997, after patiently suffering complications of diabetes for many years.

Citation

MSS 2227, Morris A. Shirts papers

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Morris A. Shirts papers on American Revolution Bicentennial Commission activities, 1970-1979

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2227 Series 4 Sub-Series 3
Scope and Contents Correspondence, meeting minutes, and other reports from Shirts activities with the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. Material dates from 1970-1979.
Dates: 1970-1979

New horizons

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: UA 747
Scope and Contents Volume contains four separate sections on BY High School written by different authors: (1) June Berry, "The Library in BY High School"; (2) Faye Buttle, Don McConkie, and Grant D. Bendixsen, "The Core Curriculum in the BYU Junior High School"; (3) Leland Anderson, "General Aims of the BYU Seminary"; (4) Jesse R. Black, Julia Caine, William McKell, Lane Compton, LeRoy Sparks, June Berry, Principal Morris Shirts, and BY High School faculty, "A Study of Brigham Young University High School...
Dates: 1955