SPRINGFIELD — Clarence Morgan couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for life. It constantly escaped his mouth in the form of kind, encouraging words. It also oozed from the sweat of his brow.
Morgan, who died Jan. 5 at the age of 75, was dedicated to serving Effingham County residents for more than 50 years. His objective was to make sure no one was left out.
Morgan’s objective was to get as many people involved in recreational activities as possible, including the developmentally challenged. The programs he directed enjoyed explosive growth and resulted in the construction of a state-of-the-art athletic complex that bears his name.
“Clarence has been the cornerstone of recreation activities in our county for over 30 years, providing recreational services and instilling the department with his invaluable strength of character and integrity,” Effingham County Board of Commissioners Chairman Wesley Corbitt said. “He is truly irreplaceable and will be greatly missed.”
Known as “Coach” by thousands of people, Morgan spent three decades in the Effingham County School District and worked for the Effingham County Recreation Department in 1980, serving as its director from 2001 until his death.
Many of the people he touched shared memories of their friend and mentor on the Herald’s Facebook page.
“Sooooo much to say but I think this describes him well —
“His shoes will never be filled. Others may be incredible in his role but will never be able to walk the same path in his shoes.”
— Donna Parrish Shepard
“I’ve had many good moments talking with Clarence over the years while working with the school board. Our paths crossed often and he was always glad to see me (and everyone else) with a ready smile and a sweet greeting! My most vivid memories are of him teaching driver’s ed at old ECHS.
“I can still see him walking down the sidewalk or in the gym. Along with Clarence, Ronnie Rush was principal, Jim Long was there, Marion Dingle and even Gerald Williams. Coach Morgan and the rest always took time to laugh with kids! Such fun we had with Clarence and the rest at ECHS!
— Larissa Turner Knight
“Clarence was my seventh-grade basketball coach. One game, I scored six times in six possessions back to back. I was on cloud nine. Then he called a time-out and benched me.
“At the time, I was furious because I was scoring and didn’t understand why he benched me. After the half, he pulled me to the side and explained that I wasn’t executing the game plan. He explained things to me in a way that made me realize the game was bigger than myself. It was about the team, the plan and seeing things outside of my own perspective. He checked my ego but he did it gently.
“In that moment, I learned basketball is a game about team over self. That lesson has carried with me 30-plus years into life.
“Sports are so much more than a game. The lessons learned through sports are all about how to handle life situations. He understood that more than anyone I’ve ever had coach me. I’ll always be thankful for that lesson.
— Caroline Branch Britton
“Wow, where do I even start to talk about Clarence. I have worked part-time for him at the Rec Department for many years. He is one of the finest men you will ever meet.
“I could tell anyone, ‘No. I can’t work today,’ but Clarence? He would call and I would drop whatever I was doing just because he called me and (asked me to) be there. He has had such a big influence on my life.
“He would do anything for the kids of Effingham — even if they wanted to play but the family wasn’t able to sign them up because of the cost. That never stopped Clarence. He would make sure that kid got to play.
“Effingham County is going to be lost without him. The next director will have some big shoes to fill.
“But Clarence’s greatest love was his wife, Pam; his daughter, April; son-in-law, Walt; and his grandsons, Tyler and Morgan.
— Patti Kessler
“I am able to say ‘no’ to many things but if Clarence Morgan ever called — it was always a yes!
“He enabled me to get my first coaching job in Effingham County. I will be forever grateful for that.
He taught me how to fund raise! That man could turn a quarter into a thousand dollars if it meant helping children!
“He taught me so many valuable lessons in coaching and in life that I will be forever grateful for!”
— Amy Duke
“First off, Mr. Morgan was such an incredible man. I had the pleasure of interacting with him in many ways and I will never forget him and his kindness.
“He treated everyone as if they were his own. He had the love for sports and children. His legacy will live here in Effingham County as he was a huge piece of it.
“When you hear someone say that name ‘Clarence,’ you knew exactly who they were talking about because everyone knew him. I pray for the next person to be as big hearted as he was and can fill those shoes and be just as good as him. What a great man he was.
“Gone but never forgotten. May you rest in peace as your work here on earth is done. Prayers for the family.
— Jerri Lynn Thomas
“We should all be as fortunate as Clarence in that he loved his job. If you quote the saying, ‘If you love your job, you never have to go to work,’ that would describe Clarence. He will be missed by this county.”
— Marilyn Cosper
“I have so many memories of Clarence. I coached for many years and had the pleasure of interacting with him. He also coached my daughters when they played middle school basketball.
“ I will never forget what he did for my husband at the time after an incident at the ballpark. My husband was waiting to go on the field for my daughter’s game and two boys started fighting near him. He separated the boys and stopped the fight.
“A mother of one of the boys took (her son) to the hospital claiming that my husband had beaten him up. She filed charges against him. I found out because our family had experienced other things with this woman.
“I had called the judge after that incident asking what we could do to stop the harassment we were experiencing with her. They asked for my husband’s name and when I told them they said, ‘I have a warrant for his arrest.’
“Clarence heard about this and he went to the judge on my husband’s behalf. The judge agreed not to arrest him but to have a hearing and let the evidence decide if he should be arrested.
“On the day of the hearing, we walked in to a court room full of supporters. Because of Clarence’s support, everything was dropped. If he hadn’t taken it upon himself to get involved my husband could have been arrested for something that never happened.
“That was the type of person Clarence was. Effingham County has lost someone who cared about this county and the people that live here. No matter where or when you saw him he made a point of coming to speak to you. He will be missed.”
— Jan Edwards Norton