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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 June, 2003, 00:55 GMT 01:55 UK
Arise Sir Bill
Bill Morris
The veteran union boss has been a champion for good race relations
Outgoing union boss Bill Morris has been granted a knighthood in the Queen's birthday honours list.

The veteran leader of the TGWU, said in typically modest fashion, that the reward was not so much about him as it was about the causes he has championed.

Last month the T&G chose Tony Woodley to replace Sir Bill who is due to retire later this year.

Responding to the news of the award, Sir Bill said: "I hope that in this recognition, today's young black Britons will find some inspiration.

"I have always held the view that race can be an inspiration, not a barrier."

He plans to devote much of his time in retirement to championing the cause of education, not least in his role as chancellor of Jamaica's University of Technology.

Last year, in an interview with BBC News Online he said he also wanted to devote a lot more time to his family - particularly his grandchildren.

An ally of Chancellor Gordon Brown, his sometimes critical approach to the government's record is likely to be looked back on with a good deal of nostalgia as a new breed of left-wing union leaders continues to emerge - not least Mr Woodley.

Born in Jamaica in 1938, Sir Bill, who now lives in Hertfordshire, lived in a small village until his family emigrated to the UK in 1954 after the death of his father, a part-time policeman.

His mother came first, settling in Hansworth, where she had relatives.

Rise to the top

Three months later a 16-year-old Bill Morris followed her.

He got his first job in a local car parts manufacturer, Hardy Spicer, and within a few years had shown his potential for representing workers' concerns.

The young worker was deputed by his colleagues to meet managers, to challenge them over the need for the workers to be given protective gloves.

He won, and the experience set him on the path to representing some 900,000 workers in the T&G.

He was still in his twenties when he began his formal rise through the ranks. He was elected a shop steward in 1962, became a full-time officer 10 years later, and moved steadily through the ranks until the 1991 leadership election.

His leadership has seen several high-profile battles, fought not in the firebrand style of some of his T&G predecessors, but with quietly-spoken determination.


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