An early dentist in Omaha fought for civil rights, economic justice, and social equality for African Americans in the city. His efforts were broad and had impact, yet just as he hit a stride he moved away. This is a biography of Dr. Craig Morris, DDS (1893-1977), in North Omaha.
Born in 1893 in Omaha, Dr. Craig Morris graduated from Central High in 1910. He started at Creighton University in 1912 and earned his DDS degree from the Dental College and received his D.D.S. degree in 1915.
In 1917, Dr. Morris signed up to serve in the U.S. Army Dental Reserve Corps. While stationed at Ft. Des Moines, he was with the U.S. Army’s 92nd Infantry Division, which was a segregated unit. However, Dr. Morris didn’t see active duty on the front lines of the war.
Starting in 1919, Dr. Morris practiced in Omaha and became the president of the Nebraska Negro Medical Society. He worked with Dr. W.W. Peebles and others to form the American Legion Theodore Roosevelt Post #30, a segregated chapter in North Omaha.
Throughout the years, his office were on the second floor of the present-day Blue Lion Building, and for decades he shared them with Dr. J.H. Hutten.
In 1928, Dr. Morris was instrumental in starting the Omaha Urban League, which he remained involved with throughout the rest of his time in Omaha.
Dr. Morris was extensively involved in social activities throughout Omaha’s African American community. For several years, he was secretary of Rough Ashier unit of the Prince Hall Masons. He was also heavily involved in forming the Carving Savings and Loan Association, which is called the Carver Bank now. After helping open the institution, he served as a board member when it opened.
Starting in 1919, Dr. Morris was the president of the Nebraska Negro Medical Association. In the 1940s, he led a campaign to build Provident Hospital, a healthcare facility specifically for Omaha’s Black community, who the city’s hospitals regularly discriminated against. However, before he could finish the project he was offered a job in southern California.
Dr. Morris moved to San Diego in 1945. In 1955, he retired from dentistry in 1959 became an Episcopal minister. Dr. Morris died in 1977.
You Might Like…
- History of North Omaha’s American Legion Post #30
- History of Provident Hospital
- History of Carver Savings and Loan
- History of 24th and Lake Historic District
- “African American Dental Surgeons and the US Army Dental Corps: A struggle for acceptance, 1901-1919” by John M. Hyson, Jr. DDS for the US Army Medical Department Office of Medical History.