Eugene Morrow
Nellie K. Parker
E. Frederic Morrow
John Morrow
William Morrow
E. Frederic Morrow
NY Times AA Registry

The Record
August 25,2013

E. Frederic Morrow

Everett Frederic Morrow


E. Frederic Morrow was the first black person to hold an executive position at the White House and the first black corporate executive.

Born April 20, 1909, in Hackensack, New Jersey, Morrow was a minister's son who graduated from Bowdoin College in 1930. Following graduation, he worked for the National Urban League and the NAACP as a field secretary before entering Army service during World War II. After the war, Morrow obtained a law degree from Rutgers University and worked for the Public Affairs Division at the Columbia Broadcasting System. In 1952, Morrow served as an administrative aide and adviser to President Dwight D. Eisenhower on his campaign trail. He was an adviser on business affairs in the Commerce Department when the President appointed him Administrative Officer for Special Projects in 1955.

In this position, Morrow became the first African American to serve in an executive position on a president's staff at the White House. Morrow was the sole black person on a staff dealing with racial tensions related to integration and faced difficult personal and professional struggles at the White House. Reporters joked that his biggest responsibility was assigning parking places to other White House staff members. Morrow took the sniping but moved on to become a well publicized Ike aide. He publicly urged the White House and the Republican Party to champion racial integration and equal rights all the way down to the district level and to respond to black pressure for first-class citizenship. He held that the party's failure to do so was responsible for its “ignominious defeat” in the Congressional elections in 1958, and he called on its leadership to do some “soul-searching.” Never a quiet man, Morrow was an early advocate of GOP diversity, using most of his spare time to address gatherings demanding that the national party “pay attention to minorities and women”. The Brown v. the Board of Education ruling, the Montgomery bus boycott and the Little Rock crisis were the backdrop of Morrow's White House years. On a staff with a civil rights policy that was at best cautious, Morrow was often angered and frustrated.

At a time when qualified blacks were excluded from high-level political positions, Morrow found relations within the president's “official family” to be “correct in conduct, but cold”. Leaving the White House in 1960, Morrow found that his record and prominence were not enough for him to land a major corporate position. He once joked that “All I got was an offer as a soft drink salesman.” Morrow eventually became a vice president of the African-American Institute in New York. “It still shocks many captains of industry,” he said at the time, “when a Negro seeks a job on the executive level even though he dealt with them directly as part of his official White House assignment.” Later, he went on to become the first black vice president of Bank of America, then the world's largest privately-owned bank. In charge of the bank's international division, he monitored foreign loans and business development.

In 1963, he published his autobiography, Black Man in the White House, leaving a valuable account of his experience as a black man working in the president's inner circle, including his disappointment with the indecision of Eisenhower's civil rights policy. He retired as a senior vice president at Bank of America in 1975 and went on to work as an executive associate at the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1994, at the age of 88, Morrow died of complications from a stroke.

REFERENCES: NY Times, AA Registry

U.S. Army Morrow