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William John (Jack) Morrison (1901–1986)

by Ralph Gibson

Tribune regrets to announce the death of one of the best known and longest serving activists of the Communist Party of Australia, Jack [William John] Morrison. He died in his Geelong home on June 26. Tribune extends its deep sympathy to his wife Audrey, his son and daughter, and all his relatives.

Jack was mainly known as manager of Melbourne's International Bookshop in which he served for 35 years.

Born in 1901 in central Queensland, he worked as a laborer and stockman after finishing primary school, and by 1926 was working at Ford's factory in Geelong.

Sacked in 1927, he moved to Sydney, where he attended Communist Party lectures, joined the Party and was soon serving on its central committee. He was the first national secretary of the Friends of the Soviet Union, an organisation formed in 1930 which made rapid progress in its first few years.

Throughout his life Jack remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviet people's efforts to build a new socialist life.

Jack married in 1929 and he and his wife returned to Geelong where he carried out vigorous organising and propaganda work among the unemployed, waterside workers and the general public. He became a significant local figure and gained 1,365 votes as a Communist Party candidate in Corio in the 1934 federal elections.

Jack's work in the bookshop began in 1937. Although he had little educational training he impressed customers with his excellent knowledge of books and his wide cultural interests.

He devoted himself heart and soul to popularising the Marxist and Leninist classics, traditional left wing literature and current Party pamphlets. He specialised in selling the works of Australian authors. Under his guidance the International became an important part of Victorian political life.

The International Bookshop, registered as a private company, was able to escape the blows of illegality, and to many, Jack's counter was a link to the Communist movement when other links where not available.

The Indonesian communists who had been evacuated from their prison exile in Irian Jaya at the time of the rapid advance of the Japanese forces, were among Jack's eager callers. (These included leaders like Soedihat and Sarjono.)

He was able to welcome likewise communists among the German and Austrian evacuees from Britain on the Dunera. One of them has just written from Hamburg asking to be specially remembered to Jack Morrison.

Jack kept up his spirit to the last. Even when he knew that the end was inevitable he sought to make all possible use of his life while life remained.

A capable and forceful speaker, a good organiser, a sympathetic listener, a thinker and a man of high culture wholly devoted to the service of his fellow human beings — that was Jack Morrison. Whenever the history of these times is written his name will not be forgotten.

Additional Resources

  • profile, Tribune (Sydney), 4 March 1970, p 3
  • photo, Tribune (Sydney), 25 January 1984, p 11

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ralph Gibson, 'Morrison, William John (Jack) (1901–1986)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/morrison-william-john-jack-34493/text43322, accessed 18 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Birth

2 September, 1901
Barcaldine, Queensland, Australia

Death

26 June, 1986 (aged 84)
Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (parotid gland)

Cultural Heritage

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