WHITEFISH, Mont. -- Frank Brenner Morrison Jr. left this life on Jan. 8, 2006, in Renton, Wash. Ever the consummate attorney, he was en route home from taking a deposition in Canada, when he collapsed at the Seattle airport. Complications from emergency surgery claimed his life. He will be remembered for his love of family, the State of Montana, the Law and for his generous heart.
Frank was born on Sept. 27, 1937, in the waning years of the Great Depression, the oldest of three children to Frank B. Morrison Sr. and Maxine Elizabeth Hepp Morrison. He was delivered in the same hospital delivery room as was his lifemate, Sharon. He was nicknamed "Biff," after the popular University of Nebraska Cornhusker football coach, Biff Jones. The Morrison family lived in Stockville until they moved to McCook, when Biff was three-years-old.
Biff attended McCook Public Schools in the idyllic 1950s, participating in all athletics, dancing to "rock and roll," and garnering a spot in the top ten of the graduating class. He met his soulmate, Sharon McDonald in the sixth grade. The two became pals and then "steadies" through the course of the K-12 years.
In 1959, Biff graduated from the University of Nebraska, where he was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity and the Cornhusker track team. He and Sharon married on June 28, 1959, in the summer between college and law school. Sharon taught school while Biff attended law classes at the University of Denver School of Law. After the first year of law school revealed his legal talent, Biff worked as an assistant in a major Denver law firm and then as a clerk for Justice William Doyle of the Colorado Supreme Court.
Son John was born June 18, 1961. A year later, Biff earned his Juris Doctorate degree with honors and was inducted into the Order of St. Ives, a legal scholastic honorary. The young family moved to Ogallala in 1962, where Biff began his law practice in the Sand Hills cattle country of Nebraska with the firm of McGinley, Lane, Mueller and Shanahan. His first case involved the replevin of a squirrel, and his first verdict included an order from the judge for the parties to "Go home and sin no more." From that modest beginning, Biff moved, in 1964, to the Omaha law firm of Eisenstadt, Lay, Higgins and Miller, joining nationally recognized trial lawyers in a fast-paced and exciting practice.
During the 1960's Biff lectured on legal programs across the country and served on the faculty of the Law Science Academy, a legal and medical institute that met annually in the summer at Crested Butte, Colo.
In 1968, the Morrison family was completed after Anne Elizabeth "Betsi" Morrison was born. With the deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. and the race riots and civil strife, Biff and Sharon decided to relocate to a rural mountain environment. In 1969, after a friend suggested that they consider the Flathead Valley of Montana, Biff and Sharon found Whitefish and fell in love at first sight. Within a few months, the four Morrisons left friends and family in Nebraska, engaged visionary developer Gary Tallman to build a house, hung an "Attorney" shingle in Whitefish and began a new adventure in Montana. Even after moving, Biff spoke often of the pride he held for his home state of Nebraska and especially for his home town of McCook.
Frank (as he was always known in Montana) eventually associated with Dale McGarvey and James D. Moore, and then with Donald E. "Gene" Hedman and Terry Trieweiler. In 1977, Sharon enrolled in the University of Montana Law School, and, in 1978, Frank organized the Missoula law firm of Morrison, Jonkel, Kemmis and Rossbach.
Frank's natural love of politics was awakened when others encouraged him to become a candidate for the Montana Supreme Court. He was elected in 1980 and quickly became nationally recognized for his legal analysis and vision. He served as chairman of the Montana Sentencing Guidelines Commission, which developed uniform sentencing in the state. He was a guest lecturer and part-time instructor at the University of Montana School of Law. He co-authored "Constitutional Challenges to Tort Reform: Equal Protection and State Constitutions," which was published in the University of Denver Law Review in 1987.
In 1988, Frank returned to the law practice with son John in Helena, Mont. However, the Flathead called to him and, in 1992, he returned to practice in Whitefish. In 2002, he and Sharon, together with Sean and Diana Frampton, renovated the Frank Lloyd Wright Building and established the law firm of Morrison and Frampton.
Frank held an AV rating, the highest possible rating by Martindale Hubbell lawyer ranking service, which also included him in its publication, Preeminent Lawyers of America. He was a member of the International Society of Barristers, an international fellowship of trial lawyers, and the American Board of Trial Advocates. He served on the Board of Directors of the Montana Trial Lawyers Association, was its president in 1979 and received its Career Achievement Award. He also was on the Board of Governors of the Western Trial Lawyers Association.
Frank's interest in politics was lifelong. He attended Democratic National Conventions from 1951 until 1968 and in 1984 and 1988. In 1988 and 1992, Frank was a candidate for Governor of Montana. He hoped to make Montana a world center for reclamation, attracting money to the state for scientific projects, employing heavy equipment operators and construction workers in reclamation projects and building reclamation departments at the university campuses and Montana Tech.
Frank was a visionary person of ideas, energy, generosity and passion. He loved and was devoted to his family, who cherished, respected and adored him. He loved Montana, its people, its mountains, its lakes and streams, its seasons and its beautiful lands. He climbed, skied, hiked, fished and camped in its embrace. When he had been away from the state, he always breathed deeply when he returned, saying, "There just isn't anything else like this." He loved theater and was instrumental in starting live theaters in Kalispell and Whitefish. He loved his friends and all those whom he intended to make his friends. He had a knack for making a decision and then doing what was necessary to make it the right one. Frank's life reflected his credo, "Service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy in this world." He loved life and made the very best of it -- at G-Force speed.
Frank is survived by his loving wife, Sharon of Whitefish; son, John, daughter-in-law, Cathy and granddaughters, Allison and Amanda of Helena; daughter, Betsi and son-in-law, Luke Walrath of Whitefish; brother, Jon Morrison and partner, Sandy Juster of Las Vegas, Nev.; and sister and brother-in-law, Jean and Dr. Ben Galloway of Denver. Frank is also survived by nieces and nephews, Cindy Brady, Katie Seawell, Jeanne Eschenfelder and Clay Morrison and their families. Frank was preceded in death by his parents, former Nebraska Governor Frank B. Morrison Sr. and Maxine Hepp Morrison.
Services will be at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, 2006, at the United Methodist Church in Whitefish, with a reception following at the O'Shaughnessy Cultural Arts Center. Frank's historical office at 341 Central Avenue will also be open after the funeral to those who would like to visit.
Memorials may be made to the Alpine Theatre Project, PO Box 1959, Whitefish, MT 59937, or to any charity of choice.