The firing of Capt. Jimmy Morris

One of the great things about the internet, or so I’m told, is that everybody can publish anything they want any time for the whole world to see, without any professional editors getting in the way.jimmy morris

One of the truly awful things about the internet, I know from experience, is that everybody can publish anything they want any time for the whole world to see, without any professional editors getting in the way.

Self-publishing amateurs sometimes wonder, is there a boundary? Is there something I might say on the Web that will get me in serious trouble? Where is that line?

As a professional editor, I can tell you that the answers are, yes, hell yes, and somewhere in Capt. Jimmy Morris’ rear-view mirror.

Morris, a 16-year Columbia Fire Department veteran, ran screaming over that boundary with this Facebook post referring to the Black Lives Matter protesters who were blocking I-126 Sunday night:

Idiots shutting down I-126. Better not be there when I get off work or there is gonna be some run over dumb asses.

Apparently having read that back over, and deeply concerned that maybe he hadn’t been quite inappropriate enough, he added this an hour later:

Public Service Announcement: If you attempt to shut down an interstate, highway, etc on my way home, you best hope I’m not one of the first vehicles in line because your ass WILL get run over! Period! That is all….

The next day, he was fired from his job with the fire department.

Let’s just leave race out of this for the moment (ex-Capt. Morris is white; the Black Lives Matter protesters, in case you just aren’t paying attention, are not — and the station where Morris worked is in a mostly black neighborhood). Pretend there’s no such thing as race: Who, unless he’s blind drunk or something, thinks that’s an appropriate message for a ranking public official to post about the general public?unnamed (1)

Another, tougher question: What would be the motive for that message in a world where race was not a factor? What’s the cause of all that bile?

Since we live in world that does have the problem of race, we’ve come to recognize certain types of communications that derive their flavor from that factor.

And those messages have a distinctly familiar flavor.

There’s a lot more I could say about someone in such a position who responds this way to protesters who already believe that the public-safety sector has it in for people like them.

But I’ll step back now and let y’all comment…


64 thoughts on “The firing of Capt. Jimmy Morris

  1. Tex

    I think it’s a shame that he actually said what every non-protesting idiot was thinking and lost his job over it. Did he actually act on it and run people over, no. Was what he said illegal, no. While those who were sitting in the middle of the road impeding traffic, those who vandalized the police car and those who were fighting and illegally rallied at the State House without a permit got up the next morning and went about their life I doubt many of them actually went to work.

    Why is it we’re not hearing more about the police car and the dozens of fights broken up, I know a police officer who was out there and said at times it was extremely heated.

    Just another reason why this country is circling the drain. Maybe I’m just getting old and tired of seeing how this country has deteriorated over the past 20-30 years.

    You kids get off my lawn!!!

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Really? That’s what “every non-protesting idiot was thinking?” That they’d like to go out there and kill people with their car?

      Any public safety official who not only thinks that, but publishes it for the world to read, has committed a firing offense. Period.

      1. Tex

        There are likely more who would like to say something like he did about those who impeded traffic than those who don’t. I remember my mother commenting on an Iraq War I protestor interviewed on the news in Boulder, CO who was bawling her eyes out because a car inched toward her and “almost ran her over”. My mother stated something to the fact that if you don’t want to get run over, don’t sit in the middle of the road during rush hour. This from a woman who I don’t believe ever said anything nasty about anyone in her life.

      2. Tex

        If this were the worst thing that’s currently going on with City of Columbia employees and leadership. These comments likely isn’t even in the top 50 issues. But it gets the most publicity because it’s a white man saying something negative about a black organization who did not do one thing legally that evening.

        1) They assembled and rallied at the State House,without a permit.
        2) They marched down the city streets impeding traffic, without a permit.
        3) They stopped and blocked traffic on a major thoroughfare into Columbia, impeding traffic which is illegal.
        4) They damaged a city vehicle, no charges.
        5) They fought with police and anti-protestors, no charges.

