Morrison recognized for outstanding contribution

Published 2:38 pm Thursday, May 23, 2019

The tradition of the lighted cross in Middlesboro continues thanks to the dedication of J.R. Morrison and his contributions were recognized Tuesday by the Middlesboro City Council.

“We would like to let you know how much we appreciate you,” Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson expressed to Morrison. “This council is going to present you with an award.”

Morrison was under the impression that he was only at the meeting to discuss the history and upkeep of the cross but instead was presented with the Admiral of the Old Yellow Creek Navy award.

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“You didn’t ask for an award, that’s fine, but you’re going to get one anyway,” Nelson said. “This is the highest award that this city offers. It is called Admiral of the Old Yellow Creek Navy, so you’re Admiral Morrison from now on.”

The lighted cross dates back to 1949 when two friends who traveled back and forth to the mines together thought of the idea.

“It was put on the mountain about 1949, and this year it will be 70 years old,” Morrison explained. “Harrison Mayes and Charlie Kelley got to talking about it, and Charlie had the property and Harrison wanted to put something on the property so they put up the cross.”

Mayes took care of the cross for several years before he passed way in the 70s.

“The cross got in kind of disrepair, so we took it over in about 78,” Morrison said. “Daddy took it over, and he passed away in 83 and I’ve had it for 36 years now.”

Nelson asked Morrison to explain what some of the upkeep that is required for the cross.

“Yearly underbrush, keep the trees off the side of it, replace the sockets, and I pay the electric bill every month,” Morrison stated.

Work is also about to begin on three blocks of trees that will be cleared for access to the mountain.

“Recently we had some vandalism that was reported,” Nelson pointed out. “Was that very serious?”

“It wasn’t really bad,” Morrison stated. “I went and fixed it. It was less than $200.”

Nelson replied that it was still a substantial amount of money, and Brian O’Brien asked Morrison if the public was interested in helping with the upkeep costs, how they would go about doing that.

“If that’s what they want to do, they can see me or they can take the money to KU,” Morrison explained.