Dr. Stewart Morris, Sr., Houston Christian University Founder, Dies at 104

Dr. Stewart Morris, Sr., Houston Christian University Founder, Dies at 104
Image Credit: Michael Tims, Houston Christian University photographer

Dr. Stewart Morris, Sr., a Houston real estate giant and Christian education pioneer, died on Monday, March 11, 2024, at the age of 104. He helped found Houston Christian University in Sharpstown and led his small family company, Stewart Title, to become one of the largest title companies in the world.

At age ten, Morris began working as an office boy at Stewart Title for $5 a week. His father told him to give one dollar to church, save one for himself, and spend the others however he wanted (as long as he bought his own shoes and clothes).

In 1943, he earned his law degree from Southern Methodist University and married Joella. They would welcome three children, eight grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren during their 70 years of marriage (she died in 2013). After serving in the WWII Pacific Theater as a navy lieutenant on LST-38, he returned to work at Stewart Title. He traveled to spread the company across Texas and beyond, eventually rising to president.

When the Union Baptist Convention decided to found a Christian college in Houston, Stewart Morris secured two loans totaling $760,000. He also secured Billy Graham to speak to the inaugural freshman class in 1963.

Morris remained engaged in the growth of Houston Baptist College—which became Houston Baptist University in 1973, then Houston Christian University in 2022—for the next 61 years, funding buildings like the Morris Family Center for Law and Liberty, a full-size replica of Independence Hall. When workers demolished the Galveston County Courthouse where his grandfather had served as judge, Morris bought its sixteen pillars and set up ten at Houston Christian University, symbolizing God’s Word. (Five other pillars stand over the reflection pool at the entrance to Sugar Creek, which Morris helped to develop.)

With an honorary doctorate from Washington & Lee University and a collection of horse-drawn carriages, Morris wasn’t exactly a simple man. But much of his life was shaped by two simple things: his father’s financial advice, and his favorite Bible verse: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

"A Celebration of Life will be held at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 6, at Second Baptist Church, 6400 Woodway, in the worship center followed by a reception. Dr. Morris is survived by his three children, eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren" (HCU press release).

Editor's Note: If you're wondering about the apparent discrepancy between seven and eight great-grandchildren, I assume that the eighth great-grandchild was born after Joella died.