        Did I forget anything? Did this group do anything from a protesting organization by law?

        1. barry

          I’ve heard there was more damage and problems than is being reported- and that’s no surprise.

  2. Kathy Duffy Thomas

    I wasn’t thinking that.

    I was thinking that your analysis is right on. I was thinking about the discussion I heard earlier in which someone suggested that we have an expectation of wrongdoing about people of color. I was thinking about how I shouldn’t have turned on my kitchen light because it caused roaches. And I was thinking about how a “friend” called me a cop-hater because I shared an article about our need to talk about race.

    But I wasn’t thinking about running over anyone.

  3. Phillip

    Brad, I must take minor issue with your statement that “the Black Lives Matter protesters, in case you just aren’t paying attention, are not [white]” —if you look through some of the pictures on The State’s online version of their article, it’s not quite so clearcut— there seemed to be (at least extrapolating from those pictures) a significant component of white people also joining in the protests. That certainly has been the case in other cities as well. I agree that Capt. Morris crossed the line with the “running over” comments, but it is also important not to draw sharp lines of racial division over this issue. “Black Lives Matter” is a belief that crosses, and certainly should cross, all racial lines. It seems that it has here in Columbia as it has in other cities nationwide.

  4. Karen Pearson

    People get angry, but instead of making a foolish, violent, or hateful remark to a friend, neighbor, beer buddy, they now blurt it out online. I don’t think most people mean it for a moment; they’re just venting. But, when you spout off to your buddy, he usually agrees with you in approximately the same manner, and then it’s gone. On line, it’s there forever. And folks who don’t agree with you to start with see it. If you are a public official they may get upset. It can only go down hill from there.

    1. Tex

      He’s a fire department captain, it’s not like he’s a “public official”. He is likely in charge of a 4 man shift, one of which is him. This is not some high profile position, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are 50 fire department Captains in Columbia. Aubrey Jenkins is the one who should be fired, find one firefighter in Columbia who has anything good to say about him. There is more than just salary that runs new recruits off to other cities.

      1. barry

        Aubrey Jenkins is in his job because he played the game with the political figures and moved up the ranks Every firefighter in Columbia knows it and has known it for years.

        I don’t know if the guy should have been fired. He was wrong though.

        Yes, I agreed with his frustration – because anyone walking or blocking a highway is breaking the law and should be arrested, or charged.

        Columbia essentially decided to not enforce the law.

        1. Tex

          Firing is overkill for making what some may consider a stupid comment. I say some, because I agree with his comment regarding idiots sitting in the middle of a highway doing nothing constructive and possibly putting people’s lives in danger. Ambulances, fire crews, police officers had to take a detour to get around them.

          Had this been one of my employees and I was forced to discipline him, I’d write him up. If he did it again, a week off without pay. Third offense, he’d be terminated. Aubrey Jenkins decided to take it to Strike Three, which just shows me how poor of a leader he is.

  5. Assistant

    Ditto regarding the comments on the firefighter’s poor judgement on posting his comments on a publicly accessible forum where he was easily identified.

    However, the protestors’ poor judgement in blocking traffic prompts this observation: Keep it up and you’ll ensure Trump’s election.

    Peaceful, non-confrontation demonstrations are the way to go. You’ll make your point and get some, maybe a lot of, support and sympathy. However, the minute you impede folks’ quotidian routine, you’re risking not just their displeasure, but may be inviting their retaliation at the ballot box.

    Got that? Parmesan and Romano cheese for everyone at every meal, let’s make Vespucciland grate again!

  6. Mark Stewart

    This idea that impeding other people to get their attention is just simple childishness. It is not non-violent protesting that one has a right to equally share the public sphere. Far from it; this isn’t even the “Occupy Wall Street” blather, frankly.

    Where did a movement get the idea that acting infantile is the way to accrue support and goodwill? That’s what a movement needs to translate effort into evolution. Change comes from widening empathy across the general public. One doesn’t do that by being disruptive and petty, or worse.

