- Rogers Morton
Infobox US Cabinet official
United States Secretary of the Interior
term_start=January 29, 1971
term_end=April 30, 1975
Walter Joseph Hickel
Stanley K. Hathaway
Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford
United States Secretary of Commerce
term_start2=May 1, 1975
term_end2=February 2, 1976
Frederick B. Dent
title3=of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland's 1st district
term_start3=January 3, 1963
term_end3=January 29, 1971
Thomas F. Johnson
William Oswald Mills
death_date=death date and age|mf=yes|1979|4|19|1914|9|19
Rogers Clark Ballard Morton (September 19, 1914 – April 19, 1979) was an American politician who served as Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Commerce under Presidents
Richard Nixonand Gerald Ford, respectively. He also served as a member of the House of Representatives, representing ushr|Maryland|1.
Though he was born in
Kentucky, Morton moved to a farm on the Eastern Shore of Marylandin the early 1950s. In 1962, he was elected to the House of Representatives by the people of the Eastern Shore, where he established an environmental record. In 1968, Morton played a major role in Richard Nixon's campaign for president, and was chosen by Nixon in 1969 to serve as Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
In the elections of 1970, Morton was considered a strong candidate to challenge
Joseph Tydingsfor his U.S. Senate seat from Maryland, but he chose instead to remain as chairman of the RNC. In 1971, President Nixon tapped Morton to serve as Secretary of the Interior, during which time he oversaw the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Systemand the 1973 oil crisis. Morton was the only person to serve as head of the Interior Department from the east coast in the Twentieth century.
Following Nixon's resignation due to the
Watergate Scandal, Morton continued in his post in the Gerald Fordadministration until 1975, when he was nominated to serve as Secretary of Commerce. From April to August 1976, Morton served as Ford's campaign managerin his bid for election. Morton retired from politics following Ford's election defeat. Three years later, he died of cancer at his home on the Eastern Shore.
Early life and career
Morton was born in
Louisville, Kentuckyto David C. Morton, a physician, and Mary Ballard Morton, an heiressto a flour milling business. He was related to George Rogers Clark, a military officer who served during the American Revolutionary War. Morton was one of three children; his brother, Thruston B. Morton, also went on to a career in politics, serving as chairman of the Republican National Committeeand representing the state of Kentuckyin both the United States House of Representativesand the United States Senate.
Morton received his early education from the
Woodberry Forest Schoolnear Orange, Virginia, and later graduated from Yale Universityin 1937. Like his father, he worked to become a physician, and entered the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. However, he dropped out after only one year.cite news | first = J. Y. | last = Smith | title = Rogers C. B. Morton Dies, Politician, Farmer, Outdoorsman | publisher = " The Washington Post" | page = A1 | date = April 20, 1979 ]
In 1938, Morton was commissioned in the
United States Navy, but only served for a short time due to problems with his back. Afterwards, he entered his family's flourbusiness, Ballard & Ballard. In 1941, at the outset of World War II, Morton enlisted in the Armored Field Artillery of the United States Armyas a private, and served in the European Theater. He received a commission during the war, and left the army as a captainin 1945.cite web |url=http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=M001021 |title=Morton, Rogers Clark Ballard |accessdate=2008-07-06 |work= |publisher=United States Congress |date= ]
After the war, Morton returned to the family business, where he served as president from 1947 to 1951. In 1952, the business was merged into the Pillsbury Flour Company, where Morton went on to serve as a director and a member of the executive committee for several more years.
