Pixy Morgan - a life steeped in history, family and place

  • Published
  • By Philip Lorenz III
Pixy Morgan was captivated by her paternal grandfather's excitement after learning some family history second-hand from a relative who had read the account in a family history book. Morgan's curiosity was piqued and a life-long passion began. 
"I got the book through interlibrary loan, read it and saw the information my grandfather was told wasn't quite what he was told," she explained. "I wanted to find out the truth. So began my quest into the world of libraries, archives and anywhere else in the world I could look to find the information to complete and rectify the information my grandfather was told." 
A library technician at Arnold Engineering Development Center's (AEDC) Technical Library employed by Aerospace Testing Alliance (ATA) subcontractor, Information International Associates, Inc., Morgan said her experience with books and research in high school helped to pave the way to a career and reinforced what had already become a passion for "finding the truth." 
"I helped out in the high school library, re-shelving books and then, later, working to process books and materials for the librarian," she said. "I had so much fun doing this and enjoyed the opportunity that the librarian began talking to me about going into a library science program she knew about." 
Morgan seemed to be on a path to college, but there were a few detours along the way. Marriage, raising a family, frequent moves and a divorce put college on hold, but never deterred her focus on genealogy and teaching family history. 
Looking back, she said events in her life reinforced the commitment to those interests and completing college. 
"I received a library award upon graduation from high school," she said. "Because I worked in the high school library so much, I was given a position in the reference library section of the library at Tennessee Technology University to do my federal work-study program. Mostly, I 'read the shelves' and helped the reference librarian with her projects. But, the university didn't offer any classes except for the ones teachers could take for their degree." 
However, Morgan also has more than 15 years experience working in libraries, from private to academic, from special to public, and now works in a technical library. She has held many positions from county librarian to library technician and from family history center director to archive intern. Some of the positions have helped Morgan in her genealogy work. 
"Because I became interested in family history (genealogy) work, I spent a lot of time doing research in libraries and archives," she said. "I needed to know how to do the research without the need to keep asking for help. So, I did just that. I learned how to do research on my own by reading about collections, databases, and how each special library stored their information. Later, I learned about Internet sources, what they offered, how reliable the information was, and how to access that information. 
"I went to state libraries and archives, I went to historical society libraries, and I went to county and other governmental archives and offices where information was stored, and it was a good idea to know how that information was stored and accessed." 
When Terry Mason, a retired college professor, first met Pixy Morgan, it happened online as he was in the midst of conducting genealogical research on his family. 
"Pixy and I communicated more than 10 years ago about a common ancestor, Benjamin Borden, who is my fourth great-grandfather," he said. "Once Pixy learned that I wasn't just the average genealogist, but that I wanted to have documentation for my family history records, she opened up and shared some most valuable research notes with me. It was through her that I learned more about the skills of a real researcher in contrast to what today we might refer to as people that share family mythology or 'junk genealogy.'" 
Mason said Morgan's help was significant to him on more than one level. 
"I would not have known the majority of my facts had it not been for the careful guidance of Pixy's notes," he said. "She gave me much more however than just notes. 
She became a friend who taught me much about history and record keeping and what to look for. It is because of her I've been able to share what I've subsequently gleaned about other family groups. If we don't record these records then future generations will not know their heritage." 
Director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change University of Memphis, Daphene McFerren, worked with Morgan in 2006. McFerren said Morgan was an invaluable team player in planning and implementing a special event for the institute. 
"I worked directly with Ms. Morgan when I was a visiting scholar at the Institute in the summer and fall of 2006," she said. "As a visiting scholar, my research was directed at locating original documents about and interviewing persons who were involved in the Fayette County, Tennessee Civil Rights Movement. That civil rights movement began in 1959 when African-Americans were denied the right to register and vote. My parents were leaders of that movement. 
"Pixy worked with me to plan and implement a symposium in October 2006 ("October 2006 Tent City Event") where we invited scholars and community leaders to learn about the historical underpinnings of the Fayette County Movement and to honor activists and to obtain genealogical information about my family." 
McFerren said Morgan was invaluable in that effort. 
"Pixy created a genealogical outline to assist me in understanding my family tree and in locating from other sources, including libraries and government records, information about my family history," McFerren continued. "Pixy is detailed oriented and enjoys pulling together threads of historical or genealogical information to help her audience obtain an accurate picture of events and history. I appreciated the talents she brought to my work." 
When Morgan finished her college degree in 2005, she said it became a family event. "Within a year, my daughter earned her master's degree, I earned my bachelor's degree, and my youngest child graduated high school," she said. "All three of us did it as honor students." 
Morgan has lived from Virginia to Nevada and from Illinois to Texas. 
She described working at Arnold as a unique experience. 
"I grew up in Tennessee and never heard of AEDC or what was being done here," Morgan acknowledged. "So, when I heard where I would be working and a little bit about what is done here, I was quite surprised. My former spouse is retired military and I've been on many bases across the United States. I have to admit this base is quite a bit different from others I've been to." 
Morgan said she has finally returned home. 
"Through all the moves outside the great state of Tennessee, I had an in-law once tell my (former) husband, you can take the girl out of Tennessee, but you can't take Tennessee out of the girl," she said. "I have done so much research on Tennessee through my genealogy work; I have a great appreciation for the Volunteer State, its people, and the knowledge that Tennessee is my home. 
"I love Tennessee's beauty, its diversity and everything in between. Two of my children were born here. So many ancestors moved here, settled here, raised their families here and made Tennessee their home."