Herwald “Hal” Morton was a member of the U.S. Foreign Service, spending most of his career working in the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). In a career spanning over thirty years—and which culminated in his earning the rank of Career Minister—he lived in five different countries while visiting more than 100 as a representative of the United States. He is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.
Hal Morton was born on July 19, 1931, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the youngest of Rachel and James Morton’s five children. He grew up in Little Rock and was the valedictorian of Dunbar High School’s Class of 1948. (He later recalled getting his first job as a ten-year-old, lying about his age in order to be hired as a popcorn vendor in one of Little Rock’s African-American movie theaters.) Following graduation, having earned a scholarship from the Pepsi-Cola Company, he spent a year and a half at New York University before he decided to enter the military. Joining the U.S. Air Force, he served in Alaska, Germany, and France from 1949 to 1954. By the time he was discharged and returned to civilian life, he had risen to the rank of first lieutenant.
Following his stint in the military, he returned to school. Heading to Chicago, Illinois, Morton registered at Northwestern University, but he was put off by their racial quota. He switched to Roosevelt University, where he earned a BA in political science in 1960.
He married Christine Hicks in Chicago on May 19, 1958. The couple had two sons.
Following graduation from Roosevelt, Morton continued his education, earning a master’s degree in international law and diplomacy from the University of Chicago in 1961. After considering positions with both the Defense and Commerce Departments, Morton ultimately accepted a job with the U.S. Information Agency, where he began as a management trainee in 1961.
Over the course of his long career, he was a personnel officer, a management and budget officer, and an executive officer in multiple countries. He also served as the director of USIA programs in Kingston, Jamaica, and La Paz, Bolivia. As his career advanced, he assumed ever greater administrative responsibilities, and he was named Deputy Director of the Office of Personnel and Training in 1977. In that capacity, he oversaw a worldwide personnel and training system, one that served thousands of foreign national employees and foreign service officers in over 100 countries, as well as 3,000 civil servants in the United States. In 1980, he went back overseas, becoming Counselor of Public Affairs and Director of the United States Information Service, serving in Bangkok, Thailand, and Manila, Philippines. In that post, he was an advisor to the ambassador and other U.S. government agencies on public diplomacy activities, while also being responsible for all public affairs activities for the embassy. From there, he became director of the Office of East Asia and Pacific Affairs in 1986. That position involved the supervision of a number of offices while also serving as a senior management advisor to the director of the USIA. By the time he retired from the USIA in October 1993, he had earned one of the Foreign Service’s highest ranks, that of Career Minister.
Morton was also an active contributor to numerous organizations, including the American Foreign Service Association, the Asia Society, the World Affairs Council, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In recognition of his distinguished efforts, Morton was the recipient of numerous honors and awards. He was awarded the Diplomatic and Consular Officers Presidential Awards for Outstanding Service, and he was recognized with the Superior Honor awards in 1986 and 1988. Upon his retirement in 1993, he was recognized with the Distinguished Honor Award. In 1989, he was inducted into the Dunbar Alumni Hall of Fame, an honor that was followed in 1996 by his induction into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.
Living in Silver Spring, Maryland, Morton has served as the president of the USIA Alumni Association, taken classes at the local community college, and traveled widely both in and out of the United States with his wife. Active in his church, he performs considerable volunteer work under its auspices.
For additional information:
Dandridge, James T. L., III. Interview with Herwald Morton. Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project. http://adst.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Morton-Herwald.pdf (accessed September 23, 2016).
“Herwald Morton.” Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. http://arblackhalloffame.org/honorees/herwald-h-morton/ (accessed June 22, 2016).
“USIA Alumni: Hal Morton.” Electronic Research Collections. University of Illinois at Chicago Library. http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/usia/usiahome/pdforum/alumni/morton.htm (accessed September 23, 2016).
William H. Pruden III