Constance Lorraine Hairston Morton was born on December 8, 1918 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was the tenth and last child born to the late William Patrick Hairston and Keziah Elizabeth Staples Hairston. Lorraine was proceeded in death by seven sisters and two brothers; Nellie, Eunice, Lois, Myrtle, William Howard, Elinor, Mamie, Walter Moore, and Florece.
As a child, Lorraine cherished being the baby, sticking close to her older siblings and reveled in feeling like she was her Mama’s favorite. As a teenager Lorraine enjoyed acting, singing, and dancing in school and community events, and also played competitive tennis becoming a junior champion. Lorraine’s life of service began in her mid-teens when she raised money in her community to purchase an artificial leg for her childhood friend, who lost their leg to cancer. After graduating college at what was then Winston-Salem Teachers College (now Winston-Salem State University), an anxious 19-year-old Lorraine took her first teaching job. This would set in motion a long career in both public service and education.
Lorraine spent her professional life serving in many roles, as a teacher, principal, alderman, and mayor. After her first teaching job, Lorraine went on to attend Graduate School at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. At Northwestern she met and married James T. Morton Jr. and they had one daughter, Elizabeth Elinor. Lorraine first started teaching in Evanston at Foster Elementary School, and then went on to teach at Nichols Middle School becoming the first African American teacher in the school district. After also teaching at Chute Middle School, she then became principal at Haven Middle School. At Haven, Lorraine connected to her youthful stage roots by creating the popular musical revue Haven Help Us!
After spending over 30 years as an educator, Lorraine entered the political arena in the city of Evanston, becoming Alderman for the 5th Ward in 1982. After nine years of service as alderman, Lorraine was elected as Evanston’s first African American and Democratic Mayor in 1993. As Mayor, Lorraine focused on a multitude of important issues including restoring and supporting the relationship between the city and its premier higher education institution, Northwestern University. After 16 years and 4 consecutive terms, Lorraine retired as the longest serving Mayor in Evanston’s history.
Lorraine was a proud and active member of Second Baptist Church in Evanston, and after joining the church she was ordained as a Deacon by the late Reverend Dr. Hycel B. Taylor. She served as a member of many community boards and organizations, including the NAACP, Links, Inc. North Shore Illinois Chapter, and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. Throughout her life and career Lorraine received a multitude of awards for her work in education and service to the Evanston community, which included receiving honorary doctorate degrees from Northwestern University and Kendell college. Both of Lorraine’s alma maters created scholarships in her name. The Forest E. Powell foundation created the Lorraine Hairston Morton Endowed Scholarship for students majoring in education who are committed to community service at Winston-Salem State University. Northwestern University created the Lorraine H. Morton scholarship for the Master of Science in Education Program in the School of Education and Social Policy. One of the most humbling recognitions for Lorraine was the city of Evanston renaming the civic center building, the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.
After her official retirement in 2009 Lorraine continued to be an active participant in the community, attending city events and supporting campaigns for city officials after her tenure as Mayor. Lorraine also continued to serve as council to anyone in need, having an open-door policy at her house for anyone who needed advice, a listening ear, or as she put it, “straightening out.” Lorraine also enjoyed in her spare time going to the theater, symphony, watching basketball, playing for her bridge club, and watching old western movies.
Lorraine mostly treasured spending time with her family. Family meant everything to her and was the foundation of her life’s teachings and blessings. She especially enjoyed being with her daughter Elizabeth Elinor and two grandchildren Elizabeth Keziah and Constance Mariah. They were the light of her life, and it meant the world to her to be able to live long enough to see her grandchildren grow and create their own lives.
At almost a hundred years of life, Lorraine experienced many facets of this country’s everchanging landscape. She tirelessly persevered and became a powerful advocate for civil rights, women’s rights, and access to education and job opportunities for all. Lorraine’s spirit and inspiration were always guided by her Father’s words to her before he passed, “Only a life of service is a life worthwhile.” Lorraine had an infectious laugh and always wore a smile on her face. She saw the good in people and genuinely wanted to see them succeed and find happiness in life. Lorraine felt it was her life’s work to spread love, serve others, promote education, and teach the strength of perseverance to her family and her community.
Lorraine is survived by her daughter Elizabeth Elinor Morton Brasher of Skokie, IL, and her two granddaughters Elizabeth Keziah Brasher of Atlanta, GA and Constance Mariah Brasher of Niles, IL. She is also survived by four nieces, Lois Pace Hairston Turner of Winston-Salem, NC, Vera Stepp (Henry Edward Stepp) of Winston-Salem, NC, Denise Burger of Wasilla, AK, and Marion Elizabeth Winfrey of Boston, MA; three nephews, Tom Baric of Plano, TX, Sol William Winfrey of Bronx, NY, and Johnny Winfrey of Jackson, NJ; and many other great-nieces, great-nephews, cousins, and hosts of many close friends.