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The Legacy of W. Frank Morgan

Thursday was a quite a day at W. Frank Morgan Elementary School. Not only were Morgan’s children coming to talk to fifth-graders about their father, it was also “Dress to Impress Day,” and school pictures were being made. Plus, students and teachers throughout the school had decorated the doors to their classrooms as a way to celebrate reading and honor of Dr. Seuss.   

For more pictures about the visit from Will and Sarah Morgan and Frank Morgan’s friend, Col. Alfred Dillon, you can go to Morgan.

For more “Dress to Impress” pictures and Dr. Seuss pictures, you can go to Dr. Seuss.

Morgan 44 By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

MARCH 8, 2019 – After learning more about the man his school was named after, fifth-grader Gio Reyes felt honored to go to W. Frank Morgan Elementary.

“I feel lucky,” Gio said.

Fifth-grader Shaima Alshayef knows and respects Morgan’s widow, Helen Morgan, and she was delighted to learn more about her husband.

“It’s very cool for Morgan to have a school named after him,” Shaima said.

Students at Morgan send cards to Helen Morgan, who lives in a retirement community. Wanting students to know more about Frank Morgan, who died in 2017, fifth-grade teacher Kathy Crook and others at the school invited her to come talk about her husband’s legacy.

Not feeling up to it, Helen Morgan, who is 91, asked two of her children – Will and Sarah Morgan to come. Morgan’s youngest son, Jonathan, lives in Charlotte.

Will and Sarah Morgan were delighted to come and invited one of Frank Morgan’s long-time friends – Col. Alfred Dillon – to join them.

“They were the best of friends,” Sarah Morgan said.

Morgan 49 Principal Ramona Warren was glad everyone was able to be there.

“It keeps the heritage alive for children,” Warren said. “It helps them understand what it means to have a school named after you.”

Crook had been talking with students about the importance of serving as a good role model to others, and, with Morgan – who died in 2017 - having been such a good role model in his community, she hoped they would learn from his story.

“When he was living, he used to visit and teach the fifth graders how to make paper airplanes that would sail (what seemed like) a mile,” Crook said.

He would tell students he developed the skill flying during World War II.

“From this comment, you can see he had a great sense of humor,” Crook said.   

Will Morgan is 64. Sarah Morgan, who kept her maiden name after she married, has a birthday coming up. On Saturday, she will turn 62.

The Morgans were well-prepared for their presentation. Along with photos to project on the screen, they had a medal that Frank Morgan had received and a dress that Sarah Morgan was wearing in a family photo taken when she was 3.

Like many others who served in World War II, Frank Morgan was not one to talk a lot about the details of his experiences. After he and Dillon met and became friends at Clemmons Baptist Church, Dillon learned many of the details while asking him about his experiences. Dillon was younger than his friend and served in Korea and Vietnam.

Morgan 48 Morgan had quite a life.

Here we go:

In 1944, the United States was deep into the Second World War. Morgan was drafted and became part of what was then called the U.S Army Air Force. Stationed in England, he became a radio man and navigator on a B-24 flying bombing missions over Germany.

He occupied a small space directly behind the pilot and co-pilot.  

Showing students a picture of Morgan and others posed in front of their B-24, Sarah Morgan said, “This plane was shot down.”

That happened on his 29th mission.

In questioning his friend about the experience, Dillon learned that Morgan did not immediately parachute out of the plane because he was trying to free a man who had been trapped by the debris from the explosion. While he was trying to help, though, the plane banked and went into a dive. Morgan – his own parachute not yet fully strapped on – was thrown from the plane through the bomb bay doors.

Morgan 42 “He is a true hero,” Dillon said, “because he was willing to sacrifice his life to save the life of a comrade.”

Morgan was able to open the parachute but landed hard. His shoes flew off his feet, and some bones were dislocated.

He was in Germany and was quickly taken to a POW (Prisoner of War) Camp. With it being late in the war, Germany was struggling to find enough food for its soldiers, much less prisoners of war. So everyone in the camp received very little food.

Early on, the United States military didn’t know whether Morgan had been killed or captured and listed him as MIA (Missing in Action).

After a couple of months in the POW camp, Morgan was released.

After completing his service, he returned to Clemmons. In 1950, he married Helen Morgan.

Morgan became a teacher at Clemmons School. In those days, Clemmons was a small Morgan 99 community. It was the only school in the community and served students in grades 1 through 12.

In 1965, he became the principal at Clemmons School, which later became Clemmons Elementary.

When she and her brothers started school, Sarah Morgan said, he was their principal.

Serving as principal in a small community and being active in the community, he was well-known. A newspaper story celebrating his 25 years as a principal used the headline “A Legend in His Own Time.”

When it was time for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education to come up for a name for the school, which opened in 2011, Dillon made a presentation.

When the presentation was over and it was time for students to return to their classrooms, Gio said he had no idea Morgan had been thrown from the airplane.

Shaima didn’t know he served as a principal for so long.

She did already know that he had married a wonderful woman.

“I know his wife is very special,” she said.


Kim Underwood