Warren A. Morton
|Warren Allen Morton|
Wyoming State Representative for Natrona County (Casper)
January 1, 1967 – December 31, 1980
Speaker of the
Wyoming House of Representatives
January 1, 1979 – December 31, 1980
|Preceded by||Nels J. Smith|
|Succeeded by||Robert Burnett|
|Born|| March 22, 1924|
|Died|| February 18, 2002 (aged 77)|
Litchfield Park, Maricopa County, Arizona
|Spouse(s)|| Katharine "Kathy" Hancock Allen Morton (married 1948-2002, his death)
Father-in-law: Robert Gray Allen
|Children|| Frederick Lee "Ted" Morton
Allen Salisbury Morton
|Alma mater|| Hotchkiss School|
| Notes: |
Warren Allen Morton (March 22, 1924 – February 18, 2002) was an oilman and engineer from Casper, Wyoming, who served as Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives from 1979 to 1980, prior to mounting his gubernatorial campaign in 1982. He represented Natrona County in the House from January 1, 1967, to December 31, 1980. Morton was the managing partner of MKM Oil Company in Casper.
Morton was born in Birmingham in Jefferson County and the largest city in Alabama, to Lindley C. Morton of California and the former Ruth Goddard, a native of Connecticut. Lindley and Ruth moved to Alabama because of his job with Portland Cement Company. The Mortons returned to California and reared their family of three sons and a daughter. Morton's brothers were Robert Morton and Coleman Morton (1919-2006), both of Pasadena, California; his surviving sister is Sylvia Morton Kingsley of San Francisco.
Morton graduated from the Hotchkiss School, a boarding school for boys, since coeducational, located in Lakeville in Litchfield County, Connecticut. He then attended Yale University in New Haven, from which he graduated in the field of engineering in 1945. Thereafter, from 1945 to 1947, he was an ensign in the United States Navy, having been commissioned through Columbia University in New York City. In 1948, he married the former Katharine Hancock "Kathy" Allen (born 1926), the daughter of Robert Gray Allen, a former Democratic U.S. Representative from Greensburg in western Pennsylvania.
In 1952, Warren and Kathy Morton moved to Casper from Long Beach, California, where Morton had been a petroleum engineer. They had four sons. Frederick Lee "Ted" Morton (born 1949 in Los Angeles) is a political science professor on extended leave from the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Allen Morton (born 1951) is a mergers and acquisitions specialist in San Francisco. Robert C. "Bob" Morton (born 1953) is an attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah. Warren Goddard Morton (born 1957) is a landman for True Oil Company and resides in Casper.
As House Speaker
Speaker Morton worked to pass a sunset law in Wyoming, by which state bureaus must justify their existence. He attempted to establish a four-year institution of higher education in Casper but was defeated by pressure from the University of Wyoming in Cheyenne and the community colleges, which opposed a second four-year college in such a thinly populated state. He proposed using severance tax revenues to build a water-delivery system for Cheyenne, to reimburse counties for a third of their needed property taxes, and to issue $160 million in bonds to aid cities affected by the energy boom.
The fiscally conservative Morton was a director of the Wyoming Taxpayers Association, but he was an atypical Wyoming Republican. He supported abortion and gun control, the latter particularly opposed by his state's large community of hunters. As House Speaker, his colleagues considered him strict, smart, and fair. Tom Stroock, a former state senator from Casper and a United States Ambassador to Guatemala, described the former Speaker as "brilliant ... Warren had an important part to play in the history of Wyoming in the 1970s and 1980s. He was clearly an outstanding Speaker and an excellent legislator," though Stroock said that he did not always agree with Morton's political positions.
Marlene Simons of Beulah, who was a freshman representative when Morton was Speaker, said that he had been a mentor to beginning legislators, seating them among the more experienced lawmakers. "He ran a tight ship. He was a kind, gentle man, but he was stern."
