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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 >>

Relationship between religion and the role of a judge

Here, Morris talks about the role of religion in her personal life. According to Morris, religious conviction and regular church attendance were values her family heralded when she was a child and that followed her into adulthood. In an excerpt later on in the interview, Morris argues that judges should keep their personal life philosophies separate from their interpretation of the law. Yet, here she concedes that her religious views inevitably affected her belief in right and wrong and, thus, her interpretation of the law.

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:
There's something else that I want to talk to you about before our last ten or twelve minutes runs out. For about twenty-five years, every week, you taught Sunday school, and what intrigues me, because of my own background and just because it is intriguing, is, in the course of those years before and since you've been on the bench, I wonder if you would say a little bit about, if you can, religion and how that has been in your life and how it has kind of spilled over into your lawyering, your judging.
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Well, I hope it's spilled over. I don't know that it has, but I hope it has. I don't know exactly what you have in mind.
PAT DEVINE:
I don't have anything in mind. I just want you to talk about that. Why would you do that for twenty-five years, every week? It must have been terribly important to you.
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Why would you not do it? Everything you have comes from the Lord, you know. I was born with certain abilities, but they're God-given. I didn't reach out and pick them up somewhere. The ability to earn money is God-given, and I owe a certain part of that back. It's really simple, very simple. I was reared in a Christian home, and my parents before me were reared in Christian homes. It never occurred to me not to go to Sunday school. My parents went to Sunday school and church. I went to what we called the BYPU on Sunday evenings. That was the Baptist Young People's Union, and unless I went there I couldn't have a date on Sunday night. If I wasn't able to go to BYPU, I wasn't able to have a date. And it never occurred to me to say I didn't want to go to Sunday school. It wouldn't have made any difference whether I wanted to; I would have gone anyhow.
PAT DEVINE:
Were your friends the same way, or were you different in that way?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
I supposed they were the same way. We all went to Sunday school. I never asked whether they wanted to or didn't want to; we just went. But if I hadn't wanted to, my mother and father would have made me go, and I think parents are wrong in not making their children go to Sunday school and church now. They say that if they make them, they won't want to go when they get older. If they don't go when they're younger, they don't have anything to which to turn. They don't know anything about whether to go. If you let a child sleep late every Sunday morning, they're not going to want to get up and go to Sunday school and church, and certainly if their parents don't do it, they're not going to want to. But anyhow, it just seems to me that you don't live in a community and be a part of that community without giving something to the community. And you don't live in this world without giving something of yourself back to the Creator who made it all possible, and the only way you can do that is through the church. I taught Sunday school because I felt capable of teaching Sunday school, and I enjoyed it. I taught the high school children. It was delightful.
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
I met a law student who was one of your Sunday school students.
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Oh, really. Well, I won't ask you what he said about it.
PAT DEVINE:
It was a shevery fond of you.
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
I think it's a very important part of a person's life, and I feel sorry for people who don't have that. I really do, because I think they're missing something. I think they have missed something. I think they've missed a stability that you can't get anywhere else.
PAT DEVINE:
Is it something that you're conscious of, that when you're on the bench or whether you were preparing your trial, when you were putting your mind to work on things, that those sorts of religious considerations or moral things that you think about in those Sundays are brought right to bear on those issues? Do you see what I mean?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
I don't know that you'd think of it consciously, but I think subconsciously you would have to, because you develop a feeling for right and wrong. You recognize in many instances it's a gray area, but you know what's right, and you know what's wrong. You have certain moral values, and they're bound to overflow into your business life and your professional life. If they don't, you don't have them.