Early in the morning on September 22, 1938, just hours after the most powerful hurricane in memory had devastated the Westerly coastline, a local carpenter and senior Red Cross lifeguard named Henry M. Morris was out with Westerly Police Lieutenant George Madison and patrolman Arthur B. Kingsley searching for survivors.
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While down near Shore Road, the men noticed the faint light of a candle in the distance, the only sign of survivors which emanated from the Weekapaug Inn. Morris’ actions upon observing this far off beacon of hope earned him wide-ranging recognition for his bravery.
Henry M. Morris was born in Westerly on September 15, 1911 to Henry Bradford and Carrie (Lovett) Morris.  Throughout his childhood, Morris lived with his family on Shore Road and attended schools in Westerly. Although census records suggest Morris completed four years of High School, no record could be found of his graduation from Westerly High School. 
By 1930, at the age of 18, Henry was working as a carpenter and living with his divorced mother in their home on Shore Road.  By 1935, Henry married his wife, Calista Kenyon, and they began a family together.  At that time, he had found work as an operator at a dye mill in Bradford (likely the Bradford Dyeing Association), but shortly thereafter, he returned to his career as a carpenter. 
In late September 1938, tragedy struck the town of Westerly, as it was pelted by an immensely powerful hurricane that destroyed much of the coast. Around 1 a.m. on September 22, 1938, while Henry M. Morris was out with Westerly Police officers looking for survivors,  Theodore Billings (38), Leon Bliven (64), William Wheeler (49), Mrs. Ella Rewick, and Lawrence Miller (51) were taking refuge at the Weekapaug Inn.7
Morris, having seen the candle the refugees placed in a window, immediately made his way to the hotel. Upon arriving there, he found that what had once been tennis courts was now a wide breachway, separating the hotel from his position. 
Undeterred, despite the 25 mph winds, Morris, Kingsley, and Madison formulated a plan. First, the men tossed a mattress into the water to test the current, and when they saw it “float away like a match in the raging current,” they deemed it impossible to use a boat for the mission.  Their next course of action was to tie a rope around Morris’ waist so that he could safely swim back and forth across the breachway.
When Morris arrived at the other side of the breachway, he wrapped the rope around himself and one of the survivors and swam back across. He completed this feat four more times, rescuing all five survivors.  Upon arriving back on shore with the last refugee, Morris collapsed from exhaustion and was taken to Westerly Hospital, where he was reported to have received bruises from debris in the rough waters.  Morris returned home the following day and was roundly lauded as a hero in the community.
After his daring rescue, Morris returned to his life as a carpenter, eventually moving with his wife and two children to Weekapaug Road in Westerly.  15 months after his successful rescue mission, Henry M. Morris’ heroism and bravery were recognized, as he was awarded as a recipient of the Carnegie medal for valor presented by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. 
The Carnegie Hero Fund, established in 1904 by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, was created with the intention of rewarding those who performed heroic deeds. Initially, the recipients were chosen by a 21-member commission in Pittsburgh which utilized Carnegie’s depiction of a hero as the basis for their decisions. 
As of 2018, the Commission has awarded more than 10,000 medals out of more than 90,000 candidates.  Based on the tales of Morris’ exploits, it is quite clear that he met the Commission’s requirement that “the candidate for an award must be a civilian who voluntarily risks his or her life to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the life of another person.” 
On January 3, 1940, in a ceremony held in the Ward Senior High School Auditorium, Henry M. Morris was presented with a bronze medal and $500 for “a worthy purpose as needed.”  Morris, a boy scout as a child, received the award from Harold R. Williams, Chief Executive of the Narragansett Council of Boy Scouts.  Upon being informed in October 1939 that he was to receive the medal, he claimed: “It had to be done and I did it, with the aid of the other fellows.” 
The week after he received his Carnegie medal, Henry M. Morris was treated to an event that the Westerly Sun described as the “real party.”  Morris and 130 other locals gathered for a dinner at the Elm Tree Inn in Pawcatuck hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.
At the dinner, when presented with a barometer, Morris stated “you may rest assured that I will value this gift more even than the Carnegie medal, for it is given to me by the folks of my own home town.”  Celebrations of Morris’ heroism continued throughout the evening, as he humbly acknowledged the efforts of patrolman Kingsley (who was seated at Morris’ table) and Lieutenant Madison. 
Morris’ bravery was never forgotten by the people of Westerly, and he remained a well-known presence in town throughout the rest of his life. On May 2, 1944, Morris enlisted in the United States Navy, and he remained on active duty until his discharge on November 5, 1945, following the end of World War II. 
He also served in the United States Engineering Corps and was at one time a top-ranking Civil Engineer Corps Officer candidate for the Society of American Military Engineers.  Morris and his wife, Calista, were also the owners of several local businesses, including the Pine Lodge Motor Court on Post Road, and the building contractor firm of Morris and Turano. 
Later in his life, Morris entered the arena of local politics. In 1958, he unsuccessfully campaigned for a term on the highway commission and in 1960, he ran as a Republican candidate for the position of 6th Councilman in Westerly.  Eventually, Morris served as president of the Westerly Town Council. 
In February 1950, Morris and Turano was awarded the contract to build the first Fire Station for the Dunn’s Corners Fire Department. Morris’ association with the Fire Department would continue for the rest of his life, as he was added as a member in 1952.  Between 1970 and 1976, he served as the Department’s Chief Engineer.  Henry M. Morris died on August 6 1976 at the age of 64. 
After more than 80 years, the legacy of Morris’ brave act lives on, as he is still remembered as one of the heroes of the Hurricane of 1938 as well as a prominent and respected member of the community.