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Dr. John Morton-Finney: A lifelong student

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Dr. John Morton-Finney was a professional student, educator, and the longest-practicing attorney, who worked until he was 106 years old.

He was the son of a woman born free and a former enslaved man. They both placed a high emphasis on education early in his life.

Crispus Attucks Museum Curator Robert Chester tells us about the beginning of Dr. Morton-Finney’s journey.

“He was born in Uniontown, Kentucky in 1889. He pretty much lived his life in the field of academia, law, and basically traveling and serving in various forms of the military,” Chester said.

Dr. Morton-Finney enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1911 and served until he was honorably discharged in 1914.

After leaving the military, he returned to school and earned bachelor’s degrees in math, French, and history in 1916.

That was just the start.

In 1922, Dr. Morton-Finney moved to Indianapolis with his wife for an opportunity to work in the school system.

“There was a new school opening in Indianapolis by the name of Thomas Jefferson – an all-black high school, which they quickly – the black city leaders changed the name to Crispus Attucks High School. And that sounded very intriguing to Dr. Finney,” Chester explains.

Taking flight of this new opportunity, Dr. Morton-Finney walked through the doors of Crispus Attucks High School as the first math teacher.

Not afraid of challenges, he put on different hats by teaching more than one subject such as history and foreign languages. It would be the beginning of a 47-year career at the high school for him. In between teaching Dr. Morton-Finney never stopped his pursuit of education.

“He fell in love with literature-learning at a very young age and literally remained in some form of education/academic study throughout his entire life, completing his final degree at the age of 75,” says Chester.

In addition, to being a high school teacher he also taught law at IUPUI. In 1985, at age 96 Dr. Morton-Finney received an honorary doctorate from Butler University. He would go on to work for another 11 years before retiring from law at age 106. Two years after his death, in 2000, the IPS board of commissioners wanted to honor the man who dedicated nearly 50 years of service to the Indianapolis school system.

So, they voted to rename its administrative headquarters the Dr. Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services, located downtown.

Chester remembers Dr. Morton-Finney’s character through those who were closest to him.

“Those who were under his tutelage that have revisited the school and the museum all point him out as one of the most amazing men they have experienced. I have yet to hear one negative thing about this distinguished gentleman and his style of teaching. He was one of the school’s favorite teachers, one of the student’s most favorite teachers,” Chester said.