At the age of seventeen, Morris began work at Bond Sanders Paper in Nashville wrapping packages and learning to operate the cutting machine. His work would be temporarily interrupted as he volunteered for the Navy to serve during World War II at the age of seventeen.
His tour of duty would include serving in the amphibious division piloting a LCVP landing craft carrying troops and supplies to the beaches of France. His unit was the replacement unit immediately following the Normandy invasion.
How could such a young boy advance so quickly to such responsibility? The reason would serve to be the foundation of success for the rest of his life. He volunteered for the risky position while no one else would because to him it was a job that needed to be done.
During his sixteen months on LST 58, he would complete forty-five missions between England and France before being transferred to the newly commissioned Destroyer 866 USS Cone. As Boatswains Mate his responsibility included overseeing the deck and personnel midship to bow. After six months serving on the USS Cone and a total of 2 years in the Navy, he would return to his home in Nashville and back to work at Bond Sanders Paper.
Dennis Paper History: Founder, Morris Dennis
While at Bond Sanders Paper, he bought a ruling machine, which he learned to set-up and operate. Mr. Sanders would later take him to an envelope mill to observe the die, folding, and gluing requirements needed to produce the envelopes. A die press was purchased along with materials to produce a dryer to cure the glue on the flaps and he was soon producing envelopes.
Champion Papers would buy Bond Sanders Paper and things would quickly begin to change for Morris. Jack Moore of Champion began to question Mr. Sanders on who operated and handled the different warehouse positions. After discovering that the majority of the jobs were handled by the same person he "wanted to meet the man that could do all of that stuff". The potential was quickly recognized and our recipient was brought to the inside offices.
Bond Sanders Paper would move into a new facility on Sidco Drive where it would become one of the first palletized paper warehouses in the country. Who else but Morris would volunteer as a job on the side to build the pallets needed for the warehouse. Renting out an old grocery store, he and his brother-in-law would eventually hire additional help and build 2,200 oak pallets for the warehouse.
Champion soon sent him to Chattanooga where he served as the branch manager for three years. In 1959 he would receive the Distinguished Salesman Award from Champion for increasing the Chattanooga branch's sales by over fifty percent. He observed his friends in management positions being transferred and scattered throughout the country. Despite taking a cut in his current salary, he would return to Nashville to work for Athens Paper. For him, family was a much more important priority, and he longed to return to Nashville. After all, if he could be successful in a town where no one knew him, he was confident he could be even more successful back at home in Nashville.
He worked for Athens for eight years developing the fine paper sales for the company. Athens Paper would eventually be sold, and he would work for an additional year before setting out on his own success story.
After selling his boat and cashing in all of his life insurance policies, in 1969 an independent paper merchant would begin a new operation in Nashville servicing from a 17,000 square foot warehouse downtown. By May of 1971, he was recognized by Byron Weston Paper as their merchant of the month. In 1976, after only seven years of operation, the continued growth and success of the company necessitated a move into a 30,000 square foot warehouse. Soon after moving, an addition to the warehouse would be necessary and later additional warehouse space would be used across the street. In 1999, a move to their present location brings the current warehouse capacity to 71,000 square feet. This year marks Morris's 75th year in the paper industry.
Morris served for 10 years on Weyerhaeuser Papers Merchants Advisory Council. When Bemis Technologies began their Uni-Mate Pressure Sensitive Division in 1989, he was one of seven individuals chosen to form their Merchant Advisory Committee. The Nashville Chapter of the International Association of Printing House Craftsmen named Morris Craftsman of the Year in 1977. In 1974 he received the Supplier Service Award from the PIAS and has served on their Board of Directors from 1995 to 2004. Morris also attended the Southern Paper Trade Association and spent 11 years attending the annual seminar on merchandising at Florida State University.
In 1997, he was recognized by the State of Tennessee as an Honorary Court Officer for his outstanding service to the State and the Governmental processes. In 2004 Morris was named Person of the Year by the Printing Industry Association of the South. The AIPPM presented Morris with the Founders Award in 2009. A record which will probably never be broken, Morris attended the NPTA for 41 years straight. While the majority of individuals require 6 years of study and an MBA degree, God has blessed Morris with the natural talent of business sense and leadership along with the hard work ethic so characteristic of his generation.
Morris will celebrate his 95th birthday on May 10th. You may stop by the offices most any day and find Morris happy to share his knowledge of the paper and printing industry and also memorable naval stories of World War II.