Morris A. Shirts
Educator, Administrator & Author

Morris A. Shirts, 15th Principal of BYH
Morris A. Shirts

Brigham Young High School
Fifteenth Principal

Dr. Morris A. Shirts served as Fifteenth Principal of Brigham Young High School. His term began in 1954-1955 and ended at the completion of the 1955-1956 academic year.

Principal Shirts was known as a rather humane administrator, somewhat lenient and understanding of the student position in his use of discipline. Because of this, he was ultimately more popular with the students than with the faculty.

The role that he played in the historic BYH Assembly Crisis of 1955-1956 is a good illustration of this. This event led to the imposition of something akin to martial law at BYH assemblies from the autumn of 1956 to the spring of 1968.

Morris A. Shirts Family in 1954

Morris A. Shirts was born on April 11, 1922 in Escalante, Utah, to Morris and LoNeta Hall Shirts. He graduated from Escalante High School, then attended Dixie College, before receiving his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Brigham Young University.

In 1952 he received an Ed.D. from Indiana University.

He met Dorothy Maxine Baird, of Salt Lake City, in 1943 while they were attending Brigham Young University. Shortly after they met he was called to serve in the U.S. Air Force, where he became a radio operator on B-29s. He experienced many life-threatening situations during the 2 1/2 years he served.


On September 2, 1945 he and his B-59 crew flew over the Battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay during the signing of the peace treaty to end World War II. Shirts maintained contact with several members of that crew throughout his life.

He and Maxine were married October 27, 1945 in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. They both then continued their education at BYU. After graduation, he taught math and science at North Sanpete High School, and was audio visual director for the school district.

While at Mt. Pleasant, Shirts started the first high school radio station in Utah (KNS). Two of his students went on to significant broadcasting careers in the State of Utah.

In 1952, Dr. Shirts was hired by BYU to teach in the Audio Visual Department. He attracted the attention of BYU administrators with his academic and administrative skills, and several years later they chose him to serve as Principal of BY High School.

He was well liked and appreciated by the students of BYH during his tenure as Principal.

After leaving BYH, Dr. Shirts served as an advisor to the National Teachers College in Teheran, Iran from 1957 to 1959.

He came to the two-year College of Southern Utah in 1959, where he was head of the Audio Visual Department, Department Chair and later Dean of the College of Education. He was instrumental in earning state approval to promote CSU to a four-year college.

Morris A. Shirts Family in 1967

Dr. Shirts retired from his academic career in 1983, but continued as an avid historian, especially about Southern Utah. He was a popular speaker for local and visiting groups, and he wrote a number of books.

He co-authored, with Paul Dean Proctor, a book about Silver Reef titled Silver, Sinners and Saints: A History of Old Silver Reef, Utah. It is an account of the discovery, disbelief, re-discovery, and development of silver mining in Southern Utah.

Silver, Sinners and Saints - Morris A. Shirts

A Trial Furnace - Morris A. Shirts

For three decades he worked on a second book, this one about the settling of Cedar City, titled Trial Furnace: The Story of the Iron Mission. The book was completed by Kathryn Shirts and published by Deseret Book.

Morris Shirts authored the article "Mountain Meadows Massacre" in the Utah History Encyclopedia, Allan Kent Powell, ed. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994), pp. 384--85.

The Southern Utah University Press published another collaboration, A New Look at Old Sites on Mountain Meadows by Morris A. Shirts and Frances Anne Smeath.

Because of his interest in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Dr. Shirts was a founding member of the Mountain Meadows Monument Committee.

Morris spent a great part of his life in volunteer service to boys. He coached baseball for 19 years, part of a commitment to be close to his four sons.

Warm Up for Little League Baseball - Morris Shirts

Call It Right - Morris A. Shirts

Playing with a Football - Morris A. Shirts

He wrote Warm Up For Little League, published in several editions, and Call It Right! with Kent Myers and Klein Rollo, to help Little League baseball umpires. He also wrote Playing With A Football with Thomas Kingsford.

He served as Scoutmaster of the Cedar City 7th Ward with as many as 53 Scouts in the troop. An Eagle Scout himself, he patiently helped many boys follow the trail to Eagle, sixteen of them receiving the award in one memorable court of honor. Troop 347 was honored as being one of the outstanding troops in the LDS Church twice during this period.

Morris was president of the Cedar Breaks District BSA and vice president of the Utah National Parks Council, BSA. He worked tirelessly for three years to help obtain the Thunder Ridge Scout Camp near Brian Head Ski Resort for the BSA and helped to arrange for the National Guard to put in an access road as a training exercise. He and his assistants were honored with a dinner and tribute by some of these former scouts. For his lifetime of work in Scouting he was honored with the Silver Beaver Award.

He actively served in many positions in the LDS Church including counselor in the Cedar West Stake presidency and temple ordinance worker.

Morris represented Southern Utah on the Utah Governor's Committee for the National Bicentennial in 1976.

He received innumerable awards from a wide variety of organizations.

He had many hobbies, including: photography (he filmed football and basketball games for both BYU and SUU), singing, playing guitar and harmonica, constructing bows and arrows for archery hunting, operating a ham radio station, and rebuilding Studebaker's -- he restored at least a dozen over the years.

However his most cherished time was spent with his family. He was proud of their achievements and attended as many of their games and activities as possible.

Former BYH Principal Morris Alpine Shirts died on January 7, 1997, at his home in Cedar City, Iron County, Utah, at the age of 75.

He was survived by his wife, Maxine, of Cedar City; four sons and one daughter: Russell Shirts (Marilyn), St. George, Utah; Randy Shirts (Kathryn), Provo, Utah; Robert Shirts (Janet), Fillmore, Utah; Steve Shirts (Jill) of Cedar City; and Andrea Shirts, also of Cedar City; by 21 grandchildren; two sisters, Nadine Shirts Anderson, Orem, Utah; and Carol Joy Shirts Roundy, Taft, California.

A memorial service for Dr. Shirts was held in Cedar City on Saturday, January 11, 1997. He was buried at Cedar City with military honors. [Thanks to many sources, including the Deseret News, Friday, January 10, 1997]

The Shirts Family in 2008

The Shirts family gathers at Southern Utah University in 2008 when Morris A. Shirts was honored with the Distinguished Service Award from SUU.

Morris A. Shirts Papers on Brigham Young High School, 1955-1986,
Harold B. Lee Library, BYU

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