Jay Johnson Morrow


Jay Johnson Morrow was born in Fairview, Virginia, on February 20, 1870. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1891, receiving his commission in the Corps of Engineers. He was graduated from the Engineering School of Application in 1894. He married Harriet M. Butler in 1895, they had no children (she died in 1935 and her ashes were scattered over the Chagres River). Following three years of service as an instructor in practical military engineering at West Point, Morrow was ordered to the Philippines in 1898, where he served as military governor of the Province of Zamboana from 1901 to 1902. He served as Engineering Commissioner in the District of Columbia from 1907 to 1909.

Morrow served as Governor of the Panama Canal Zone from 1921 to 1924. He was appointed by President Harding to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Colonel Chester Harding.

His first tour of duty in the Panama Canal Zone was as maintenance engineer in 1916 and 1917, during which time he often officiated as acting Governor. This work was interrupted when the United States entered the WWI. Morrow arrived in France on May 12, 1918, becoming chief engineer of the first American army and deputy chief engineer of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.).

On June 26, 1916, he was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General and in December of that year was ordered back to the United States to take command at Camp A.A. Humphreys in Virginia.

In June 1919, Morrow returned to the Panama Canal as a maintenance engineer, serving in that capacity until March 1921, when he was made Governor. He found himself confronted with a task of reorganization, a job which involved the difficult, and disagreeable work of reducing the Canal force from its war-time height.

Morrow was an ardent opera lover and commuted to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York since the early nineties from places as far away as the Canal Zone and Tacna-Arica, Chile, where he was chairman of the special commission arbitrating the boundary dispute between Chile and Bolivia from 1925 to 1929.

At the Panama Canal, Morrow reorganized and reduced the Canal Zone force from its wartime high. He was interested in obtaining a large reserve supply of water for Gatun Lake, the artificial body of water supplying the Canal, and made several surveys of the Chagres River to build an additional reservoir. He supervised many improvements in the Canal.

Morrow also supervised the construction of a special basin, brought the dredging system of the waterway to a high degree of efficiency, and widened the most perilous part of the passage, the bend around Gaillard Cut. Both the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks were improved while he was governor.

General Morrow died April 16, 1937. On November 24, 1937, his ashes were scattered over the Chagres River, life source of the Canal, where Morrow had spent the most effective years of his military career.