It’s not a stretch to say horses have been in William S. “Billy” Morris III’s blood since day No. 1 some 85-plus years ago.
“I threw a morning paper route on horseback when I was 12 years old,” Morris said. “I had a horse in my backyard and we had dirt streets, and I could do the job.”
His employer in those days of the mid-1940s was the newly family-owned “Augusta Chronicle” of Georgia, a paper he proudly says was founded in 1785. Morris would one day lead it.
Today, Morris is chairman of the board of Morris Communications LLC, which owns horse industry publications such as Quarter Horse News, Western Horseman and Barrel Horse News. Its holdings also include the National Barrel Horse Association, the Road to the Horse colt-starting world championship and Equi-Stat, a statistical record-keeping service for the Western performance horse industry.
He is also a leading presence in the cutting horse industry as a stallion owner, breeder and independent show producer.
On the final Friday night of the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity, the organization honored Morris with the Modine Smith Humanitarian Award. The honor recognizes those who display unwavering support of the NCHA and the NCHA Foundation by continuously working to enhance the association’s past and present.
His family gathered to share the moment with him.
“This is very meaningful,” Morris said. “I love this sport. It is a family sport. I love the fact that I have my family with me. It has given me a great deal of pleasure and allowed me to meet wonderful people from all over America. I have enjoyed it very, very much. I love horses, I love cows and I love people, and this brings them all together.”
Modine Smith, a Californian, was inducted into the NCHA Members Hall of Fame in 1994. She served nationally as an NCHA director and a member of the Executive Committee, though her impact was felt closer to home in leadership positions with the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association.
Morris was a founding member of the Augusta Futurity, which launched in 1980 with 140 entries. Its beginnings lay with a group in the east that desired a cutting horse show in the region.
“We were building a new coliseum in Augusta in 1980, and I invited them to come there,” Morris recalled. “I knew absolutely nothing about putting on a cutting horse show, but with Zack Wood’s great help and many other people, we pulled it off.”
In January, show officials will present its 41st annual event, which historically features stands filled with some of the larger audiences seen at limited-age cuttings.
In addition to the Augusta Futurity, Morris owns several stallions. Among them are Equi-Stat Elite $2 Million Sire Boon Too Suen (Peptoboonsmal x Meradas Little Sue x Freckles Merada) and Cattalou (High Brow Cat x Louella Again x Dual Pep), who stand at the Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas. He also has several mares and owns Creek Plantation near Martin, South Carolina.
“It’s an amazing show and has made a major contribution in many ways to the sport of cutting,” said Morris, who is the picture of can-do energy at 85.
He has no plans of slowing down.
“Not a bit,” he said.
And that’s good for the cutting horse industry.