    Of course the CFD Captain was wrong to voice what he did; however, between the two sides it would be a crap shoot to determine who was acting with more moral appropriateness. Sometimes all involved are losers.

  7. Burl Burlingame

    The thing about public service is that the public also includes people you might disagree with.

    1. Barry


      But Mayor Benjamn of all people knows about making mistakes in public.

      Recall he had a “lady of the night” in his hotel room.

        1. Tex

          Word is most of them are hired as strippers, but have other services they will offer once in the room.

  8. Doug Ross

    A public apology and an unpaid suspension of a couple weeks and some mandatory training would have been a reasonable punishment.

    I still can’t get past the fact that he was fired for two angry tweets and yet stealing tax dollars doesn’t warrant ANY action. The hypocrisy in local government is going to drive people away.

    1. barry

      It already drives people away.

      I have now had 3 personal friends and their families move out of Richland County this summer because of crime concerns. Two of them are business owners.

      My wife said Richland 2 had a huge number of teachers move out of Richland at the end of this past school year. At her own school, it was a record amount. She has heard the district lost more staff this year than ever before but they haven’t actually put out any hard numbers.

      1. Tex

        Thinking about this I can’t think of one person I know who decided to move from Lexington County to Richland County. I think most people I know since down here once lived in Richland County at one time or another and now all live in Lexington County.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’ve always lived in LexCo because I could not afford to live in RichCo.

          After I was laid off at the paper, we briefly put our house on the market, intending to move into town, where all our grandchildren were at the time.

          But aside from getting no offers on the house, anything decent in Columbia (in the parts that would have been convenient to us, such as Shandon) was just absurdly high — like two or three times what they seemed to be worth. And most of what we looked at had one bathroom. You should pay ME to live in a house with one bathroom.

          So we stayed. And sense then, two of our grandchildren moved to Lexington County, so…

          1. Tex

            Yep, nothing like paying twice as much to live in half the space of a house 60 years older and pay twice the fees and taxes.

            Have you seen the dump for sale on FitsNews? Apparently Will is getting into the advertising business. For a mere $369,000 this dilapidated dump on Park Street can be yours, or you can buy a McMansion in Lexington County.

        2. Phillip

          To each his own, I suppose, but you couldn’t pay me enough money to move to Lexington County from Richland. But, I must confess re Brad’s point, we do indeed have only one bathroom in our house, for the moment.

        3. Barry

          2 of my 3 friends that have moved in the last month have moved from Richland to Lexington County. One is a business owner. The other is a plant manager.

          And you are correct- the Lexington subdivision he moved to near the lake supposedly has a saying that ” no one here ever moves back to Richland”

          1. Doug Ross

            There is still plenty of growth going on in Richland County, especially on I77 at the KIllian Rd (Exit 22) and Wilson Blvd (Exit 24) areas. We moved into a new neighborhood in Blythewood last year and have seen approximately 20 new houses built and occupied in that time. What’s interesting is that it is very much a mixed race neighborhood that has grown organically from the ground up. It seems to make the difference as the attitude within the neighborhood is very friendly. Kids of both races play together, people wave and exchange small talk when we walk through the neighborhood. It’s what I would expect from people.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’m surprised that’s what you EXPECT from people, given your famous cynicism… 🙂

              But seriously, folks…

              Let’s zero in on these phrases… “it is very much a mixed race neighborhood”… “Kids of both races play together”…

              And that’s the difference, isn’t it? Can that be said of the neighborhoods Barry and Tex are talking about in Lexington County?

              Perhaps it can. But if so, it would run counter to the trend as I have observed it. When I hear, “no one here ever moves back to Richland,” my first thought is, “Yeah, white flight tends to work that way.”

              Now, I’m hoping to hear that I just put my foot into it, and that these are vibrant, multi-racial neighborhoods. I would love to be badly wrong on this…

              1. Doug Ross

                It’s really not about race, is it? It’s about economic status. The people who can afford a new house in the $200-300K range are typically going to be: married with either one very good job or two good jobs, educated beyond high school.

