Nashvillians and friends worldwide celebrate the life and legacy of Mr. Leonard H. Morton, Sr., a gifted and talented musician and educator, who peacefully transitioned into eternal life surrounded by his close family on Sunday, July 12, 2020. Morton was born in Chicago, Illinois to Benjamin and Geneva Morton on September 10, 1927. He achieved an extensive career as a music educator and professional musician.
In 1946, Morton entered the military service. Upon completion of basic training, he was transferred to Scholfield Barracks, in the Hawaiian Islands, where he auditioned and was accepted for the 118th Army Ground Force Band. Upon being discharged from the military, Morton returned to Chicago, where he enrolled in the Chicago Conservatory of Music. Always having the desire to attend an African American school, he transferred to Tennessee A & I State College (now Tennessee State University) in Nashville, Tennessee, majoring in Music Education.
In 1949, Morton made a decision that was destined to have a profound impact on his life and the contributions he would make to society. He was initiated into the Alpha Theta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., where he would make significant contributions of international impact. He graduated from Tennessee A & I State College (now Tennessee State University), with both Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science degrees in Music Education.
He launched his career at the Wilson County Training School for black students in Lebanon, TN during segregated times. There he was a Music Teacher and author of the school’s alma mater song which he entitled “Wilson County High Alma Mater.” He named it Wilson County “High” Alma Mater in rebuttal to the prejudiced mentality which governed the times, thus deemphasizing “training school” and normalizing “high school.”
He next served as Director of Bands at Nashville’s Cameron High School from 1961-1969. Mr. Morton was the first African American to hold the position as Director of Music Education for Metropolitan Nashville Public School District (MNPS), beginning in 1978. After a storied career, Morton retired having served over forty years in Lebanon and Metro Nashville Public Schools.
Morton also found time to assist with the Tennessee State University band program, most notably working with the Aristocrat of Bands marching band. He was an accomplished jazz musician, noted as an outstanding pianist and arranger. He has directed many choirs and bands, including the Community based choir, Cameron Singers, American Baptist College Male Chorus and was the founder of #30 Men of Clark.
Concurrent with his musical career, his Fraternal career as a Life Member blossomed, where locally Brother Morton served as Vice Polemarch (1977-1979) and Polemarch (1979-1981) of the Nashville Alumni Chapter. Nationally Brother Morton served as Chairman of the National Music Committee beginning in 1979 forming and directing numerous choirs, including a relatively large contingent from Nashville which performed at the Grand Chapter Meeting in Atlanta in December, 1980. Brother Morton also scored all of the newly arranged songs for the International Music Project of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
“Brother Morton, Sr. has faithfully and with dedication served his Fraternity in a variety of roles in sharing his God-given gift of music,” noted Leonard Clemons, Kappa Alpha Psi Province Polemarch, in a message to the membership.
“The Nashville (TN) Alumni Chapter has bestowed many honors and recognitions upon Brother Morton, Sr. for his commitment to Fraternity matters and his loyalty and devotion to the programs and services of The Nashville (TN) Alumni Chapter,” said Clemons. “He was bestowed the highly coveted Elder Watson Diggs Award in 2001 at the 75th Grand Chapter Meeting.
“Brother Morton was the crystallization of a Great Kappa Man. He mentored many across the country, was highly revered for his musical talent and leadership, provided overflowing wisdom, and set the Kappa musical standard.”
Leonard was married to Mrs. Willa G. Morton, and father to Leonard H. (Michele R.) Morton Jr. and Shauneille Elaine (Sharifa) Morton; grandfather to Dr. Tesia D. (Jarrett) Wilson and Erin Michele Morton; great grandfather to Cayli Mariah Wilson and Aiden Mason Wilson; devoted nieces and nephews; and a large loving family and a host of friends. Mr. Leonard Morton, Sr. is proceeded in death by his parents and sister, Mrs. Ardell (William) Cruiksank.
Leonard H. Morton, Sr. was a devoted member of Clark United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. To celebrate his transition, a Walk through of Friends was held on Thursday, July 16, 2020 at the Robert E. Lewis Memorial Chapel, 2500 Clarksville Pike, Nashville , Tennessee, and the KAPPA ALPHA PSI Fraternity, Inc. Service was held on Friday, July 17, 2020 at the gravesite, Greenwood North Cemetery, 1248 Dickerson Road, Goodlettsville, Tennessee. In lieu of flower please make any contributions to Clark Memorial Scholarship Fund in the name of Leonard H. Morton, Sr.