Coworkers at the Morgan County Correctional Complex are honoring a
fallen officer's service by dedicating a memorial marker at the prison
entrance Wednesday morning.
Wayne "Cotton" Morgan died almost seven years ago when he was shot during a prisoner escape at the Roane County Courthouse.
Cotton Morgan's son, Dennis, says he is touched by the kindness of those employees who donated money to purchase the marker. Dennis Morgan also maintains hope that the marker may allow his father's life to be remembered for more than his death and the ensuing manhunt for his killers.
Deadly 2005 Prisoner Escape
On August 9, 2005, Officer Morgan was transporting prisoner George Hyatte outside the courthouse in Kingston. Hyatte's wife, Jennifer Hyatte, ambushed the officers to free her husband.
Jennifer Hyatte shot and killed Morgan. Morgan's partner, correctional officer Larry "Porky" Harris, returned fire and wounded Jennifer Hyatte in the leg as the couple escaped.
A nationwide manhunt ensued and police captured the Hyattes at a motel in Columbus, Ohio. Both George and Jennifer Hyatte pleaded guilty to first degree murder and are now serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Seven Years of Yesterdays
Dennis Morgan went about his daily routine at work Tuesday afternoon in West Knoxville. Many of Morgan's current coworkers do not associate him with the 2005 shooting that claimed his father's life and made national headlines.
"I took this job about two years ago, so most of my coworkers did not know me when my dad was killed," said Morgan. "I've talked about it with some of my close coworkers, but otherwise I do not bring attention to it."
Morgan says it is difficult to believe his father has been dead for nearly seven years.
"For us [my family], it has gone by really fast. It's like yesterday that it happened. You don't go a day in your life without remembering."
Morgan wants people to remember his father for more than how he died. In his daily memories of his father, Dennis said he dwells on Cotton's good deeds rather than his demise.
"Most of the things I think about are my childhood, home life, and things like that. I don't think about the tragedy at all. If you do that it will dominate your thoughts and memories," said Morgan. "Our society stresses more on the people that committed the crime than the victims of the crime."
Cotton Morgan was more than a victim in a 2005 shooting. For 28 years, Cotton worked at the prison along the hills where he lived a full life.
"He was a Sunday School teacher, the choir director, and so compassionate. He would do anything for anybody and not question it," said Dennis Morgan. "Those mountains around the facility [prison], he grew up there. He hunted there. I know he has run barefoot over those hills."
Wednesday morning at the foot of those same hills, Cotton Morgan's coworkers will honor his service at the prison with a memorial marker they paid for themselves.
"For them to take out of their own personal finances to raise money to buy a marker to memorialize my father, it is touching," said Morgan.
Dennis believes the marker will celebrate his father's life and hard work. He also hopes the memorial will keep other workers at the prison safe.
"Every day when they see it as they drive to work in a dangerous environment, it can serve as a reminder that this could happen to me and I need to be on my toes," said Morgan. "Those people at the correctional facility have become family to all of us. They are such a wonderful group of people and you don't want the same thing to happen to them."