An Angel in Ebony at Taylor University

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – He was an African prince who inspired a local university to reach beyond its borders to develop its world wide mission.

“The Samuel Morris statue guard was dedicated about 25 years ago in 1995,” said Jim Garringer, Media Relations Director at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. “It commemorates the life of Samuel Morris one of our most beloved and storied Taylor University students.”

The story of Samuel Morris has been shared in books and movies. Decades ago Taylor University made a movie entitled the Angel in Ebony. It tells of Morris’ start as Prince Kaboo 130 years ago in Liberia. He escaped torture and journeyed to America to study the Bible.

“He was an African prince who had this great desire to learn about the holy spirit,” said Garringer. “That desire led him from his native town of Liberia to the United States to New York City and eventually Taylor University.”

Garringer said when Morris attended Taylor University in the late 1800’s, the university was located in Fort Wayne. Missionaries paid for his tuition. After learning from them he began to minister to others, sharing his story of struggle, survival and God’s calling on his life.

Morris got sick and died in 1893 at the age of 20 but the seed he planted had taken root. “What his Taylor friends wanted to do was carry that mission back to Liberia and back to the rest of Africa. So from that, the school became very missions focused internationally. Those elements still exist today.”

The school’s mission work led to programs to help students in many countries including Liberia, where there is now a Samuel Morris Scholars Program.

In the late 1980’s the school reached out to a local artist to create a memorial in Morris’ honor. “I started with this first stage when he was a captive,” said Ken Ryden. “I call this ‘Moment of Truth’ when he first realized he mattered and that there’s a higher power.”

Statue of Samuel Morris as Prince Kaboo escaping captors in Liberia by artist Ken Ryden

Ryden researched and decided to create several pieces to illustrate the sunrise and sunset of Morris’ spiritual journey. “All three pieces together give the background for his arrival and his impact as a student,” said Ryden. “He also did talks at the African Methodist Church in Fort Wayne.”

Samuel Morris statue at Taylor University created by artist Ken Ryden

“As I look back this will always remain one of my very favorite endeavors because I learned so much through the process myself,” said Ryden.

In Fort Wayne at Lindenwood Cemetery you’ll find Morris’ gravesite. It’s in section 14. It stands among gravesites of other Africans who made Fort Wayne home. Cemetery officials say Morris’ is one of the most visited. It and the statues in Upland and a Taylor residence hall, stand in lasting tribute to the man known as The Angel in Ebony.

“Samuel Morris to me represents what can happen in a person’s life if they completely, totally yield to God without any thought whatsoever as to what the consequences might be,” said Garringer.

You can learn more about Morris’ contributions by visiting the Taylor University website.

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