                Crime is more prevalent in low income/poverty areas. Low income/poverty is driven by less education and limited or missing family structures. It’s why I focus on the root cause – people having children they can’t afford and people who don’t take advantage of the free educational opportunities they have. Graduate from high school and delay having kids until you have a real job – it’s the best path.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  “It’s really not about race, is it?”

                  Actually, in South Carolina, it’s about race.

                  That’s a major, major factor in the dynamics between Richland (majority black, and therefore Democratic) and Lexington (white, and at one time the most Republican county in America).

                  It runs through everything. I well remember when the conflict between Lexington Medical and Providence was at its height, I ran into it again and again — people in Lexington had to have their own open-heart program because patients didn’t feel comfortable crossing the river, and they certainly weren’t going to go to THAT neighborhood…

                  You can call that class all day long, but when I’m conversing with someone, I have enough experience to know when the conversation smells of racism. (Also, when you’re hearing it from whites who aren’t exactly at the top of the social heap themselves, you know what it is.)

                  Economics and the problems associated with poverty, by the way, have historically been used as a justification for racism — “We can’t let them use our pool because they live in terrible, poor conditions and have diseases that we don’t have…”

                2. Doug Ross

                  But we all have to agree that there has never been a better time in American history for blacks than today and that it gets better every day, right?

                  I mean yesterday four multi-millionaire NBA players (Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dewayne Wade) flew private jets from their gated community homes to a red carpet award show, The ESPYs, to stand on stage at the opening of the show and speak about the problem of racism in the U.S. Could they have achieved any of their wealth and success without the support of people who are not black? And Carmelo Anthony is the classic hypocrite. First. several years ago he was caught on video back in his home community telling young kids not to snitch to police. Second, when Asian-American basketball player Jeremy Lin joined the Knicks a few years back and had an amazing scoring run, Anthony and other black players ostracized him simply because of his race.

                  I’m tired of people talking about doing something. Just do it and just live it.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    “Could they have achieved any of their wealth and success without the support of people who are not black?”

                    OK, I could be really, really wrong here — but I thought white people didn’t follow the NBA. I mean, that’s the cliche, right? That the NBA is more of a black thing?

                    I really need to learn more about sports. Sometime. Perhaps in another life…

                    1. Bryan Caskey

                      “OK, I could be really, really wrong here — but I thought white people didn’t follow the NBA. I mean, that’s the cliche, right? That the NBA is more of a black thing?”

                      Wow. Way off base. Really wrong. Danger, Will Robinson!

                3. Brad Warthen Post author

                  But to your point — it doesn’t offend me that those guys wanted to express themselves.

                  Now those guys who did the black power salute during the national anthem at the 1968 Olympics? THAT offended me…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Wow, THAT is a white crowd. I don’t remember the last time I went to anything that was that white…

                    I wonder where I got that impression. Is it some stereotype thing that people used to say, but was never true? Or did I just imagine it?

                    If there’s anything more clueless than a middle-aged white guy, it’s a middle-aged white guy who doesn’t even follow sports…

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Maybe I heard this on NPR. But I know I heard it SOMEWHERE.

                      And I want to say the context was something like this: White lack of interest in the NBA was cited as further evidence of white people’s racism — that if they don’t have a Larry Bird to root for, they turn away.

                      Which is kinda what that NPR piece said. So maybe that was it. But I seem to recall having heard it longer ago than that…

                    2. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Maybe it’s just that I’m older than you guys, and remember an earlier problem that the NBA had. From The Guardian:

                      The darker someone’s skin, the more apt people are to assign hateful stereotypes to that person. Julius Erving, Spencer Haywood, Walt Frazier and others presided over an NBA that was hemorrhaging white fans due to the rise of black players that many found threatening – a phenomenon dramatized in David Halberstam’s seminal book The Breaks of the Game. Many of these black players were superior athletes, but their complexion (and their abiding interest in cocaine) was a hurdle for fans to get over.

