A Craftsman’s Legacy Provided for CSM Students

Family Establishes Joseph Hungerford Morton Memorial Scholarship To Assist Students at CSM’s Center for Trades and Energy Training

When he retired from his job as coordinator of Maryland's vocational education program, Joseph Hungerford Morton of Bryans Road started a little business, H & J Home Improvement Company, with Havannah, his wife of 55 years. It was mostly to keep his hand in the trades he loved, but the business also served as a means to provide opportunities for unskilled workers to learn a trade.

With a master’s degree in vocational education from the University of Maryland and work towards a doctorate in education administration from Nova University, Morton was a man with one foot in the world of academia and another in the blue collar world of construction. He had a spirit of giving a chance to those who had fallen on hard times or those who had been incarcerated, according to his oldest daughter Ava Jo Morton. Now through a scholarship established in his memory at the College of Southern Maryland, his spirit will continue even after his death in June.

Born and raised the son of a minister, Morton grew up on a farm in Bryans Road with his 12 brothers and sisters, a family of “his, mine and ours,” according to Ava Morton. “Everyone had a job to do on the farm,” she said. “You had to have an industrious spirit and I think that is where my dad developed his work ethic and his love of working with his hands.”

That love of building things led him to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and a degree in industrial arts. After serving with the Army during the Korean War, Morton returned home, married his college sweetheart Havannah Paulette Simmons and began a job teaching industrial arts in Charles County. The first African American teacher at La Plata High School, Morton took no credit for being a groundbreaking instructor, “it’s just who he was,” said his daughter. He later served as vice principal at Surrattsville High School before working for the Maryland State Department of Education.

Morton’s first workshop was in the basement of the house that he built for himself and his wife. Outgrowing the basement, he built a workshop behind the house, “a place where people would come and bring their plans to go over with dad,” described Ava Morton.

“It was his place,” said Havannah Morton. “He would stretch the blueprints out on his drafting table, make suggestions and give guidance.” That is where his family would often find him—with a big mug of coffee in hand, a tool belt riding low on his hips and a carpenter’s pencil tucked behind one ear.

“He was happiest when there was a building effort where he could lend a hand—that was his joy,” Ava Morton said. “He loved working on the construction of his church’s multipurpose room addition.”

He also took great pride in building the homes for his two daughters, Ava and Marcia Morton Gutrick. “When dad was working on my home he said, ‘you’re the contractor, I’m the foreman,’” Ava Morton said, adding that she would choose the materials, the tile, the colors and the sizes, and her dad would pick them up and install them.

It was while her dad was building her house 11years ago that she had a revelation about him and his superb craftsmanship that still moves her. “People feel that you don’t have to be bright to be a construction worker, but there is a lot of calculating, a lot of math,” Ava Morton said. She recalled when the representative came to install panels into the foundation that her dad had built, the representative spoke impressively of it being the first foundation he had seen that was perfectly square.

She recalls that her father had cancer at the time. “He would go for [chemotherapy] treatment one day, and be back at work the next day.” 

It is that dedication and precision that Morton expected from his vocational students and that his family wants to see live on through the work of students studying at CSM’s Center for Trades and Energy Training.

 Ava Morton credits a friend with the inspiration to create a memorial scholarship in honor of her father. When Morton’s family heard that CSM was opening a training facility for trades, the idea came full circle. “Our dad was a community guy, if there was a building project at his lodge, at his church, at the American Legion, he was key,” said Gutrick. “He was a strong example for young men; he gave gentle words of wisdom.”

“Mr. Morton’s story is a wonderful example of how a family and community are paying tribute to a man who devoted his life to his family and service to others,” said CSM Director of Development Martina Arnold. “The generosity of Mr. Morton in giving of his time and energy to train others to be skilled trades workers, and to be self-sufficient is now continuing in his honor through this scholarship. CSM is so proud to be a part of his legacy.”

            For information on the Morton Scholarship, visit www.csmd.edu/foundation or call 301-934-7647.