BY MIKE LEONARD
When William R. Morris Jr. taught English as a second language at Indiana University, he urged his students to get off campus and immerse themselves in the local culture, even if the first step was a baby step across South Indiana Avenue to Starbucks.
“My theory was that the farther you get from campus, even if it’s from coffeehouse to coffeehouse, the more you’re going to learn how Americans speak — how Hoosiers speak,” he says. “It was all part of my grand scheme to get them out in the community, to further their education.”
Following his own rules, Morris — a music aficionado — showed up at community radio station WFHB six years ago, started out answering phones, and eventually evolved into Brother William, the host of the Tuesday Afternoon Mix 2 and a rotating lineup of programs including the Jazz Menagerie and Hora Latina. He also served as a contributor to the Daily Local News and Interchange, an issues-oriented talk and interview show.
This January, he moved across town to public radio station WFIU to take over the Friday edition of the long-running afternoon jazz program Just You and Me. The station let him keep his radio handle of Brother William, a name that works on different levels, including identifying him as African American and an evangelist for all things musical, be it jazz, blues, gospel, rock ’n’ roll, world music, or Americana.
In his spare time, he says with a grin, he works as a civil rights attorney, both in private practice and for Indiana Legal Services. He’s also volunteered in various capacities at the Monroe County Community Justice and Mediation Center, the Interfaith Winter Shelter, the Bloomington Human Rights Commission, the Monroe County Branch NAACP, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Indiana.
Morris holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Lehigh University, a master’s in communication from Howard University, a master’s in applied linguistics from IU, and a law degree from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Morris, 57, was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, raised in South Bend, Indiana, and has lived in places ranging from Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., in the United States, to countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, and Jamaica. He moved to Bloomington a decade ago and has no plans to travel on. “I am a child of southern Indiana and this is where I should be,” he says. “From the time I got here, I felt like I was home.”