Responsibility and Sacrifice
Morris Dees grew up in this society of tenant farming. He witnessed
the ordeals that the people faced, both black and white. He himself
did not like the life of the tenant farmer. However, it was the only
life that his father knew. Arthur Lee Dees passed away when Morris Jr.
was only 4 years old. His father, Morris Sr., quit school and took over
the farm. The land that they were living on at the time was leased at
$500 a year, the equivalent of $0.50 an acre. Most of the tenant farmers
at the time shared their cotton crop with their landlords. Morris Sr.
chose someone else. He chose the Alabama Warehouse. There were advantages
to sharing with the Alabama Warehouse; one, they bought his cotton,
and two, they loaned him money. They borrowed money to buythe supplies
they needed, such as seed, fertilizer, and farming equipment. Mr. Samuels
was both the owner of the Alabama warehouse and the Dees' creditor.
With the life of a tenant farmer, came the burden of moving from house
to house. The first house was near the land of the Pinkstons. It was
a white frame house with neither electricity nor indoor plumbing. They
moved from there to another house of the same quality in Waugh. Finally
the Dees family made it to the Smith place. The land was owned by a
family named the McLemores. The McLemores were wealthy, owning several
thousand acres in Montgomery County. During this time, Morris Sr. makes
a smart business venture and partners up with Gene Handey and Gus Dozier.
Both the men were wealthy, but they sought out Morris Sr. as their partner
in the Cotton Gin because he was willing to work with his hands.
To the Dees family, the Smith place was a luxury. The house had indoor
plumbing and even a screen door on the porch. Morris Jr. recalls several
joyful memories out on the porch with his mother and sister, Carolyn.
There were happy times when his mother read to him and his sister as
they drank cold ice tea.
But all this happiness ended abruptly. The McLemores ended their lease
because they wanted to farm the land themselves. The Dees moved to the
Lyle Estate and only to repeat what had happened with the McLemores,
they moved again.