Bill Morgan Guardian of the Human Spirit Honoree Video from Morgan on Vimeo.
Bill Morgan – Life during WWII
MORGAN's roots date back to 1925 when Wolf 'Yossela' Margulies was born in a small, impoverished village in southeastern Poland called Czerniejow. Yossela was only 14 when the Nazis first invaded Poland in the fall of 1939 to mark the beginning of World War II. Upon arriving in Yossela's town in 1941, the Nazi army forced all the Jews into the Stanislawow ghetto. Within the confines of the ghetto, Jews were shot at random and starvation and illnesses were widespread. Eventually, all the Jews in the ghetto would be sent to concentration camps. After several months in the ghetto, Yossela had witnessed enough to realize his only hope of survival was to escape the ghetto and leave town. At just 16 years old, Yossela secured a friend's Polish identification papers and said his goodbyes to his parents and 6 siblings. One night, he snuck out of the ghetto and made it onto a train out of town. (It was later learned that Yossela would not only be the lone survivor of his family but also the lone survivor of the 600 Jews in his Polish village). Throughout the Holocaust, Yossela survived as a Christian under the name Stefan Chesnofski and worked as a farm boy on several farms.
Bill Morgan, in front of the barn where we slept with the family cow during most of the war – living with a family under an alias as a Polish Catholic – Stefan.
In 1944, Stefan was drafted by the Russians to serve in the Polish army and was trained as a truck driver. Once the war ended in the fall of 1945, Stefan was working as a truck driver when he met fellow Jews and learned of a displaced persons camp for Jews. Stefan made it over to Regensburg, Germany where there was assistance for Jewish survivors and soon thereafter changed his name to Willie Weisberg. In 1949, at the age of 24 after years of searching unsuccessfully for any family members, Willie came to the realization that he would not find them and that it was time to start life anew.
Bill Morgan – The American Dream
In 1949 after receiving approval for a visa, Willie boarded a boat to New York, penniless, and with only a 6th grade education.
He made it Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he stayed at the YMCA and his sponsor, Sam Cohen, put him to work as a janitor at his shoe store. Willie worked hard to teach himself English and was determined to succeed at work. In short order, he was promoted to salesman and became the number one salesman, largely because of his determination and work ethic – he was the first to work, the last to leave and never took a lunch break. He saved as much as he could, saving $8 of the $18 he earned each week. Eventually, Sam Cohen sent Willie to Kansas City where he was promoted to be a store manager. While in Kansas City, Willie would go to the movie theatres to watch western movies and became an avid fan of Roy Rogers. Inspired to meet Roy Rogers, Willie saved up $200, purchased a Cadillac, and headed to Texas. He was in Houston when his car broke down and he found work at a department store called Foley's as a salesman. In Houston, he changed his name one final time to William ("Bill") Jacob Morgan. Bill was unable to find Roy Rogers in Houston, but instead he ended up meeting his wife Shirley.
In 1954, Bill and Shirley would get married and the two went on to have five kids.
After a short stint working at Foley's, Morgan quickly decided he would go into business for himself. He became a serial entrepreneur and first bought Quik Snak, a convenience store that was located downtown on Texas and Caroline. Morgan lacked experience in the food industry, but knew that if it didn't work out, he could sleep on the floor and eat leftovers.
Morgan was successful with Quik Snak and sold it for a profit two years later. With his profit, he bought a new Dodge and drove to California, still in search for Roy Rogers. He still had no success meeting Roy Rogers, but he did learn that he could sell cars at auctions in California for $200 more than he could buy them for in Houston. He made several trips back and forth and would connect one car behind the other to get a few cars to California on each trip. He would sell the cars at auction and then take the train back to Houston. After pursuing this opportunity, Morgan next decided he was going to sell non-refrigerated meats to small grocery stores. He used his connections to food suppliers from his days running the restaurant and loaded up his car. On his first run, he sold out his meat in two hours, with his customers attracted to the same day delivery. He continued with the business and eventually his customers demanded that he start selling refrigerated meat. And so, he purchased a refrigeration truck and eventually had a packing house built. As the business grew, Morgan knew he had to continue to expand to keep up. He decided to take a profit instead and sold the business to Blue Ribbon. He retained the building and would collect $1,200/month in rent. This was Morgan's first foray into real estate investment. Morgan spent a lot of time studying local developers and in 1959, he founded Globe Construction and Management Company and began his first project, building 3 houses in Northeast Houston. He rented the homes on a weekly basis, would collect rent on the weekends and go back to construction during the week. From 1959 to the early 1980s, Morgan built a multi-million dollar portfolio, consisting of duplex projects, larger scale apartment projects, warehouses, strip centers and office buildings. His sons grew up around the real estate business, working on construction sites and collecting rent.
Kashmere Royal #1 built at Lockwood and Crane; Early duplex project built at E. Lockwood and Collinsworth.
The Second Generation
In 1987, Bill's two oldest sons Mike and Ronnie incorporated Morgan , Inc. (MGI). The two became 50/50 partners with Mike finding sites and handling the development and construction and Ronnie handling property management, personnel, legal and worked with Mike on deal financing. From 1987 to 2010, they grew MGI to become a multi-billion dollar, national real estate company that developed over 15,000 institutional-quality units across 9 states with a total value of $2.5B. MGI owns or has developed assets in the following 14 markets – Houston, Austin, Denver, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville and Tucson. In March 2011, Mike purchased Ronnie's stock in Morgan, Inc. and rebranded the company MORGAN. Today, MORGAN has a portfolio value of $1B and has a $350M development pipeline.
The work ethic and conservative principles instilled in the company by Bill Morgan remain an integral part of MORGAN's DNA and culture.
Bill Morgan played a fundamental role in establishing the Holocaust Museum Houston and published a book in 1997 entitled "Living Longer Than Hate." More information on Bill's story can be found at www.livinglongerthanhate.com