Tillman Morgan was a 'consummate professional'

Thursday, September 30, 2004
Tillman Morgan 1911-2004

When the announcement of the death of long-time realtor and insurance agent Tillman Morgan came during the Eureka Springs Preservation Society annual meeting last Tuesday evening, a gasp of shock went through the room.

Morgan had been named for a Realtor Appreciation Award, although he had been retired for several years.

He had died Tuesday morning, Sept. 21, in Eureka Springs Hospital, a facility he supported for many years as a member of the directors in the 1960s and 70s.

In talking to people who knew him, he was called "a great business competitor," "a very kind, gentle, gentleman," "a consummate professional," and "a prince of a fellow."

A native of Arkansas, he was born Dec. 26, 1911, in Plainview in Yell County. He was the oldest of four children of Harvey Washington Morgan and Nelle (Tillman) Morgan.

When he was about three, the family moved to Russellville.

He was valedictorian of his high school graduating class. He attended Arkansas Polytechnic College (now Arkansas Tech) in Russellville for two years then transferred to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

He earned his bachelor's degree in 1934 and stayed at the university for a semester of graduate school.

He and Josephine Lee Blunk were married in Eureka Springs April 2, 1939. She preceded him in death.

After their marriage, they lived in Russellville about two and a half years.

Morgan joined the U.S. Navy in November of 1942 and was sent to Princeton University for training.

He remembered Albert Einstein watching his platoon practicing military drills, according to autobiographical information he wrote in December of 1988.

Naval duty took the young couple to Boston, Mass., Miami and Key West, Fla.

Their daughter, Ann Elizabeth, was born in in Miami.

Wartime assignments took them to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Staten Island, N.Y.; San Diego, Calif.; and the Anacostia area of Washington, D.C.

The Morgans moved to Little Rock after he was released from active duty. They stayed there about two years, then moved to Eureka Springs in 1948.

They built the first two units of Morgan's Court motel (now the Scandia Inn, 227 W. Van Buren), and a two bedroom home on the property.

Morgan also formed a general insurance agency, Morgan Insurance, in 1948. In 1961, he added real estate to the agency.

It is now run by Ann Morgan Martin and is one of the longest-lived real estate and insurance businesses in Arkansas.

Banker John Cross remembers Tillman and Jo Morgan as "being in the top group of civic leaders when I came back to town in 1956. They were very involved in the betterment of Eureka Springs.

"He was a handsome man and she was very attractive. They were a fine looking couple. They were Mr. and Mrs. Eureka Springs."

Lewis Epley was commuting from Fayetteville to Eureka in the late summer of 1961, trying to clean out, repair and fix up office space at 67 Spring St., where Zarks Gallery is now.

"My wife, Donna, my girlfriend then, was on a ladder painting the ceiling and I was working trying to get things cleaned up. We were both pretty grubby.

"A very modestly, but fashionably, dressed man came in the door and said he was looking for the new lawyer in town. He wanted to start a real estate business and wanted to get acquainted.

"That was the start of a 40-year professional and personal relationship," Epley said.

"In the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, he was always at community meetings, busy with the Chamber of Commerce, at town meetings. We could count on him for wise counsel and thoughtful dialogue.

"He took great pleasure in seeing the town rise like a phoenix from a period of decline."

He also took pleasure and pride in working with young men of the community and area as commander of the Eureka Springs Naval Reserve Training Unit for 18 years. He had 360 young men train in the unit through the years.

"He had a great sense of pride as he watched the young men's lives develop and mature," Epley said.

Morgan completed 23 1/2 years in the Navy, in active and inactive duty command. He retired in 1972 with the rank of commander.

When he was in grade school, he learned how to play golf. He caddied for his father, then at the Russellville Country Club during the summers. He was on the golf team in high school.

He continue to play as long as he was able.

His passion was quail hunting, according to Joe McClung, Sr.

"When we moved to Eureka Springs about 33 years ago, we owned some land above Lake Lucerne, around the old airport," McClung said.

"He and my dad, Clell McClung, would go up there hunting quail as often as they could.

"Tillman loved his hunting dog so much, he let him come in the house. The dog didn't have to stay outside in a pen."

McClung remembers him as "a very kind, gentle, gentleman. You could depend on him. He was very thorough in his work.

"He was such a leader in the community for so many years. He was never controversial or in the middle of a fight. He was good people."

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