Morton easily won the GOP primary to challenge two-term Democratic Governor Edgar Herschler of Kemmerer in Lincoln County. Morton polled 52,536 votes (74.3 percent). Rex G. Welty (1921-1992) of Afton in Lincoln County received 9,106 ballots (12.9), and Earl A. Johnson drew 9,025 (12.8 percent). Nels J. Smith of Sundance in northeastern Wyoming, who had been Morton's predecessor as House Speaker, filed for governor but withdrew before the primary. In a nationally Democratic year, Herschler charged that Morton was a tool of the energy interests. Morton was active in the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association, having been the president of the interest group from 1963 to 1965. In addition to his own MKM company, Morton was a director of the American Petroleum Institute and was the Wyoming representative on the Interstate Oil Compact Commission from 1962 to 1972.
Morton received 62,128 votes (36.9 percent) to Herschler's 106,427 (63.1 percent). Morton polled only 9,592 more votes in the general election than he had the primary. Herschler, however, received 62,031 more votes in the final round than he had in the Democratic primary against Pat McGuire. Herschler's plurality over Morton was hence almost numerically the same as Morton's total vote in the general election.
Morton ran nearly twelve percentage points behind John Ostlund, a former state senator, who had lost to Herschler in 1978. Of the three Republicans who challenged Herschler, Ostlund had fared best, losing by one percentage point. While Morton lost the governorship, Republican U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop of Sheridan defeated the Democrat former Wyoming state Senator Rodger McDaniel, 57 to 43 percent. McDaniel had been the Wyoming state coordinator for the unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1980 of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.
After his gubernatorial defeat, Morton continued to support Republican candidates in Wyoming, such as U.S. Senators Craig L. Thomas, Alan Simpson, the retiring Mike Enzi, and the late Malcolm Wallop, as well as his state's GOP organization. In 2000, he also donated to then U.S. Representative Rick Lazio of New York in the latter's bid against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the U.S. Senate. In 1979, Morton contributed to the failed presidential bid of former Texas Governor John Connally before switching his support to Ronald W. Reagan.
Death and legacy
Morton had struggled for four years with Alzheimer's disease and then developed Parkinson's disease. Wife Kathy recalls that Morton "had a very good sense of humor about it [Alzheimer's]. He was very open and honest." Morton died at the family's winter residence in Litchfield Park in Maricopa County near Phoenix, Arizona.> He was cremated. Memorial services were held at St. Mark's Church in Casper on March 2, 2002.
Morton served on the board of trustees of the two-year Casper College, a community college. He was involved in numerous community affairs, including the management of a Little League baseball team for seven years. He was a director and past president of the Wyoming Heritage Society. He served on the boards of the United Fund, Chamber of Commerce, and St. Mark's Episcopal Church.He was a director of the Wyoming National Bank.
Jim Geringer, a Moderate Republican who served as governor of Wyoming from 1995 to 2003, issued a statement on Morton's death: "I'm deeply saddened at the news of Warren Morton's passing. [First Lady] Sherri and I extend our sympathy and support to Katharine and the rest of the family. Warren set a high standard for public service with his involvement in community activities as Speaker of the House ..., as a member of several committees and study groups, including the Tax Reform 2000 Commission, the Wyoming Futures Project, and the 1991 commission that studied judicial salaries. Warren served out of commitment and compassion. He was a true Wyoming statesman, businessman, and family man. We will certainly miss Warren."
- Nancy Weatherly Sharp James Roger Sharp, Charles F. Ritter, and Jon L. Wakelyn (1997). American Legislative Leaders in the West, 1911-1994. Greenwood Press of Westport, Connecticut, through Google Books, 201-202. Retrieved on November 5, 2019.
- Statement of Katharine Allen Morton, September 24, 2008.
- Warren A. Morton obituary, Casper Star-Tribune, February 22, 2002.
- Joan Barron, "Former House Speaker dies at 77: Casper oil man Morton devoted much of life to civic service," Casper Star-Tribune, February 20, 2002, pp. 1, A14.
- Facts on File Yearbook, 1982, p. 822.
- Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, 1982 gubernatorial primary and general election returns, pp. 1539, 1608.
- Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, 1978 and 1982.
- List of Campaign Contributions. Newsmeat.com. Retrieved on September 8, 2008; no longer on-line.