David Hawkins has become new owner of Joe Morris and Son Funeral Home located at 701 North DeVilliers Street. The funeral home held its first open house since its renovations were completed by partnering with Pensacola Caring Hearts, the Black Community’s leading non-profit organization that provides food to those in need. The public invitation was on the funeral home’s Facebook site inviting everyone to participate in their free food giveaway and open house December 19th from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. The site also read, “While you are here, please tour our newly renovated facility and meet our staff. David Hawkins, the owner of Joe Morris & Son Funeral home would like to personally meet and thank you for allowing us to serve you”.
The Gulf Coast Voice Newspaper has waited two years to receive the green light from Mr. Hawkins to officially publish this story. We bowed to the advice of the new owner to wait for the marketing strategy of his acquisition of Joe Morris Funeral Home to bring this to print.
The legacy he has purchased has served the Pensacola community since 1913 and Hawkins has pledged to keep the Morris legacy alive. Joe Morris, Sr., Mrs. Gladys Morris, Joe Morris Jr., Vinita Morris, and even Joe Morris Jr.’s, son, Tai, all invested a labor of love in the funeral home.
During segregation, Joe Morris Funeral Home was involved in the fight for integration as the Morris family of brothers stood out as the pinnacle of Black Leadership. Joe Morris, Jr. carried that legacy forward in the 1970’s as the Chairman of the Board of People Organized for Community Development, now carrying the name of Community Enterprise Investments, Inc. The Morris family shared the mantle of leadership with several African-American businessmen too numerous to mention in this article.
However, it could be said that David Hawkins is one of the many adopted sons of Mrs. Gladys Morris, the matriarch of the Joe Morris and Son Funeral Home Legacy. Hawkins washed the cars for years at the funeral home before he went to Tuskegee Institute where he received an engineering degree. He also worked on Sundays at the WBOP under the name of David Ashley for 12 years and served as a Manager of Community Relations for Gulf Power for 42 years. Following his retirement, Hawkins began his second life as the owner of Joe Morris and Son Funeral Home.
The open house and the See David Hawkins pg 5
food giveaway worked a dual purpose for the funeral home. With a line that stretched a whole block, Hawkins’ entrepreneurial leadership allowed the community to see the renovations to the funeral home that gives the business its second life. Hawkins community relations strategy for the funeral home also continued the legacy that Joe Morris and Son Funeral Home when he stated, “we want to show the love that we have for the community by sponsoring a food giveaway. In fact, we believe this type of event is the right thing to do this time of the year. Also we will hold a similar event like this in Quintet on the 28th of December”. It appears that the Joe Morris and Son Funeral Home have the right community minded owner to continue its legacy.
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