Heroes of World Missions

Max Morris

Max Morris

June 30, 2024

The Rev. Max Morgan Morris, 91, of Cleveland, Tennessee, passed away peacefully at The Bridge in Ooltewah on Wednesday, June 26, 2024.

Born in Talladega (Bemiston), Ala., Max was the only son of the late Elvin Lane and Dessie Morris. He attended Talladega High School, Class of 1951, and graduated from Lee College (University) in 1955. He went on to earn a master’s degree in education from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College in 1957.

As a young man, Max was uniquely gifted, both as an athlete and a musician. Max loved to play baseball and was an outstanding pitcher for the Talladega Tigers. Throwing a “mean” knuckleball, he was scouted by major league ball clubs, including the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

From 1953 to 1955, Max held the rank of Sergeant and served as a drum major and as an assistant band director for the U.S. Army Band at Ft. Benning, Ga., as a member of the Special Troops Command.

Pursuing his calling and gifts in ministry, Max became a premier gospel music artist, using his unique piano talents to record more than 50 albums. He has written many notable gospel songs, including “I’ll Thank Him, I’ll Praise Him” and “Oh Happy Day.”

Early in his ministry, Max appeared weekly on Archie Campbell’s “The Old Country Church” and at the Friday night Grand Ole Opry Gospel Singing at Ryman Auditorium with the Meridian Street Church Special Choir, the first organized choir in the Church of God and first choir to sing at the General Assembly.

For the denomination, Max served in ministry roles as an assistant pastor at Meridian Street Church in Nashville and Tremont Church in Greenville, S.C., and as lead pastor at Lake Worth Church in Lake Worth, Fla.

As assistant director, 1966-70, of “Forward in Faith,” the international broadcasting arm for the Church of God, Max was instrumental in modernizing production and expanding the radio network coverage.

Serving on the denomination’s Music Committee and General Assembly Music Committee, Max contributed significantly to the formation and mobilization of many other notable talents in the church.

Following God’s providential plan, Max later devoted most of his evangelistic ministry life to being an encourager of others, via prayer and personal interaction.

Max founded and served as executive director of Marc Lane Ministries Inc., a nonprofit ministry organization, for nearly 50 years. Under Marc Lane Ministries, Max formed World Wide Prayer Partners (WWPP), conducted weekly television broadcasts of “A Preacher and His Piano” on the CBN television network, and operated His Hands Extended interdenominational devotionals in Cleveland twice a week for over 20 years. The devotionals were broadcast around the world as well.

He also arranged community-wide “Red-Back Hymnal Sings” in various churches, featuring Southern gospel and convention songs, along with standard hymns. Additionally, he organized faith-based Fourth of July Celebrations at Cleveland High School and First Baptist Cleveland.

Max proudly served as chairman of the board for Friends of Samaritans Place, a nonprofit dedicated to organizing events, facilitating programs, fundraising, and managing resources to support Samaritans Place and its partners in the care of and adoption placement of Philippine orphans.

A Cleveland resident with his family for nearly 60 years, Max coached Little League baseball when their sons were younger, including a state championship in 1972, and was a member of Rotary Club of Cleveland, receiving the symbolic Keys to the City for his service to the community and its common good in 2024.

Regardless of who called him, he always answered with his signature greeting: “Jesus loves you. May I help you?”

Max Morgan Morris is survived by his loving wife of almost 67 years, JoAn Atkins Morris; his sons, Michael Lane (Julie) Morris, and Marc (Marilen) Morris; grandchildren, Michael Chadwick Morris, Christopher (Destiny) Morris, Michelle (Phillip) Looney, Madison Cantrell and Samantha McMillan; and great-grandchildren, Morgan and Caspian Morris, Carmen and Magnolia Looney, Brylee Jo McMillan, and Addylyn Holland.

Also surviving are first cousins Evelyn Knight and Hugh (Vivian) Morris; extended Morris and Knight family cousins; sister-in-law DeLois (Bruce, deceased) Atkins-Kasper, brother-in-law Chuck (Susan) Atkins, and sister-in-law Maxine (Don) Hughes. Countless friends whose lives he touched across the nation and around the world also grieve his passing.