Ashley’s obituary in the NO Times-Picayune:
Thursday, April 10, 2008
By John Pope
Ashley Morris, a passionate advocate for New Orleans who possessed the mind of a computer geek and the soul of a rabble-rouser, died April 2 in his sleep in Fort Myers, Fla. He was 44.
The cause of death has not been determined, said Ray Shea, a friend, who said that Mr. Morris had been in Florida to settle family legal matters.
Mr. Morris, who reached a worldwide audience with blunt blogs about New Orleans, loved his adopted hometown so much that he commuted every week to Chicago to teach computer science at DePaul University.
“Ashley divided the world into people who would fight for New Orleans and people who have abandoned us,” Shea said. “If he thought you were a friend of New Orleans, you were a saint. All of his saints were the football players, or brass-band musicians, or chefs or anyone who did anything to try to save this city. Everyone else was the enemy.”
Karen Gadbois, a neighborhood activist, remembered Mr. Morris as a man who “was not tempered by social conventions to stifle his own voice.”
When it came to New Orleans, Mr. Morris wore his heart on his sleeve and his loyalty on his skin. Literally. When the Saints reached the playoffs at the end of the 2006 season, he had a giant fleur-de-lis tattooed on his right shoulder.
Although he was known mainly as an unseen online personality because of his postings at ashleymorris.typepad.com, he received global visual exposure via CNN in 2006, during the first post-Katrina Krewe de Vieux parade. Dressed as a French mime in convict stripes and white face makeup, he stood in a glass case bearing this appeal to the French president: “Buy us back, Chirac!”
“He was a character, a huge, big force of nature,” Shea said of Mr. Morris, who weighed about 350 pounds. “He was part Lenny Bruce, part Thomas Jefferson and part Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein,” the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.
Born in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., Mr. Morris earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Mississippi, where he was a drummer in the marching band, and a doctorate in computer science at Tulane University. He was an associate professor at DePaul.
In his classes and professional seminars, he always found a way to work New Orleans into the discussion, said Mark Moseley, a friend.
Mr. Morris had his students build databases that the federal government should have been using when Hurricane Katrina struck, Moseley said, and he wanted to teach a class on post-storm New Orleans.
Mr. Morris “loved living here, eating here and celebrating here,” Moseley said. “He liked life, and he found it kind of distilled here.”
Survivors include his wife, Hana Morris; a son, Rey d’Orleans Morris; and two daughters, Annabel and Katerina Morris.
A funeral will be held Friday at 1 p.m. at Schoen Funeral Home, 3827 Canal St. Visitation will start at 10 a.m.
Burial will be in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3.