William “Billy Joe” Morgan, died peacefully at home on August 20, 2022, surrounded by members of his beloved family after a brief battle with colorectal cancer. Billy Joe was born on August 24, 1941, in Fountain, North Carolina. He grew up in Jacksonville and remained proud of his Eastern North Carolina roots every day of his life.
To know Billy Joe was to know that someone was always looking out for you and would always take your call. He was a devoted husband and brother, dedicated parent and uncle, loyal friend, and mentor to a generation of soccer players. He embodied the best qualities of what it means to be an attorney and counselor at law. He believed that the world could be made a better place through youth sports, tolerance, and providing service to those in need. He loved rock and roll music, watching CBS Sunday Morning (which he always called Charles Kuralt), getting lost in a good conversation, attending the events his children and grandchildren were involved in, and telling anyone who would listen how proud he was of his children. He knew at least three different ways to get to every town in Eastern North Carolina and was happy to share with you the best restaurants in each one.
Billy Joe was Senior Class and Student Body President at Jacksonville High School where he graduated in 1959. After high school, he played freshman basketball at North Carolina State University and transferred to Davidson College where he formed friendships that lasted a lifetime. He received his BA in History and Political Science from Davidson College in 1964 and earned his law degree from UNC Law School in 1967. While at Chapel Hill he met and fell in love with his future bride, Kathy Cannon, and they were married in 1968. Billy Joe and Kathy began their married life in Southern Pines, North Carolina, when Billy Joe practiced law in Carthage, North Carolina, from 1967 to 1970. In 1971, Billy Joe and Kathy returned to his hometown of Jacksonville, North Carolina where he practiced law from 1971 until 2022. Billy Joe and Kathy’s marriage was a beautiful partnership and Billy Joe continued to tell Kathy how much he loved her until the end.
Of the many accomplishments in his well-lived life, Billy Joe brought the sport of soccer to Eastern North Carolina and enriched the lives of thousands of families. In 1975 he began the youth soccer program in Jacksonville and later helped start classic soccer (travel soccer) programs in Jacksonville, Wilmington, Goldsboro, New Bern, and other Eastern North Carolina communities. In 1997, he was inducted as a part of the inaugural class of the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame. In 2015, he was inducted into the Jacksonville-Onslow Sports Hall of Fame.
Billy Joe was the President of the Jacksonville Area Soccer Association (JASA) for 25 years. You could find him signing up players, coaching, lining fields, and making sure that players had what they needed to find joy on the soccer field. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the East Carolina Soccer Association, North Carolina Youth Soccer Association, the Collegiate Soccer Festival in Jacksonville, the North Carolina Amateur Sports, the Jacksonville Sports Authority, and the North Carolina State Games. Billy Joe was called “Coach Ben” by his players and former players, many of whom came to Jacksonville to visit him during the final stage of his illness, which meant the world to him. His 1971 Jacksonville Cardinals were NCYSA State Cup semi-finalists in 1986, 1987, and 1989 and won the North Carolina U-17 State Championship in 1988 in a match he still remembered every moment of until his death. Billy Joe was named the Jacksonville-Onslow County Man-of-the-Year in 1989, in part because of his unwavering commitment to working with and for the thousands of young people who played and continue to play soccer in Eastern North Carolina. His work was quiet, effective, and an act of love for his players and his community.
Billy Joe’s professional accomplishments were numerous. He was a renowned trial lawyer and mediator with the deepest respect for the Constitution of the United States and for protecting the fundamental rights of all people. Billy Joe was regularly recognized as being at the top of his profession by The Best Lawyers in America, Legal Elite, Super Lawyer, and other national organizations. During his career, he served on the boards of numerous legal organizations and was an active member of the Board of Governors of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (formerly the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers) where he served a term as Vice President.
Billy Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Ruth and Joe Morgan, from whom he inherited his commitment to fairness and service and his love of sports. He is survived by his wife of 54 years and best friend, Kathy Morgan; his children Cannon Morgan, Elise Morgan Whitley (Cameron), and Annie Morgan; and his grandchildren, Katherine Perry Morgan, William Morgan, Milo Whitley, Abbey Pierce, and Wren Whitley who each carry on his good character, progressive values, a deep sense of justice, and devotion to all people. He is survived by his sister, Ann Anderson; his niece and Godchild Lindsay Anderson Sablosky and her children; his nephew Brent Anderson (Melissa) and their children; and his cousin Janice Barbour. He will be missed deeply by his dog Kyrie. Billy Joe will be remembered fondly by all who had the good fortune to know him.
The family is eternally grateful for the care and grace provided by his loving caregivers, Wanda, Andrea, Marviet, Renee, and Jodeci; and the compassionate and dignified care provided to him by Community Home Care and Hospice.
The family will receive friends Friday evening, August 26, 2022 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Jones Funeral Home, Jacksonville. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, August 27, 2022, 1:00 p.m. at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church.
Memorial donations can be made to the St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Attn: Columbarium Beautification Fund, 711 Henderson Drive, Jacksonville, NC 28540.