Bill Morris was part of the post-Windrush generation of the 50s, arriving in the UK in 1954, a couple of years after the first waive of immigrants. His visit was to have lasted just a few months - joining his recently widowed mother in Birmingham where she was visiting her family. He stayed on to become arguably the most influential black person in Britain, and he is proud to be described as an "economic migrant".

Bill Morris was brought up in small village in rural Jamaica.  His mother was a domestic science teacher; his stepfather was a part-time policeman.  On their five acres of land they kept a few chickens and rabbits and grew some crops.  What they couldn't eat they sold at market, using the money to buy kerosene, fuel, clothes and a few extras for the family.  Life revolved around the family, the church, school and cricket - a green unripe orange for a ball, and a branch of the coconut tree for a bat:  "I was going to bat for the West Indies."

Arriving in Handsworth, Birmingham aged 16 in his first suit, his British passport in his pocket (at that time Jamaica was a British protectorate), he experienced a new world - cold, wet and grey.   No trees, no grass, a few rows of houses, and "boxes on roofs which smoked" - Jamaican houses had no need for chimneys!   He saw the notices:   "No blacks here".   In 1964 when he applied for a job with the T&G he was told "The union is not ready for a black official".  He lived through the rise of the National Front, the race riots of the 1980s and Norman Tebbit's "cricket test" and more recently the growth of the British National Party.

Yet in England he was the first black person to make it to the top of a trade union whose members, more than 30 years earlier, had marched in support of Enoch Powell.  And his roots are still in Jamaica which he visits regularly and where, until 2010, he was Chancellor of the University of Technology.

In 1957 he married a young Jamaican woman, Minetta, who came from a neighbouring parish in Jamaica.  Minetta was a nurse.   They had two sons - Clyde and Garry, and he has two grandchildren - Una and Rohan.   Minetta died in 1990 of breast cancer.  He describes her as one of the "greatest women" in his life. All the great influences in his life have been women - his grandmother was the mainspring of the family (she believed everything was possible: "You can do it" she would constantly
Congratulations from grand-
children Una and Rohan.

tell him), his mother, his wife Minetta and his partner, Eileen. And now he detects strengths of self-reliance in his grand-daughter, Una.

When not at work, he likes to spend time at home with friends, watching cricket, eating good food, listening to jazz, keeping fit at the gym and tending his garden.

When Jazz Jamaica made a CD of music by Marvin Gaye, they invited Bill Morris to join them on one of their tracks - and he added "rapper" to his list of accomplishments. Appropriately the track was "What's Going On", and the CD "Motorcity Roots" was released for Christmas 2005. Four years later he joined the band on stage at the Town Hall, Birmingham, to perform the track.

 

First ever photograph for passport
in 1954.