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Baylor Alumni

Hall of Fame

The long and varied history of Morrison Constitution Hall
By Claire Moncla

Baylor students often take summer school at community colleges in their hometowns and transfer the credits. However, there is one class that students will not get credit for unless they take it at Baylor: "American Constitutional Development." That requirement came at the request of Mr. and Mrs. R. W. Morrison, who funded the building of Morrison Constitution Hall in 1954. 

Many changes have taken place in Morrison since the family's request and the building's construction. "American Constitutional Development" is now taught in Draper, and Baylor's law school, once housed in Morrison, has moved across University Parks Drive into the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center. Yet, throughout its changes, Morrison Hall has remained an important building for the university, housing not just the law school, but the Graduate School and the Honors College as well.

When Morrison opened its doors in July 1955, it was the first flat-roofed building designed for campus, and it used air-conditioning, a rarity at that time. Several months later, on November 4, 1955, Leon Jaworski, LLB '25, spoke at the dedication of the building. The three-storied structure held functioning courtrooms, classrooms, administrative and faculty offices, a law library, and student and faculty lounges.  In a 1954 Lariat interview, then law dean Abner McCall called the soon-to-be-completed building "the best" out of the five Texas law schools.

Baylor renovated Morrison Hall in 1973 and dedicated the Leon Jaworski wing on April 17, 1974, Baylor's Law Day; the wing added another 15,000 square feet to the building. Morrison underwent renovations again in 1983 with the addition of the advocacy wing. The hall included a replica of Jaworski's personal office, which Baylor's law school used for meetings, scheduled tours, and interviews. After forty-six years, the law school relocated in 2001, moving into the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, which is more than twice the size of Morrison.

But Morrison was still a coveted building. "We were desperate for that space," said Lois Ferguson, Baylor facilities utilization planner. "We had departments that were growing." After the law school moved out, it took less than a year for other departments to move in, Ferguson said. "There were some renovations, but they were mostly refurbishing," she said, explaining that the courtrooms became classrooms, and important fixtures like the Leon Jaworski office replica were moved to the new law center. "We renamed and renumbered halls and classrooms," Ferguson said.

Now Morrison could be compared to an umbrella organization, housing several academic divisions under one roof. The building contains the departments of philosophy and classics; the undergraduate Honors College, which includes the dean's office, the Honors Program, University Scholars, and Baylor Interdisciplinary Core; the dean's office of operations for the Graduate School; the Institute of Faith and Learning; the Center for Christian Ethics; offices for the Modern Foreign Languages Department; and the Baylor Copy Center. "Every inch of the building is being used," Ferguson said. One peculiar feature of the building is its organization—or lack thereof. "There are combinations of classes and offices, and you can't classify any floor as one or the other," she said. Ferguson also added that Morrison still contains the old law library, now an off-limits storage facility for critical archives.

Today, after fifty-four years, Morrison continues to hold parts of Baylor's history in its walls—the history of a successful law school, established graduate school, and prestigious honors college. With such diversity under one roof, it is a tribute to one of Baylor's 2012 goals, enhancing the involvement of the entire Baylor family.

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