Former fire chief D. Lee Morgan dies

October 19, 2000

Former fire chief D. Lee Morgan dies

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - D. Lee Morgan, former chief of the Shepherdstown Fire Department who worked to make the department one of the most advanced in the county, died Thursday.

Morgan, 72, died at Shenandoah Health Village Center in Charles Town, W.Va., a nursing home where he had been staying since suffering a recent stroke, friends said.

Morgan was praised by local fire officials and community leaders for his dedication to the fire department, where he was chief for 41 years.

The Shepherdstown Fire Department was the first department to use the 911 emergency system and the first to employ emergency medical technicians. Under Morgan's tenure, the fire department tripled its storage and meeting space when it moved into a new facility on W.Va. 45 on the edge of town.


"He put the fire department before anything, really," said Leon Catrow, the current chief of the department.

Equally important to Morgan was the people he served, friends said.

Morgan always paid close attention to make sure victims of fires and other accidents were cared for in their time of suffering, friends said.

Morgan said in an interview two years ago that he learned compassion for others after a fire destroyed a barn on his mother's farm in 1939. Morgan said he was impressed by the way Charles W. "Cop" Shipley, the fire chief at the time, consoled his mother.

"He did so much more than put out a fire. That's what he put into me," Morgan said.

People often called Morgan at home to report a problem instead of calling the department, especially if they did not feel it was an emergency. Morgan joined the department at the beginning of World War II, when there weren't enough men left behind to run the department.

The 16-year-old Morgan drove a fire truck even though he didn't have a driver's license.

"A true public servant he was," said Shepherdstown Police Chief Charles Cole, a long-time friend of Morgan's who used to work with Morgan on arson investigations when Cole was a state police trooper.

It's not unusual for a firefighter to dedicate so much of his or her life to the profession because it "gets in your blood," said Jack Strider, who was treasurer of the fire department for 25 years and worked closely with Morgan.

Firefighters feel especially compelled to serve after they have the chance to save someone's life, and they later develop friendships with those people, Strider said.

Firefighters are considering a fire department funeral for Morgan, where ladders from fire trucks are crossed in honor of a comrade, said Martinsburg Fire Department Chief Brad Waldeck, another close friend of Morgan's.

Services for Morgan are scheduled for Sunday.

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