Bill Morris was born in Bombay, Jamaica in 1938 and lived with his parents (his mother was a domestic science teacher, his father a part-time policeman) in a small rural village, Cheapside, Manchester. He was educated at nearby Mizpah School where his ambition was to play cricket for the West Indies.
Bills plans to attend a prestigious agricultural college changed his father died, when he joined his recently widowed mother in Britain, living in the Handsworth district of Birmingham.
Bill started work at the Birmingham engineering company, Hardy Spicers, attending day-release courses in engineering skills at Handsworth Technical College.
Bill’s trade union life began in 1958 when he joined the Transport and General Workers Union. He was elected a shop steward at Hardy Spicers in 1963 and the following year he was involved in his first major industrial dispute, over the issue of trade union recognition.
He held a wide range of elected positions within the T&G, including membership of its governing body, the General Executive Council. The T&G had an education programme which Bill took full advantage of,learning about trade unions, labour history and industrial law and health and safety.
In 1973 He was appointed a full-time T&G Officer, as Nottingham/Derby District Organiser, and later as Northampton District Secretary. In 1979 he was appointed National Secretary for the Passenger Services Trade Group, responsible for leading national negotiations in the bus and coach industries.
He became Deputy General Secretary in 1986 and, as a result of a change in the law, was confirmed in the position by postal ballot four years later. His industrial duties included executive responsibility for the union’s four transport sectors, the car industry, energy and engineering and white collar workers.
He was also responsible for the union’s educational activities, equal opportunities and development of policies and services for women and young members.
In 1991, Bill was elected General Secretary of the T&G by a postal ballot of members. He was the first black general secretary of a trade union and one of the most influential black people in Britain.
Bill Morris made it clear he did not wish to be known or judged as a black General Secretary: as he said at the time of his election, “I am not the black candidate, rather the candidate who is black.
In 1995 he was re-elected to the post of General Secretary. a post he held untill 2003
Morris served on a wide range of national bodies including the Advisory Councils of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), and was appointed to the Economic and Social Affairs Committee of the European Union. He has served as a member of the Labour Party’s Conference Arrangements Committee.
In addition he has also worked as a member of the Commission for Racial Equality.
1998 saw his appointment as a non-executive Director of the Bank of England. He is a Fellow of the RSA and the City and Guilds of London Institute and he holds honorary degrees from a number of British universities.
Morris was awarded the Order of Jamaica in 2002 and received a knighthood in the 2003 Queen’s birthday honours list.
Responding to the news of the award, Sir Bill said:
I hope that in this recognition, today’s young black Britons will find some inspiration. <em>”I have always held the view that race can be an inspiration, not a barrier
On 11 April 2006, it was announced that Morris would take a seat in the House of Lords as a working life peer, and he was gazetted as Baron Morris of Handsworth, of Handsworth in the County of West Midlands in June 2006. He serves on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.