                      The NBA struggled to engage white fans for years, but didn’t find success until Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan’s talents and charm were too potent for anyone to ignore….

                    3. Bryan Caskey

                      “…but didn’t find success until Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan’s talents and charm were too potent for anyone to ignore”

                      They both started playing in the NBA in 1979 and 1984, respectively. Maybe way back in the day when they had separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites, this was an issue. Not anymore.

                      What a fascinating modern age we live in.

                    4. Bryan Caskey

                      Did you even read this piece? The guy arguing that no white fans go to the games admits the audience is 70% white.


                      The guy making “your” argument had to admit it’s “older” people who aren’t into “hip-hop” who are not going anymore.

                      If I had to do the column over, I would have said that I’m talking about my generation, and I’m 56 years old. And people on Twitter, in responding to the column, have said, you know, you’re out of touch. Young whites love the game. And I think that, well, may be true. I come from a different generation. However, you know, I don’t mean(ph) young whites, a lot of them could afford the game because they’re so expensive.

                      This is the guy you’re citing. And he completely retracts his point.

                4. Assistant

                  There’s nobody whiter than Steve Ballmer:
                  On May 29, 2014, Ballmer placed a bid of $2 billion to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association (NBA) after NBA commissioner Adam Silver forced Donald Sterling to sell the team. He officially became the Clippers owner on August 12, 2014.

                5. Tex

                  Brad you commented that you couldn’t remember the last time you went to anything that white. Do you ever look around the gathering you attend on Sunday mornings? I expect Claus sees more blacks in Norway than you’ll see in church.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    There you are about as wrong as you can be.

                    I’m Catholic. You know, the Universal Church. I see all races at Mass.

                    Of course, in my case, I see mostly Hispanics, since I usually attend the Spanish Mass, at which I frequently read or serve as a Eucharistic Minister.

                    There ARE Catholic churches that are as white as Mainline Protestant churches. I was shocked when I attended Mass at a downtown parish in Greenville a few years back. Not only was everybody white, but they were dressed so conservatively they reminded me of group pictures of the Mercury astronauts and their wives. It was weird.

                    But that’s not what I normally experience…

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      I’ve always loved that picture I linked to above, of the Mercury astronauts and their wives posing with JFK and Jackie — with Gordon Cooper sitting in the president’s famous rocking chair with that big, cocky, Gordo grin on his face.

                      I used to have a framed print of that picture on the wall of my office at the paper…

                    2. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Can you name them all? I can:

                      Standing: Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, Scott Carpenter (all Navy, the rest are Air Force); Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton

                      Seated: Gordon Cooper

                      I don’t know where John Glenn was….

                6. Barry


                  Don’t reply on NPR and Salon for correct stats on the audience at NBA games.

                  You likely know more about the NBA than NPR and Salon combined.

                  And Doug was correct. When Lin was having a good season a few years ago, some of those black players (and black fans) were not happy with him.

              2. Barry


                My friend that Was a Richland county siness owner decided to move to Lexington when he took his son to a movie at Sandhills and walked out one night and observed 75-100 youth standing outside the theaters with a number of them about to fight with police just watching- no parents in sight.

                He said he was very nervous and left as quick as possible. He firmly believes there will be a mass fight or shootout there in the next year or two.

                He had that same experience 2-3 times over the course of a month and decided then and there it was not a good environment for his soon to be teen son.

                1. Tex

                  I wouldn’t go into Northeast Columbia after dark without carrying. A friend of mine lived in a very nice gated community in the northeast, the one where after all the $400,000 – $800,000 homes were built and sold the developer put up an apartment building next door which was required to have a certain number of Section 8 units. Once construction started his for sale sign went up in his yard and he moved across the river.

