Paul Morrison: Behind the scenes with Drake University’s 99-year-old historian

Paul Morrison, pictured at work in Drake University’s news bureau, in 1946. Photo courtesy of Paul Morrison

Paul Morrison, pictured at work in Drake University’s news bureau, in 1946. Photo courtesy of Paul Morrison

By Larry Cotlar


When I was asked to write a story on Drake University historian Paul Morrison for Iowa History Journal, I was thrilled. I have known Morrison since I began working in sports at WHO Radio in the early 1980s. It turns out that he graduated from Drake University in 1939, the year after my stepfather, Bill Luftman, played football there. I have always appreciated in the annual football media guide that Morrison would compile a page entitled “Drake from A through Z” and would include my stepfather whose nickname was “Zuli.”


Morrison has been affiliated with Drake University for 71 years. It was meant to be since his parents, Marion H. Morrison and Leonta Star-Zinger, met as freshmen at Drake in 1902 and graduated in 1906. They married in 1910. In 1917, while residing in Cedar Rapids, the couple gave birth to their third child, a boy they named Paul.


Morrison came to Drake in 1935 with plans on becoming a medical student. However, as is often the case, necessities dictate change.


“Due to finances, I picked up a job in the circulation department of the Times-Delphic when I was a freshman,” Morrison said. “That decision changed my life forever” as he became the paper’s sports editor during his junior and senior years.


Journalism was now in his blood and would remain there forever. After graduating from Drake in 1939, Morrison went to work at the Cedar Rapids Gazette as the editor of two night-time editions. Following a stint in the U.S. Army during World War II, he returned to the Gazette in 1945. Shortly thereafter, Drake decided to make its news bureau a full-time job and tabbed Morrison as its first full-time editor.


Morrison’s first job within the Drake athletic department came a few months later when he became the department’s business manager in December 1945. But one job wasn’t enough for Morrison, who added the duties of sports information director and athletic ticket manager to his growing resume.


It was during that period that Morrison would start collecting pieces of Drake athletic memorabilia, which later would serve him when he became the school’s historian, which he remains to this day at age 99.


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