OKLAHOMA CITY—Walter Morris, former owner of Morris Latex Products Inc., died Jan. 28 at the age of 81.
Morris had a career of more than four decades in the rubber industry, and in 2001 was named Rubber & Plastics News Rubber Industry Executive of the Year.
His family said he was a born salesman. After holding a couple of jobs outside of the rubber industry, in 1970 he went to work as vice president of sales at Seiberling Latex Products, where he helped build the firm to be the world's largest household glove supplier.
In 1979, when Seiberling Latex Products closed, Morris purchased the medical division and started his own company, Morris Latex Products Inc., which produced disposable anesthesia breathing bags. The company became the leader in that market, prompting some in the industry to refer to him as the "Bag Man."
The company in 2007 changed its name to ML Products L.L.C., and the following year sold the firm to Medline Industries Inc. At the time of the sale, Morris said he was proud of what his company had accomplished. "In 28 years, we only lost money once, and that was in the first year," he said. "We did just under a million in sales in my first year, and (the) last year we had sales of about $20 million."
Morris maintained that one of the keys to a successful business was controlling costs. "We had 11 expansions in the last 13 years, and we paid for those expansions out of our checkbook," he said at the time of the firm's sale.
Tim Morris, one of his sons who was involved in the business and still works for Medline, said his father was very passionate about the rubber industry.
"His entrepreneurship skills were always around and his famous quotes were always, 'Always go to bed and wake up being able to look yourself in the mirror knowing you treated everyone with respect, kindness and treated them fairly,' " Tim Morris said. He also joked that "if we buy for a penny and sell for two pennies the dollars will look after themselves."
Tim Morris said the advice stuck with him through every aspect of my life. "He built a business and legacy on being honest, fair and putting the customer and always his family first," the younger Morris said.
After he sold the business, Walter Morris continued "Angel Investing," helping his friends with business opportunities. He also became partner in Bel-Mar Golf Club in Norman, Okla.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Bonnie; sons David (Diane) and Tim (Cheryl); daughter Terrie Donnelly (Clinton); seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Donations can be made to the Moore Norman Technology Center "Walt Morris Scholarship Fund." The fund is aimed at helping students who were not college bound and will buy them a set of tools needed to complete courses at the center. For information, email [email protected].