                2. Doug Ross

                  It was interesting to read in The State about Richland School District 2 Superintendent Debbie Hamm’s 2.5% pay increase and commendable job rating. In explaining the rating, board member Calvin Jackson said, ““We were spiraling downward in a lot of ways in our district” before Hamm became superintendent Jackson said. “Having Dr. Hamm come in (helped) stabilize that climate and that environment to put us in a position where people are once again feeling glad and happy to be a part of the district.”

                  Now, I would challenge anyone to find any reference by the board in the past that stated that the district was “spiraling downward”. Anyone who has lived in the district since 1995 would have know that but it was all lollipops and rainbows whenever the board and administration discussed how things were going.

                  Now, Dr. Hamm is retiring after the next school year and we’ll see who replaces her. Any guesses on what the key factor will be in selecting the new superintendent?

                  Read more here:

                3. barry

                  I think the last Super – forget her name- caused some issues.

                  I think we have a good idea who the next super will be already – at least there is a strong sentiment with teachers who HE will be.

                4. barry


                  I’ve also heard the possible new super isn’t a fan of the magnet programs- at least that’s the rumor.

                  You want to talk about an exodus from the district. If they get rid of those programs, the test scores will bottom out fast, and thousands will be leaving.

                  Heck, maybe that’s what some want.

            2. Doug Ross

              And I’m only cynical when it comes to government. That’s cynicism based on experience, observation, and evidence. I don’t expect a pig to fly.

    2. JesseS

      “A public apology and an unpaid suspension of a couple weeks and some mandatory training would have been a reasonable punishment.”

      Not really an option at that point, the story had already made impact with the Twitteratti and BLM’s guiding voices.

      Minutes after it broke there was already chatter along the lines of “He threatened to murder us and they only gave him a slap on the wrist –what a slap in our face! Where are the terrorism charges and disproportionate prison time you would have given us? This is what state violence looks like!” and once that chatter starts it might as well be absolute fact from there on out.

      No pun intended, but it’s 250+ years of anger and resentment at injustice returned back like a carefully guided fire hose.

      I feel like a horrible person for saying it, but after Toronto Pride Parade I get the feeling that BLM’s real goal is to make life so guilt ridden, aggravating, and tormented that whites are compelled to feel a tiny bit of the persecution that people of color have to feel every day. Victory through #whitepeopletears, I guess.

      At the same time it’s a totally valid tactic, I’m not knocking the effectiveness, but too often I see it used to punish communities who are honestly making efforts at dismantling their racist hetero-patriarchal foundations. After a while I feel like I might as well be listening to a Trump supporter who urges everyone that we should just “burn it all down” because the world doesn’t live up to their ideals yet.

      1. Barry

        It was pretty funny watching some BLm folks meet with Columbia and Richland police to lay out their demands

        The city and county have a black mayor, black city manager, black county supervisor, black county chairman, etc.

        Do they think the black mayor and black city manger are racists?

  9. Doug Ross

    I stopped watching the NBA not because the players are black but because the game is unwatchable now. It’s all about 3 point shots. Too many timeouts as well.

    1. Tex

      You just described basketball all together. The worst thing that happened to the game was the 3-point line. Now there’s talk of the NBA putting in a 4-point line. I say use the one that’s already there, the half-court line… and if you want to make me happy make that the 3-point line. The NBA is unwatchable and has been since the mid-80’s.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I was never interested in it because the player are all so gifted — on offense — that it was ridiculous. I always had the feeling that, no matter how good the D was, those guys could score any time they felt like it. The basket needed to be five feet higher, or something.

      And yes, it’s true; I’m not all that interested in watching sports anyway. But I can sometimes get into a college game because they’re just good enough to make it fun to watch. They’re really excited, too, especially during the NCAA tournament, which is the only time I see it.

      I always felt like the NBA guys were just doing a job that was too easy for them, like Ho-hum, I suppose my contract requires that I put the ball through the hoop again now… It’s like they don’t really try… except during the playoffs…

      Oh, wait, we have a rebuttal from one Roger Murdock:

      The hell I don’t! LISTEN, KID! I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night! Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!

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