In 1947, Morton spent a great deal of time helping his brother Thruston in his ultimately successful campaign for election to the House of Representatives in
Kentucky. After this initial exposure to politics, Morton moved to the Eastern Shore of Marylandin the early 1950s, where he set up a convert|1400|acre|km2 cattlefarm along the Wye Riverin Talbot County. In 1962, Morton decided to challenge democratic incumbent Thomas Francis Johnsonof ushr|Maryland|1. Johnson, who was reeling from a political scandal, lost to Morton in the general election. Morton was lauded for not making Johnson's legal troubles his primary campaign issue.cite news | first = Cabell | last = Phillips | title = Indicted Nominee Is Continuing Maryland Drive for House Seat | publisher = " The New York Times" | page = 8 | date = October 20, 1962 ]
Morton was re-elected to Congress four more times, and served from 1963 until 1971. In Congress, Morton worked to enact legislation that would preserve the
Chesapeake Bay, including laws reducing pollution into the Bay, working for the creation of a national parkon Assateague Island, and providing funds to the Army Corps of Engineersto model how the Bay functions as an estuary. Concerning civil rights, Morton voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but not the Act of 1968.
1968 Republican National Convention, Morton served as the floor manager for eventual presidential nominee Richard Nixon. Morton also delivered the speech nominating Spiro Agnew, then- Governor of Maryland, as the vice presidential candidate.
Due to his role in Nixon's election campaign and his environmental advocacy, Morton expected to be appointed as Secretary of the Interior in 1969. However, he was passed over for the position in favor of a westerner. He had also been considered for Nixon's vice presidential running mate, but lost out to Agnew. In January 1969, to recognize his efforts, Nixon appointed Morton as chairman of the
Republican National Committee.cite news | first = Rowland | last = Evans | coauthors= Robert Novak| title = Rep. Morton of Maryland Is Called Likely Successor to GOP's Bliss | publisher = " The Washington Post" | page = A23 | date = January 10, 1969 ]
1970 United States Senate election
In 1969, leading up to the 1970 elections, Morton was considered one of the strongest potential candidates to challenge incumbent democratic senator
Joseph Tydings. Morton had sought the Republican nomination in the 1968 elections, but acquiesced to Charles Mathias, Jr.to prevent a primary runoff.cite news | first = Peter A. | last = Jay | title = Candidate Who Never Was, Anatomy of Morton's Trials | publisher = " The Washington Post" | page = H1 | date = December 25, 1969 ]
Speculation that Morton would seek election increased after an editorial in the "
Baltimore Sun" encouraged him to challenge Tydings. Sources within the administration of Vice President Spiro Agnew, who was formerly governor of Maryland, were also commenting Morton would make a strong candidate and would likely run. When Morton stated he would be making an important announcement with President Nixon in December of 1969, it seemed all but certain at the time that it would be to declare his candidacy.
However, Republicans around the country were concerned that Morton, who had just been appointed Chairman of the RNC in January of 1969, would resign during the election season to better handle the battle with Tydings. President Nixon shared their concerns, and encouraged Morton to remain as chairman. On December 16, 1969, with Nixon by his side, Morton announced his priorities were with the national committee, and that he would not seek Tydings’ seat. Morton also threw his full support for the nomination behind
J. Glenn Beall, Jr., a freshman member of the Maryland Senate.cite news | first = Peter A. | last = Jay | title = Morton Won't Run Against Tydings | publisher = " The Washington Post" | page = A1 | date = December 17, 1969 ]
Morton’s decision not to challenge Tydings initially worried Maryland republicans, who saw Morton as one of their best candidates. National republican strategists had also begun to write-off Tydings’ seat as unwinnable for the 1970 election, due to his wealth and popularity in the dense, urban areas of Montgomery County and Baltimore. However, despite initial misgivings by state republicans, Beall defeated Tydings on November 3, 1970 by a margin of more than 30,000 votes.cite news | first = Lawrence | last = Meyer | title = History Full Circle In Tydings' Defeat | publisher = "
The Washington Post" | page = A1 | date = November 5, 1970]
ecretary of the Interior
Morton continued to serve in the House and as Chairman of the RNC until 1971, when he was nominated to be Secretary of the Interior by President Nixon. He was unanimously confirmed by the
United States SenateSubcommittee on the Interior, though some concerns regarding Morton's record of environmental protectionwere raised by Phillip Berry, then-President of the Sierra Club.cite news | first = Elsic | last = Carper | title = Senate Interior Unit Approves Morton | publisher = " The Washington Post" | page = A2 | date = January 27, 1971] Morton's predecessor, Walter Joseph Hickel, had been chosen over Morton to fill the job in 1969, but was fired by Nixon in late 1970 for criticizing White House policy. Morton was the only person from the east coast to serve as Interior Secretary in the Twentieth century.cite web |url=http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/utley-mackintosh/interior13.htm |title=The Department of Everything Else: Highlights of Interior History |accessdate=2008-06-29 |work= |publisher= United States Department of the Interior|date=1989 ]
Upon assuming the office of Secretary of the Interior, Morton promised he would seek to "purify the environment". However, as his tenure progressed, he was gradually isolated from the proceedings of the White House and lost several major divisions to other departments. During the
1973 oil crisis, for example, the oil and natural gas divisions of the department were transferred to the Office of Emergency Preparedness. Furthermore, though Morton was the one who announced the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, speculation was put forward that he did not play a major role in determining its route.
