Black History: Special Delivery!!

Azie Taylor-Morton 36th U.S. Treasurer Image:  Public Domain
Azie Taylor-Morton
36th U.S. Treasurer
Image: Public Domain

Azie Taylor Morton (1936-2003) was the first African American female to hold the position of Treasurer of the United States. She was born in Dale, TX on a small farm. Fleta Hazel Taylor, her mother was deaf and mute. Morton never knew who her father was. She was raised by her maternal grandparents. During her youth, she worked in the cotton fields. She graduated from high school at the age of16 at the top of her class. Morton attended the Texas Blind, Deaf, and Orphan School for high school because there was no African American high school in Dale, TX. She was neither blind, deaf, nor orphaned.

Morton graduated from Huston-Tillotson University, with a bachelors degree in commercial education. She then attempted to enroll in the University of Texas for graduate school. She was denied admission, being told by the university that she did not have enough credits. However, due to the university policy of not admitting blacks in undergraduate programs, they would not allow her to complete the credits necessary to start the graduate program. Taylor instead took a teaching job at a school for delinquent girls. She then held several other jobs including employment with Huston-Tillotson University, and the Texas AFL-CIO. In 1961 she was asked by President Kennedy to work for the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. She married James Homer Morton in 1965.

In 1977 Morton accepted President Jimmy Carter’s invitation to serve as the 36th Treasurer of the United States. She held the post until 1981. Azie Taylor Morton had a massive stroke at her home in Austin Texas in 2003. She died a day later due to complications from the stroke. Her signature appeared on the $1, $5, and $10 bills between September 1977-August 1979. Bills with her signature are considered to be very rare.

$1 bill with the signature of Azie Taylor-Morton.  Her signature is on the lower left side.
$1 bill with the signature of Azie Taylor-Morton. Her signature is on the lower left side.

A little known fact is that in addition to Azie Taylor-Morton, 4 other African American men have had their signatures on United States currency, Blanche K. Bruce, Judson W. Lyons, William T. Vernon and James C. Napier. These men served as Registers of the Treasury. Until publication of the 1923 series of currency, the two signatures on most currency were of the US treasurer and the Register. 4 of the 17 registers were African American.

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