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Richard Hardwick Morton

T/5 in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : HQ & Service Co

Military occupational specialty: 56 (postal clerk)


Born 1921 in TX, Died 2003


Other residence(s): Oklahoma City, OK; El Paso, TX; Aberdeen, MD
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
College education before the war: Pratt 3 years
College education after the war: Oklahoma City Univ., Univ. of Tulsa, Instituto Allende (Mexico CIty)
Notes: "Bigby"
Source: 603rd Camouflage Engineer Roster provided by W. Anderson; 603rd reunion mailing list; Company D With Addresses Roster; Photograph 91-14 GALP archive; Unit Shipment 10143-B, 23d HQ, from le Havre 23 June 1945; HQ & Service Company List of Men and Jobs; from Ancestry® (1939 high school yearbook)

Richard Morton was born on August 8, 1921, in Dallas, TX, the second of his father's three children (the first of his mother's two). His father was a shipping clerk, and later a salesman for Nabisco. Sometime in the 1930s the family moved to Oklahoma City, and Richard graduated from Classen High School there in 1939. He showed early talent in art, serving as president of the art club, art editor of the school newspaper, and on the staff of the yearbook.

He then went on to Pratt Institute in New York to study art, and completed three years of study there. He registered for the draft on February 16, 1942, and enlisted in July 1942. While at Pratt, he took a course in camouflage that the school offered early in 1942. Like other Pratt art students who took the course, he ended up in the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion, and served in the European Theatre.

Also like other members of the 603rd, Richard sketched and painted in his spare time. Two of his works appear in The Ghost Army of World War II (Beyer & Sayles). Ninety-seven of his wartime pencil, ink, and watercolor sketches have found a home in the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at Brown University.

But the artistic work that many members of the unit remember was Richard's cartoons. He became, along with Wendell Arnett, one of the unofficial camp cartoonists. Many of the subjects of the cartoons were officers, and some of them did not look too kindly on these efforts. But General Eisenhower issued an order against the suppression of cartoons, so the offending items continued to show up on the bulletin boards.

His brother Maurice also served throughout the war as a percussionist in the Army band in New Orleans.

Richard was discharged from the Army on October 15, 1945 with the rank of T/5 and returned to Oklahoma City. He established a studio and an art school there, and pursued a BA in Art at Oklahoma City University. On March 29, 1947 he married Oma Jean Hailey. Jean was also an artist, and taught children's classes in his art school.

He would go on to teach at several universities including Northeast Missouri State University and Central State College in Edmond, OK. While living in Edmond, he earned an MA in graphic art at the University of Tulsa. During a residence of several years in El Paso in the early 1970s he established an art school there, and also taught painting at the El Paso Museum of Art.

He taught art at the Instituto Allende in Mexico, and earned an MFA in painting there. He was honored for his work in transparent watercolor at national juried exhibitions, and received the John Martin Award in Watercolor in 1974. His work in the 1970s focused on landscapes of the Southwest and Central Mexico, and was then held in 200 private, corporate, and museum collections in 25 states. He was represented by galleries in New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Vermont.

His obituary says that he was "a lover of landscapes," and "always worked on location."

In the mid-1970s he left El Paso and became a civilian graphic artist for the US Army at Fort Sill, OK. In 1980 he moved to Maryland to take a similar job at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.

He was an active member of Artists' Equity and the Harford Artists' Association in Bel Air, Maryland.

Richard and Jean divorced in 1963; he married Zelda Goodson in 1964. Around 1982, he married Sara Purdy who survived him. He was the father of three children: Shelby, Teresa Ann, and Elizabeth Lee, and the stepfather of David Dixon.

He died on July 6, 2003 in Aberdeen, MD and is buried at St. George's Episcopal Church Cemetery in Perryman, MD. His gravestone calls out his participation in the 603rd.


1939 yearbook photo


1921 Texas birth certificate

1930 census

1942 draft card

1947 Oklahoma City directory

1947 marriage record

1949 Oklahoma City directory

1949 article in Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City OK) re his art school

1963 The Daily Law Journal-Record (Oklahoma City OK) re his divorce

1969 article in Central State College Newsletter (Edmond, OK) re his art

1973 article in El Paso Times (TX) re his art

1974 article in The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City OK) re his art

1974 article in El Paso Times (TX) re his art

1974 article in El Paso Herald-Post (TX) re his art

1976 article in El Paso Herald-Post (TX) re his art

1980-1993 US Public Records index

1998 The Ghost Army Days of Walter Wendell Arnett

2003 Social Security applications and claims index

2003 Social Security death index

2003 VA death record

2003 Find a Grave record

2003 obituary in The Baltimore Sun (MD)

2020 article in Pratt publication; mentions him and Ghost Army

Listing from Brown University Library re Morton artwork in their military art collection

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