Frank Morris

National Correspondent and Senior Editor

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.

Morris grew up in rural Kansas listening to KHCC, spun records at KJHK throughout college at the University of Kansas, and cut his teeth in journalism as an intern for Kansas Public Radio, in the Kansas statehouse.

Ways To Connect

Frank Morris / KCUR

Ash trees across much of the country are dying as a result of a green beetle called the emerald ash borer. The bug has spread from the upper Midwest imperiling millions of trees.

But there is opportunity amid the destruction. Urban lumber mills that saw up salvaged city trees are on the rise, fertilized by mounting demand for local products and a tsunami of supply delivered by the emerald ash borer.

It came from Asia, by way of Michigan

The emerald ash borer has been at work in Michigan for years.

Frank Morris / KCUR

A massive EF5 tornado all but obliterated Greensburg, Kan., on May 4, 2007. Afterwards, city leaders saw a blank slate, a chance to reverse decades of decline by building a town for the future.

Greensburg’s green building initiative, drew big money, and lots of volunteer help. But now Greensburg faces a crossroads. The town is stuck at half its pre-tornado population with few prospects for growth. Some blame trends slowly decimating most farm towns, others find fault with the green initiative.    

Greensburg dreams big

Kansas City’s thriving auto-assembly sector notched another win Thursday, as the Canadian company Martinrea broke ground on a new parts plant in Riverside.  

Martinrea says it will hire as many as 290 people to crank out front end parts for the Malibu that GM builds by the thousands across the river from Riverside, in Fairfax. The company will reportedly see more than $3 million in state incentives. But Kansas City Area Development Council CEO Bob Marcus says, auto parts manufacturers are moving here for another good reason.

A Judge in Leavenworth, Kan., has allowed Bradley Manning, who’s serving time in the Army prison there for espionage, to change her name to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.

Army specialists say Manning, has gender dysphoria; while physically a man, Manning identifies as a woman. Pentagon spokesman George Wright says Wednesday's brief court hearing won’t change Manning’s treatment in the all-male U.S. disciplinary barracks.

“This court action is only a name change, and will have no other effect on his current status, other than the name in his record,” said Wright.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

A diverse crowd linked arms in Overland Park, Kan., on Thursday to remember the three victims of an attack on a Jewish community center and retirement home.

Clergy representing many faiths, politicians of different stripes and more than 1,300 people from the community united to condemn shootings during the memorial service.

The service took place at the Jewish Community Center, where two of three victims died on Sunday.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the whole country was standing with Overland Park.

courtesy: Johnson County Sheriff's Office

The man suspected of killing three people at two Jewish facilities in Johnson County, Kan., is a well-known neo-Nazi and someone who authorities say spent much of his life calling for attacks on Jews.

Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr. faces state murder charges and likely hate crime charges in federal court, after allegedly murdering three people in shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom assisted living center in Overland Park, Kan., Sunday.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Updated 10:47 a.m.:

Frazier Glenn Cross, the suspect in Sunday's shootings, is being held at the Johnson County Detention Center without bond. Kristi Bergeron, of the District Attorney's Office in Johnson County said he will not be arraigned Monday.

He will face both federal and state charges.

Updated 10:36 a.m.:

The Children's Center for the Visually Impaired released this statement:

Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

Kansas City is going after the 2016 Republican nominating convention but the city won't go it alone. Four local governments have put some skin in the game.

Johnson County, Wyandotte County’s Unified Government, Kansas City and Jackson County are in for $65,000 each. Kansas City’s contribution follows $100,000 of city Convention and Visitor’s money - a small ante, Mayor Sly James says, for what could be a big payoff if Republicans stage their convention here.

Frank Morris / KCUR

It's prairie chicken mating season!

Still, it's tough being a lesser prairie chicken these days.

This type of grouse once spanned an enormous area, though now they survive mainly in pockets of Oklahoma and Kansas. Their numbers are plummeting; in 2012, the population dropped by half.

