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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Naomi Elizabeth Morris, November 11 and 16, 1982, and March 29, 1983. Interview B-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Southern woman decides to go to law school with the encouragement of her mentor

Here, Morris describes the kind of work she did for William Lucas at the Lucas & Rand law firm in Wilson, North Carolina during the 1940s. Morris became especially skilled during these years and she describes how Lucas ultimately encouraged her to go to law school.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Naomi Elizabeth Morris, November 11 and 16, 1982, and March 29, 1983. Interview B-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PAT DEVINE:
What was it like to be a secretary with that firm? What were the things that you were involved with during those years?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Oh, whatever a secretary is always involved with: taking dictation, filing, running the office, making appointments for Mr. Lucas, seeing that he got where he was supposed to be and had the papers with him that he was supposed to have, seeing that his letters got out letter-perfect and that the pleadings and court papers that were filed were letter-perfect. Sort of an executive secretary.
PAT DEVINE:
And yet somehow from his observation of you doing those duties, it became clear to him that you should go study law yourself?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
He allowed me a good bit of freedom and assigned me tasks that were probably more than an ordinary secretary did, but a good legal secretary does a lot of things that an ordinary secretary doesn't do. A lot of people think that a paralegal does things that a secretary can't do, but that isn't true; a good legal secretary does more than some paralegals can do. It depends on who's training the secretary and how much work they allow them to do on their own. I got so that I could prepare a deed without any assistance. So long as I knew the parties, it was an ordinary deed. And the same was true with a deed of trust, but they never went out of the office without his checking them very carefully. I closed loans, and things of that sort, what a good legal secretary would do.
PAT DEVINE:
Was it a surprise to you, and did it come up just once or many times, that he thought perhaps you ought to try and go to law school yourself?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
No, it was a surprise. That's the only time he ever mentioned it.
PAT DEVINE:
That one time.
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Mm-hm.
PAT DEVINE:
I know that perhaps some people who have read about you know that story, but I'd love you to tell it, about how you knew that it was in his mind.
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
He called me in to give me dictation one morning, and after he'd finished the usual legal work and dictation, he started a letter to Albert Coates, who was a professor at Carolina at the time. He told him that he was sending me up for an interview, that he wanted me to go to law school and that Mr. Lucas thought Mr. Coates would find me an apt student, and that he would make an appointment, and I would bring the letter when I came. I told him I just couldn't afford to go to law school, and he said, "You can't afford not to go to law school." That was in the letter. So I went to law school.
PAT DEVINE:
And how were you able to afford to go? Did you have to work your way through?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
I borrowed money and worked during the summertime and had a scholarship and worked on the Law Review and got paid for that. There are lots of ways. You don't have to have money to go to school. If you want to go to school, you can go.