As he was leaving his post in 1975, further criticism was directed at Morton for his overseeing the partial dismantling of the Interior Department. He was also criticized for lacking the vigor necessary to serve as head of a cabinet department, and for failing to see through the proposed creation of a new, stronger cabinet department that would have replaced the Interior.cite news | first = Luther J. | last = Carter | title = The "Good Soldier" Leaves Interior, a Troubled Agency | publisher = "Science" Vol. 188, No. 4185 | page = 242–244, 292 | date = November 5, 1970]
Later years and the Ford Administration
Following the resignation of President Nixon due to the
Watergate Scandal, Morton continued in his position as Secretary of the Interior in the administration of Gerald Ford. In March 1975, while still serving as the head of the Interior Department, Morton was nominated by Ford to serve as the next Secretary of Commerce. Ford cited Morton's extensive business experience as the primary factor for selecting him, and hoped he would be able to "encourage American business to expand energy development and conservation efforts".cite news | first = Carroll | last = Kilpatrick | title = Ford Picks Morton as Commerce Chief | publisher = " The Washington Post" | page = A1 | date = March 28, 1975]
In January 1976, Ford announced Morton would be resigning as Commerce Secretary, and would serve as "special counsellor to the President", with cabinet-rank. Morton's new position was to advise the president on domestic and economic policy. In addition, Morton was to serve as the special liaison to the political committee to elect President Ford. Morton's duties blurred the line between his public and political duties, and caused controversy concerning how Morton would divide his time between the White House and Ford's election campaign, and how much of his salary would be supplied by taxpayers versus the Ford election committee. In rebuttal, Morton stated "you can't separate government from politics", and that Presidential aides should be allowed to offer political advice.cite news | first = William | last = Chapman | title = Morton Named Ford Aide | publisher = "
The Washington Post" | page = A2 | date = January 14, 1976]
In April 1976, Morton was named
campaign managerfor President Ford leading up to the 1976 presidential election. He replaced Bo Callaway, who was forced to resign following allegations of improper use of authority while he was Secretary of the Army. Morton directed Ford's campaign until August 25, 1976, when he was reassigned as chairman of a steering committee in the campaign and was replaced by James Baker. Morton's demotion was at his own request, and he stated he no longer wished to bear "the responsibility and accountability of the chairmanship".cite news | first = Edward | last = Walsh | title = Morton Ousted, Ford Names New Campaign Chief | publisher = " The Washington Post" | page = A1 | date = August 26, 1976] After Ford's defeat in the 1976 election, Morton retired from politics to his farm, "Presqu'isle", near Easton, Maryland, where he operated a boat construction business.
Morton had been diagnosed with
prostate cancerin 1973, but stated it was in its early phases and still treatable.cite news | title = Rogers Morton Has Cancer | publisher = " The Washington Post" | page = A1 | date = February 20, 1973] In 1979, however, Morton died at his home at the age of 64 due to the cancer. He is interred in Old Wye Cemetery in Wye Mills, Maryland.
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