Now, after they were recently listed as a threatened species by the U.S. government, complaints of federal overreach and lawsuits have followed.

It's prairie chicken mating season!

Still, it's tough being a lesser prairie chicken these days. This type of grouse once spanned an enormous area, though now they survive mainly in pockets of Oklahoma and Kansas. Their numbers are plummeting; in 2012, the population dropped by half.

But after they were recently listed as a threatened species by the U.S. government, complaints of federal overreach and lawsuits have followed.

Frank Morris / KCUR

It’s not hard to find stores catering to people proud of their schools or sports teams, but a shop opening this week in Kansas City, Mo., called Raygun, is all about a perennial underdog: the Midwest.

Owner Mike Draper is from Iowa, and this will be his first store outside his home state.

Like a lot of Midwesterners, Draper left home when he could, but came back to take part in a big shift he sees taking place in the Midwestern self-image.   

HDR / City of Kansas City

Kansas City’s Streetcar Advisory Committee is recommending that a proposed southern expansion of the new system end at UMKC. 

The committee is backing three extensions off the two-mile starter line, which will run from Union Station to the Rivermarket.  Phase two would stretch east from Main, running about two miles along Independence Avenue, and Linwood Boulevard. The third would extend south from Union Station about three and a half miles, and stop around 51st street.  

file photo / The Topeka Capital-Journal

Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., founder of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, died around midnight Thursday. 

For almost 24 years, Phelps and his small group of followers have made themselves infamous for leading anti-gay demonstrations at natural disasters, mass killings and funerals.

In his mind, Phelps said in a 2006 interview, every catastrophe, attack or misfortune was God’s retribution for America’s failure to castigate gays.

That’s my job man,” Phelps told KCUR. “To cause this evil country to know their abominations."

Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is suing on behalf of Janet Delana from Wellington, Mo., who is the mother of a mentally ill woman who used a gun to murder her father.

Courtesy Husch Blackwell

Kansas City has been a center of sex trafficking, according to a U.S.

nobihaya / Flickr--CC

Masayoshi Son, SoftBank Corp. CEO and chairman of Overland Park-based Sprint Corp., promises lower prices and faster service — if he’s allowed to buy T-Mobile.

Son, who heads Sprint’s parent company SoftBank, says merging Sprint with T-Mobile would create a stronger competitor to the big guys, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc.

Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

By most measures David Kesten's hens are living the good life.

"They can act like chickens, they can run around," says Kesten, who's raising hens in an old wooden shed in the open countryside near Concordia, Mo. "They can go out and catch bugs, they can dig in the ground."

But most U.S. hens live crammed into very close quarters, according to Joe Maxwell, with the Humane Society of the U.S. And he says that's just wrong.

"There are some things we should not do to animals," says Maxwell.

Proposition 2, and the Commerce Clause

Frank Morris / KCUR

Musician Chuck Mead has made a name for himself in Nashville, but his new album is all about his home state of Kansas. Mead describes the music in Free State Serenade as “Kansas Noir… true stories of love, murder, and a UFO."

“Nashville is where you go to make country music,” says Mead. “There’s a certain song vibration down here, there’s a whole song writing culture and playing culture that really doesn’t exist outside of New York, or Los Angeles or Chicago."

Milton Wolf for Senate Campaign

Milton Wolf has been mounting a strong primary challenge for the seat currently held by Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts. But a recent expose by the Topeka Capital-Journal of Facebook posts made by Wolf has some questioning whether he will be able to continue the race.

Chuck Mead left Kansas more than two decades ago when he set out for Nashville and made a name for himself in country music. Now he’s circling back to Kansas, where his career began.

The first group he formed there, BR549, started out as the house band at Robert’s Western World on Lower Broadway in Nashville, just across the alley from Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.  BR549 quickly built a huge following playing regularly in the small bar.

Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

If you think the roads you’re driving on seem worse than usual this winter, you’re probably right.The waves of snowstorms in much of the country have exhausted supplies of rock salt, the main tool that road crews use to melt ice and snow. Even areas with vast quantities of salt underground are having a hard time getting it onto their streets this year.

When Milwaukee fights road ice with cheese brine, New Jersey breaks out the pickle juice and New York, a major salt producer, declares a salt shortage, you know you’ve got a widespread problem.

From William S. Burroughs in Prints: A Portfolio of Original Photographs / Courtesy of the Spencer Museum of Art

Wednesday, February 5, marked what would have been the 100th birthday of one of the 20th century’s most important and notorious writers: William S. Burroughs.

Burroughs was one of the original Beat poets, and helped spark a cultural revolution. He wrote like no one had before, about topics considered impolite, if not obscene, at the time.  

Frank Morris / KCUR

Kansas City can finally hang a “no vacancy” sign on one of its largest and most important industrial buildings.  

In its heyday some 6000 people worked in the TWA overhaul base at KCI. The place is massive, a million square feet, more room than all three terminals combined. When American Airlines pulled out a few years ago, the place was empty. Now, after an intensive marketing campaign Mark VanLoh, Kansas City’s Aviation director says, it’s just the reverse.

Consumerist dot com / Flickr--Creative Commons

Sprint Corp., based in Overland Park, Kan., has been losing subscribers to bigger rivals for years. One way to reverse that trend would be to merge with another carrier, and Sprint is reportedly eyeing the fourth largest wireless provider, T-Mobile, for acquisition.  

When the Wall Street Journal published a report, citing unnamed sources, that Sprint was getting ready to try to buy T-Mobile, lots of industry analysts treated it as old news.  

A spinal injury left Iraq War veteran Tomas Young paralyzed below the waist in 2004. Further medical complications a few years later made him quadriplegic.

Although Young had enlisted two days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he became an outspoken anti-war activist.

Dan Verbeck / KCUR

People from the Kansas City area serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines have started arriving home for the holidays. The services don’t cover a trip like that, but lower-paid service men and women can put in for a ticket home from a group called Operation Homefront.

Corporal Robert Sanders landed at KCI Wednesday afternoon, met by his wife, and two young sons. Sanders and his wife Vicki Sanders both graduated from Shawnee Mission North High School.

Frank Morris / KCUR

People in Kansas City may not be too thrilled about it, but the pending sale of Boulevard Brewing company to Belgian beer maker Duvel Moortgat says a lot about how the American craft beer industry has grown up and gone global.

Kansas Citians are proud of lots of things, their barbeque, the Chiefs, Sporting Kansas City, even lately, the Royals, and most beer lovers in this town would add Boulevard Brewing to that list.  

“I think Boulevard is, is one with Kansas City,” says Bob Ellis, standing in line for a Boulevard Tank 7, at the Bier Station, in Kansas City.  

Frank Morris / KCUR

Sporting Kansas City and MLS Cup opponent, Real Salt Lake tied the score 1-1 after two hours of regulation play. That left a “shoot out” a series of kicks with just one player, squared off against the opposing teams goal keeper, to settle the national championship.  

Fans across Kansas City, and a sold out stadium, watched as the longest shoot out in MLS playoff history unfolded. The score was tied, again after 10 kicks. But in the end, Sporting KC put seven in the net, Salt Lake, six.

Five former Kansas City Chiefs players are suing the team over brain injuries they say resulting from concussions they sustained playing in the late 1980s and early 1990s.    

The suit alleges that Chiefs leadership understood the long-term risks of concussions back then, but didn’t take them into account.  

Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts campaigned with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a campaign event Friday in Overland Park, Kan. Roberts faces a serious primary challenge.

The event was a show of force, and conservative political clout.  Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer was there, along with Mary Kay Culp, the executive director of Kansans for Life, and Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association.     

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