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Kirklin, Morris Inducted Into Alabama Men's Hall of Fame

Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2008-09-17

Physician/educator John W. Kirklin and banker/land developer Josiah Morris were inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame during ceremonies at The Club in Birmingham Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Dr. Kirklin, longtime head of the surgery department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, created the Health Services Foundation in support of medical recruitment, research teaching, and founded the outpatient clinic that bears his name. He died in 2004.

Morris, a Montgomery banker and railway executive, organized the Elyton Land Company in 1870, leading to the creation of the city he named Birmingham. The successful entrepreneur's moral and financial support helped the city become the industrial heart of the state.

Although neither man was a native of the state, Kirklin and Morris were each cited for the unique contributions made for the betterment of the lives of Alabama citizens. Plaques honoring the men are housed in the Hall of Fame, located in Samford University Library.

Kirklin was the internationally celebrated chair of the famed Mayo Clinic's department of surgery in Minnesota when he re-located to Birmingham in 1966 to help make the city a renowned center of medical research.

At the induction luncheon, Birmingham cardiothoracic surgeon James K. Kirklin described his late father as a "unique pioneer and contributor who inspired colleagues, young workers in the field, and his family."

"He led by example with genius and inspiration," said Kirklin, noting that many considered his father to represent "the greatest amalgamation of men and ideas that surgery has ever known."

The family also knew him to be a great sports fan and a musician, who in his youth was lead singer in a swing band.

"His gift was his music, and his music was the grace of heart surgery and the discipline of science," said Kirklin of his father, an Indiana native and Harvard medical school honors graduate who during his career produced more than 700 scientific papers and a definitive textbook on cardiac surgery.

Birmingham historian Thomas West, who spoke in tribute to Morris, pointed out that Birmingham, which was incorporated in Morris' Montgomery office, "grew out of nothing."

Morris' substantial financial investment to buy acreage is worth much, much more now, said West, noting that the view of the city as seen from The Club on Red Mountain was once corn and cotton fields. "The Birmingham at our feet became the most daring real estate development in the United States," West said. The city's first street, Morris Avenue, was named for the honoree.

Morris arrived in Alabama from his native Maryland after developing his entrepreneurial skills in Columbus, Ga., and New Orleans, La. When Morris died in 1891, he was described as the richest person in Alabama, with an estate of $3 million.

The Hall of Fame was founded by the Alabama legislature in 1987. Honorees must have been deceased for two years. Board members represent Alabama's seven congressional districts. The Women's Committee of 100 for Birmingham, Inc., sponsors the Hall of Fame program.

Anne Gibbons is president of the Women's Committee of 100. Betty Hawkins is Hall of Fame chairman.

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