James Raymond Morley, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, who devoted his life to educating and improving the floral industry, died November 3 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was 86.
Morley’s interest in floral design blossomed from a young age, when he would “borrow” flowers from the bouquets at his church to create arrangements. He studied floriculture at Michigan State University before operating a retail florist shop, Bozzay-Morley Florist (now Bozzay Florist), in St. Louis, Missouri. Morley designed and sold flowers at the shop for 23 years. He had the honor of designing for three sitting U.S. Presidents — Eisenhower, Johnson and Nixon — with his floral creations gracing the White House presidential sitting room, as well as the presidential train.
“Jim was a great man who contributed much to the floral industry,” said longtime friend Ralph Null, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, professor emeritus at Mississippi State University and a trustee emeritus of the AIFD Foundation. “His dedication and desire to serve was evident from the first day I met him.”
When Morley retired from the retail business, he joined American Floral Services, where he cultivated his passion for education. Morley edited Professional Floral Designer magazine for nearly a decade and also wrote several design industry classics, including “Flowers Say It Best” and “Tributes,” a book of sympathy floral designs. He transitioned into Teleflora, ultimately serving as vice president emeritus of education.
“The name Jim Morley is synonymous with floral design education,” said former Tommy Bright Award winner Lynn Lary McLean, AAF, AIFD, PFCI.
Morley held a firm belief that “the industry could always be improved and that it was important to bring young people into it,” Null said.
One of Morley’s former protégés was Chris Norwood, AIFD, PFCI, vice president at Tipton & Hurst in Little Rock, Arkansas, and former CEO of the AIFD Foundation. “Jim was a real mentor, especially to younger members like me on the AIFD Foundation,” Norwood said. “He always tried to find a positive spin, to make sure we were making the best decision for the organization and the industry.”
An upbeat outlook was a hallmark of Morley’s life. “Jim had a twinkle in his eye and a welcoming smile that greeted all he met. His kind spirit and deep insight reflected in each and every project that came his way,” McLean said. “I never saw him in anything but a positive frame of mind,” Norwood added. “He always brought a good side to everything.”
Morley and his wife, Donna, were known as tireless advocates for the floral industry. “They were a true team and did whatever they could to help AIFD Foundation. At Symposium, they would set up tables, encourage donations and volunteer at the desk when no one else was available,” Norwood recalled. “I never heard Jim say the word ‘no.’”
Morley was inducted into the American Institute of Floral Designers in 1978. Over the years, he served numerous leadership roles, including AIFD President in 1984. For his service, he earned many accolades, including the Award of Distinguished Service to AIFD, the Award of Distinguished Service to the Floral Industry and the American Horticultural Association’s Frances Jones Poetker Award.
In 1996, the Society of American Florists honored Morley with the Tommy Bright Award, which recognizes lifetime achievement in floral presentation.
Morley was one of the “founding fathers” of the AIFD South Central region, hosting the chapter’s first meeting and grilling burgers for all who attended afterwards. He received the first ever South Central Lifetime Achievement Award. He served as a member of the AIFD Foundation Board of Trustees until the time of his death.
Morley was preceded in death by Donna, his wife of 58 years. He is survived by two sons, Christopher and Shawn, both of Oklahoma City, and three grandchildren, James, Kelly and Jacob. A celebration of life service was held November 19 in Oklahoma City. “Family and friends gathered to celebrate a life well lived,” shared McLean.
Memorial contributions may be made in the name of Jim Morley to the AIFD Memorial Fund within the AIFD Foundation.
Julie Martens Forney is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.