Richard Connor: Fort Worth has lost two giants

William Tucker (Photo courtesy TCU)

Two giants of education and business fell this weekend.

Dr. William Tucker, TCU Chancellor for 19 years, died at 90 Friday night and the next morning Clifton Morris, entrepreneur, business risk-taker and founder of AmeriCredit, died at 87 at his home.

It should be added about Morris, “recovering alcoholic,” an achievement he most likely regarded above all others.

He was sober 43 years and an indefatigable, persistent fighter helping people get sober and stay sober. He was financially generous to causes battling alcoholism and addiction.

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Dr. Tucker was also a minister and his impact in our community was as spiritual as it was secular. He also should be seen as a businessman because TCU is big business and its economic impact on Fort Worth and North Texas is enormous.

When one of these giants spoke, it was pure profundity. When the other spoke, profound or not, his message was laced freely with profanity.

I point this out in the spirit of love and good humor but in deference to truth.

There were other differences. One went about his work almost effortlessly, as if gliding with the angels. The other talked loudly, wielded the big stick, and knew not of gentle persuasion.

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Both achieved enormous results, each his own way.

Dr. Tucker spoke in a deep bass voice, low, soft and lilting, pausing at all the right moments and leaving his point gently hovering like a halo over your head, as if the words were heaven-sent.

He had a quick, deft and wry sense of humor.

I was shocked when as a member of the TCU board I discovered that Dr. Tucker never put his foot on a shovel to break ground on a new building before he had raised all of the money to pay for it. He was a builder, a master fundraiser.

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He covered all the bases: educator, minister, businessman, philanthropist, father, husband, friend.

Morris was an accountant with a strong desire to do more than just count money. He wanted to make it. He smoked cigarettes, was direct and pointed in his approach to business and life, often using spicy language. He could be gruff and sarcastic.

Morris worked for others and then started a business or two. At least one of the businesses failed – failed most likely because of his hard living and rowdy, excessive drinking. Then he got sober and stayed sober for those 43 years. He started AmeriCredit based right here in Fort Worth. He built the automobile financing company into a giant, took it public, and ultimately sold it to GM Capital.

He had a brilliant business mind. His candid language and brusque manner were a bluff. He was generous, an accomplished golfer, a good husband, father and stepfather. He was a philanthropist and a loyal friend who readily offered business advice, direction and loans to other entrepreneurs.

Both men loved Fort Worth and TCU. They prospered here and they gave back their full shares to the city and others.

In many ways they could not have been more different but by doing their work and following vocations and avocations they were the same in their sense of commitment to achievement of their goals, many of which have enriched us all.

Dr. Tucker was a great orator and in much demand as a eulogist. One has to ask, who gives the eulogy for the eulogist?

Whoever you are, speak low and deep, pause, and imagine what the voice of God might sound like. Easy. That’s all you need to do. Be brief and sit down.

And who will make the wisecrack and maybe offer a profanity or two in Clifton Morris’ absence?

Probably one of the many hundreds whose lives he changed forever when he helped them get sober, helped them stay sober, helped them get back up if they fell, and asked in return only that they help others.

Profundity, profanity and even philanthropy might be replaceable. William Tucker and Clifton Morris are not.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at