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Ed Morris
What is your connection to Wake Forest, NC?
I now live in Raleigh but my wife, son and I moved to Wake Forest in 1984 and lived here 19
years before moving back to the address in Raleigh where my wife grew up. During that time I
was an administrator with the State Historic Sites Division of the Office of Archives and
History. I grew up in Wilson, NC about 35 miles east of WF. I still remember as a very small
child coming with my parents who were big Wake Forest Fans to basketball games in old Gore
Gym. That connection grew and my son who graduated from Wake in 2004 says he is a 4 time
Wake Forest Grad: Wake Forest Elementary, Wake Forest Middle, Wake Forest High School
and Wake Forest University!
In your eyes, why is the town of Wake Forest so special?
To me the town of Wake Forest is a very special place. The town grew up around the college
which was here first. It was truly a college town in every sense, even more so than Chapel Hill
is a college town. Everything here evolved around the college and its faculty and
students. Today it keeps a lot of that charm, a small southern town with a campus set in its
center, beautiful streets and historic houses. The people still keep the memory of "their college"
close in their hearts. Wake Forest also has a history of being a very progressive and enlightened
town.
How did the town change once the campus was moved to its new location in Winston-Salem?
The town nearly died when the college left in 1956. When the college was here, downtown
Wake Forest had over two dozen restaurants, two movie theaters, two department stores, three
men's clothing stores and much more. Within a couple of years after the college moved both
theaters closed, all but one restaurant closed. Shorty's was the only survivor. The town likely
would have become a full-fledged ghost town had it not been for the efforts of a few community
leaders, all of whom were Wake Forest alumni. They formed an industrial commission and set
out searching the countryside for businesses that were looking to relocate. They brought three
factories to town within a couple of years. That provided jobs for the folks who worked for the
college as housekeepers, grounds keepers, food service, etc. It also provided enough economic
growth that the remaining businesses in town were able to survive. Finally the town again
thrived. Of course Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary moved into the old campus but in
the early years it was so much smaller than the college had been that it really didn't fill the gap
left by Wake Forest moving. Today Southeastern is about twice as large as Wake Forest was in
1956 and adds much to the town's vitality.
What is the best part about running the museum in Wake Forest and what attracted you to that
position?
There is nothing like doing something that you love. For many years I ran the museum and
visitor operations at 27 state owned and operated Historic Sites. I told everyone my job was
being a paid tourist. A lifelong lover of history I have had the opportunity to share my passion
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