John L. Morris, a retired University of Maryland Extension Service dairy cattle specialist whose Maryland 4-H judging teams won nearly 20 national and international championships, died Thursday of complications related to Parkinson's disease at Beverly Health Care Center in Frederick. The Braddock Heights resident was 87.
A Kent County native, Mr. Morris attended McDonogh School, where he was president of his class. After graduating in 1935, he worked with purebred dairy show herds, primarily in New Jersey - and became a highly sought recruit at Iowa State University.
"It's sort of like football teams do these days in attracting talent from all over the country," said T. Milton Nelson, a former University of Maryland agricultural editor who worked with Mr. Morris and noted that he "had a very good eye for dairy cattle."
In 1942, a year after Mr. Morris took up studies and cattle judging at Iowa State, "sure enough, they won the national championship," Mr. Nelson said.
His collegiate days were interrupted by Army service in World War II. He returned to Iowa State and graduated in 1946 with a bachelor of science degree in dairy husbandry. He later enrolled at the University of Delaware, earning his master's degree in dairy nutrition in 1958.
In 1951, Mr. Morris began working statewide for the University of Maryland Extension Service and coaching the Maryland 4-H Dairy Judging Teams, which performed mock examinations of cattle in competitions. The competitions are designed to test students' ability to accurately classify dairy cows.
Over 26 years, his 4-H dairy cattle judging teams won 13 national championships. Six of those teams were named international champions at the Royal Agricultural Show in Great Britain.
His awards include induction into the Maryland Dairy Shrine in 1973 and the National Dairy Shrine and Pennsylvania All-American Dairy Shrine in 1988.
Mr. Morris also loved sports, in particular the former Baltimore Colts, as well as the Orioles and athletic teams at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Mr. Morris retired from the University of Maryland in 1977 and spent several years as secretary of the Maryland Holstein-Friesian Association.
His passion for dairy farming had its roots on the Kent County farm that his father lost during depressed economic times in the 1920s.
His great passion was educating youth in the dairy industry, said his son, J. Robert Morris of Jefferson. "He felt whatever he could do to help the next generation of dairy farmers ... was a worthwhile endeavor," he said.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Christ Reformed Church in Middletown.
Mr. Morris also is survived by three other sons, Peter Morris of White Hall, Richard Morris of Newark, Del., and Paul Morris of Granger, Ind.; and nine grandchildren. His wife, the former Martha Lumpkin, died in 2000.