Earlier this week we recognized the momentous achievement of Arizona State pioneer Emerson Harvey, the first African-American football letter winner in school history, and in the mid-1940’s when young men across the country returned from military service, Morrison Warren came back home to Arizona and followed Harvey’s footsteps to Tempe.
Born Dec. 6, 1923, Warren was bound for greatness from an early age as he was the valedictorian of his graduating class in 1941 from Phoenix Union Colored High School. Warren then attended Phoenix College before enlisting in the Air Force for service in Germany in World War II. During his military service, Warren committed himself to a life of humanitarianism after witnessing the atrocities at Nazi concentration camps in Germany.
Upon his return to the United States, the Phoenix native came to Arizona State and became the second African-American letter winner in the school’s football program history. In 1946, Warren was ASU’s leading rusher and the next season he scored a team-high eight total touchdowns.
Though Warren was accepted onto the team at Arizona State, not all opponents welcomed his presence. In a 1947 game played in El Paso against Texas State School of Mines (now UTEP), it was requested by the opponent that ASU’s African-American players not participate in the game because their safety from local fans could not be guaranteed. The Arizona State College athletic department declared that the Sun Devils would not schedule future games in which any student-athletes were not welcomed to play.
In addition to lettering twice in football for the Sun Devils, Warren graduated with a degree in elementary education in 1948. He would later spend time playing professional football with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
As influential as his career was during his time at ASU, his life after graduation is what truly cemented his altruistic legacy.
Warren earned his master’s degree from Arizona State University in 1951 and then at only 29-years-old he became an elementary school principal. In 1959, he completed his doctorate degree through ASU and 10 years later Warren became the first African-American elected to the Phoenix City Council, serving his last year as Vice Mayor of Phoenix. Warren later accepted a teaching position in ASU’s College of Education in 1968 and taught for 16 years.
The milestone achievements continued for Warren as he was the first African-American member of the board of directors for Arizona Public Service, where he served from 1972-1994. He also served as the 1982 Fiesta Bowl President, the Bowl’s first African-American president.
Warren passed away on April 9, 2002 and was inducted into ASU’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
A scholarship in his name has been created at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.