Morris A. Shirts papers

Morris A. Shirts papers

Dates: 1810-2001

Contains the professional and family papers of Shirts related to his professional career with Brigham Young High, Brigham Young University, and other high schools and universities in Utah. Also contains collected writings, research notes, and other materials related to southern Utah including the Iron Mission, Mountain Meadows, and Peter Shirts. Materials date from 1810-2001.

  • Extent: 3 oversize boxes (4.98 linear ft.). -- 15 boxes (7.5 linear ft.). -- 35 cartons (35 linear ft.)
  • Creator: Shirts, Morris A., 1922-1997
  • Call Number: MSS 2227
  • Repository: L. Tom Perry Special Collections; 20th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts; 1130 Harold B. Lee Library; Brigham Young University; Provo, Utah 84602;
  • Access Restrictions: Open for public research.
Languages and Scripts
Contains five series: 1. Morris A. Shirts historical research and publications, 1810-2001. 2. Morris A. Shirts personal papers, 1940-1997. 3. Morris A. Shirts professional papers, 1942-1987. 4. Morris A. Shirts volunteer activities, 1941-2000. 5. Morris A. Shirts photographs and images for books and articles, 1870-1999.
Conditions of Use
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Morris A. Shirts papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
Preferred Citation
Initial citation: MSS 2227; Morris A. Shirts papers; 20th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Following citations: MSS 2227, LTPSC.
Custodial History
Donated by Maxine Shirts in 1996.
Acquisition Information
Donated; Maxine Shirts; 1996.
Subject Terms
Brigham Young High School (Provo, Utah)--Administration; Shirts family; Shirts, Morris A., 1922-1997--Archives; Colleges and Universities; Education; Education--Utah; Educators--Utah--Archives; Historians--Utah--Archives; Utah--History
Genre / Form
Manuscripts (for publication); Notes
Processing Information
Processed; Frances A. Smeath, Kathryn H. Shirts, Peter Hoyt, student manuscript processors, and John Murphy, curator; 2011.
Appraisal Information
LDS, Utah, and Western American women (20th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts collection development policy, 5.V, 2007). Contains the professional and family papers of Morris A. Shirts, a native of Escalante, Utah, a student and employee at Brigham Young University, and long-time researcher of southern Utah history.
Finding Aid ID Number
Finding Aid Title
Shirts (Morris A.) papers
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Frances A. Smeath, Kathryn H. Shirts, John M. Murphy, curator, and Peter Hoyt, student manuscript processor
Finding Aid Creator
This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2014-03-23T04:21-0600
Finding Aid Language
The papers of Morris A. Shirts were processed through a generous donation from the Randall B. and Kathryn H. Shirts Family.
Biographical Info:

Biographical History

Morris A. Shirts (1922-1997) was a professor at Brigham Young University and Southern Utah State College (Southern Utah University).

Morris Alpine Shirts was born April 11, 1922, in Escalante, Utah, to Shirts and LoNeta Hall Shirts. He attended Escalante High School and Dixie College before receiving a bachelors degree from Brigham Young University in 1947. He was awarded a masters degree from BYU in 1951, and received an Ed.D. from Indiana University in 1952.

Shirts served in the 20th Air Corps in the Pacific theater as a B-29 radio operator during World War II. He married Dorothy Maxine Baird of Salt Lake City, whom he met as a student at BYU, on October 27, 1945, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. They both continued their education at BYU, after which Shirts taught math and science at North Sanpete High School, also acting as district audio-visual director. While in Mt. Pleasant, he started KNS, the first student radio station in Utah.

In 1952, Dr. Shirts was hired by BYU to teach audio-visual education and was later principal of Brigham Young High School. From 1957 to 1959, he was an advisor to the National Teachers College in Teheran, Iran. In 1959, he came to Southern Utah University (then CSU) where he taught audio-visual education, and served as a department chair and then dean of the College of Education. He was instrumental in obtaining approval to change CSU to a four-year college and was beloved by scores of students whom he helped train for careers in teaching. He retired in 1983.

Shirts was an avid southern Utah historian and was in demand for years as a speaker for local and visiting groups. With Professor Paul D. Proctor of BYU he coauthored a book about Silver Reef entitled "Silver, Sinners and Saints." A book about the settling of Cedar City, "A Trial Furnace: The Story of the Iron Mission," which he researched for three decades, was completed by his daughter-in-law, Kathryn H. Shirts, and published in 2001. His Iron Mission studies led him to investigate the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and he was on the committee to erect a new monument overlooking the massacre site. The site of this monument was based on his extensive knowledge of the area. His friendship with both the Lee and Fancher families allowed him to play a leading role in bringing them together at the dedication ceremonies held on September 15, 1990, in Southern Utah University's Centrum. After Shirts' death, Frances A. Smeath wrote a monograph entitled "Historical Topography: A New Look at Old Sites on Mountain Meadows," based on his Mountain Meadows research.

Shirts spent a great part of his life in volunteer service to boys. Coaching Little League Baseball was a commitment to be with his four sons that lasted nineteen years. He wrote "Warm Up for Little League Baseball," which went through several editions, and "Call it Right!" with Kent Myers and Klein Rollo to train Little League umpires. He also wrote "Playing with a Football" with Thomas Kingsford. He served as scoutmaster of the Cedar City Seventh Ward, at one time with as many as fifty-three scouts in the troop. An eagle scout himself, he patiently helped many boys follow the trail to eagle, sixteen of them in one memorable court of honor. Troop 347 was honored as being one of the outstanding troops in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints twice during this period. Shirts was President of the Cedar Breaks District BSA, and Vice President of the Utah National Parks Council. He worked tirelessly for three years to help establish the Thunder Ridge Scout Camp near Brian Head for the BSA and personally arranged for the National Guard to put in the access road. He initiated the Rainbow Canyon Hiker Award to help scouts safely enjoy the Zion Narrows, Zion West Rim, and Kolob Arch Trails. Shirts received the Silver Beaver award in 1964. He actively served in many positions in the Church including counselor in the Cedar West Stake Presidency and temple worker.

Shirts represented southern Utah on the Governor's Commission for the National Bicentennial in 1976. He received many awards from groups in the area. He had many hobbies, including singing, playing guitar and harmonica, constructing bows and arrows for archery hunting, operating ham radio, and restoring Studebaker autos (at a least a dozen over the years). However, his most cherished time was spent with his wife Maxine and their children: Russell, Randy, Andrea, Robert, and Steven. He was proud of their achievements and attended as many of their games and activities as possible.

Shirts died at age seventy-four, at his home in Cedar City, Utah, on January 7, 1997, after patiently suffering complications of diabetes for many years.

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John Murphy
Curator - 20th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts