Ben Morgan
Corsicana Businessman
Navarro County, Texas


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Ben Morgan

 

 

2/9/2003 BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Morgan early historic black businessman

By KEN HALL/Special to the Daily Sun

In the Corsicana of the 1920s Ben Morgan established himself as the first black tailor of men's clothing. Although having no formal training Morgan became an expert in alterations, gaining the trust of many fashion conscious men of the day because of his talent. His services were called upon in not only the black community but also from such notables as P. Samuels, the Marks Brothers, J. M. Dyer and Joe Butler, to name a few.

"Whenever anybody needed something altered they'd ask for him," said his daughter, Marguerita Springfield. "They wouldn't let anybody else touch their clothes except my father because he did good work."

Born Sept. 20, 1885, Morgan's family settled in Corsicana with his parents and seven siblings; five girls and two boys. While getting his tailoring business going he met his future wife, Cornelia Jackson.

"My mother lived right behind him with her family," Springfield said. "They were about to move to Oklahoma but she stayed behind after the rest of the family went on." After a time the couple married, producing Marguerita, Hazel and John P.

There were several locations used during the run of the business, with one of the early sites located at the corner of East Fifth Avenue and 10th Street (Commerce) around 1922; Fifth Avenue being the hub of a thriving enterprise zone at that time that served the needs of blacks because of segregation. A couple of the surrounding establishments included Stewart's Undertaking parlor and the Economy Drug Store. For a time Morgan partnered with Ezra Carroll, owner of the Savoy Tailor Shop, in the 200 block of east Fifth. Ever needing more room Morgan parted ways with Carroll, moving to other locales around downtown, including a shop at 308 N. Beaton, behind Roy's Cafe. Finally the business made its last move, next to the home site in the 1000 block of East Seventh Avenue (now MLK Boulevard). The building housing the shop still stands.

"It didn't make any difference where the shop was," said Springfield with a smile. "They would follow him all over town to get their clothes altered. The reason he moved his shop over here (on Seventh) was because Mother didn't really like him staying too late downtown. She wasn't afraid or anything but it was easier for her to help out with it being so close."

While the business took up much of his time Morgan was able to make room for his family and other things in his life.

"He was a master mason and served on the board of regents at Texas Southern University," Springfield said. "He was appointed to that post by Gov. Beauford T. Jester. Father had done alterations on the governor's clothes and they became good friends after that. Whenever he was in town the governor would come by and visit."

Although alterations were his strong suit, Morgan also offered pressing service at his shop.

"He really didn't like to press clothes, but he did it anyway," Springfield said. "Over the years he taught several young fellows how to press and had them do it all. Many of them went on to start up their own shops."

After 40-plus years in the business Morgan passed away May 18, 1965. His beloved wife was called to glory Oct. 4, 1982.

People may not be aware of the contributions of Morgan but he did make his mark and has a place in the history of Corsicana.

"Everybody in town at the time knew Ben Morgan's was the best place to go to have men's clothes altered right," said Springfield proudly.


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