When Otis Morrow first became City Attorney (Arkansas City) back in 1975, he could not have known that the position would launch him into also serving as the city’s hospital attorney for over forty-three years. That appointment, which continued after his thirty-year stint as the city attorney ended, saw him work with thirteen different chief administrators at the hospital.
While acknowledging that all of them wanted to bring high quality health care to Ark City, the venerable lawyer admits he would have preferred to see more stability in the CEO position. “I would have liked more continuity in the position,” he nods, “I would love to see Jeff Bowman [current CEO] stay in this job. Jeff is very talented, and I believe he is the right person for the job. I hope he retires here.”
Bowman was hired as South Central Kansas Medical Center chief executive last year to replace Virgil Watson. He notes that Morrow has served the hospital board and the community in laudatory fashion for those four-plus decades. “Otis Morrow is a highly respected attorney and a devout servant of this community. His wisdom and counsel over these forty-three years has been invaluable. He is not only admired and appreciated within this community and area, he is highly respected well beyond south central Kansas.”
Both Bowman and Morrow graduated from Arkansas City High School and both attended Cowley College before pursuing their bachelors’ degrees elsewhere. Bowman graduated from Baylor and then worked in Texas for thirty years before returning to take on the challenges at the helm of SCKMC. After Morrow finished his bachelors’ degree at Southwestern College and then finished law school at Washburn University. Immediately after that, he headed north. Seemingly, Morrow couldn’t get back quickly enough.
“I was in Chicago for about a year-and-a-half, working for a huge law firm there. It snowed in December and I didn’t see the ground again until March.” Those who know Morrow well may doubt that it was only the Windy City’s vicious winters that brought him back, although that would be reason enough for many of us. Upon his return, he worked in Newkirk at Albright Title and Trust and then came to work for the city.
“They told me they were looking for a young attorney like me,” Morrow confesses with a foreshadowing grin. “Then,” he chuckles, “I found out they couldn’t get anyone else to take the job.” In spite of the previous experience with cold, harsh winters, and the deep anchoring roots here, the attorney and his wife invested in residential property in Colorado.
“Some years ago, Terri and I bought a place out in Estes Park. I went ahead and took the Colorado bar exam, figuring that one day we’d be moving out there permanently. It never happened.” Here the lanky lawyer pauses, smiles and says softly, “We were just rooted too deeply here in Ark City.”
A man as tall as Morrow can use deep roots. Like the first king of ancient Israel, he stands head and shoulders above most other men, somewhere in the neighborhood of six-five or so. The years may have bent him a bit, but they haven’t kept him off the golf course.
Some of those familiar with those deep roots have seen Morrow use that long frame of his with notable power and prowess on the links. Gage Musson, who directs Cowley College’s Wellness Center and is recognized as an apt golfer himself, says that even though Morrow might be forty years older than him, “I wouldn’t want to play against him for money. No way. Dude is a lot stronger than he looks.”
While appreciative of Morrow’s strength and talent, Musson and other wielders of the irons might not know that the game is responsible for Morrow’s lifelong profession.
“When I was a kid, I played a lot of golf and I played with a lot of guys. Many of them were lawyers—some old and experienced, some just starting their careers. Listening to them, watching them interact with each other, I fell in love with the lifestyle.”
A love of his hometown, a love of his profession and a love of people has fueled Morrow through over forty years of service. His professionalism, dedication, and accomplishments have been recognized by the Kansas Bar Association and many others. Commemorations in his office document honors such as “Outstanding Alumni” (with wife, Terri) of Cowley College, declaration by the city of “Otis Morrow Appreciation Day,” service awards from the Salvation Army and others. All were well-deserved and well-received.
He’ll soon have another plaque to add to the collection when city mayor Jay Warren presents him with an award for his years of service to the hospital. South Central Kansas Medical Center board members and administrators will officially recognize Morrow’s service at their monthly board meeting on Thursday, February 28th.
Many people who’ve never met him and some who’ve never heard of him may very well owe their lives, at least in part, to Otis Morrow’s work in helping assure that Arkansas City has continued to have a local hospital over the past forty-three years. And counting.