City of Alexandria, VA
Biography: Morris Russell Siebert (1922-1993)
Native Alexandrian Morris Siebert is an example of the concept of "paying it forward." Siebert, a protégé of Coach Louis Johnson, continued Johnson's legacy of service and mentorship to African American youth in the City of Alexandria.
Siebert attributed his ideas of achievement and clean living to Johnson, who was his baseball and football coach from 1940-1942. After graduation, Siebert was drafted in 1942, joining the World War II Allied Forces. He served in France and Germany, and witnessed suffering and death in the combat zones in those countries. "I saw a race of people suffering-I saw humanity," he said. "I decided I wanted to help [people] when I saw suffering from things like rickets."
After his discharge from the Army in 1945, he returned to Parker-Gray, graduated with the class of 1948, and attended Storer College in West Virginia for one year. In 1950, he joined the Alexandria Recreation Department where, he worked at the Parker-Madden Playground, and for years, in many of the City's recreation centers. During the day, Siebert worked as a clerk for the Department of Defense's Army Adjutant General Office, located in the Pentagon.
In addition to his regular work, Siebert was a mentor and coach to several hundred youth who participated in activities at the Pendleton Street Recreation Center, helping them to develop their athletic, academic, and life skills. He provided parental leadership for the "latchkey" children, whose parents were often required to work more than one job in order to make ends meet.
He did this extra work without salary, and without the benefit of an annual budget or staff, but gave indiscriminately and unconditionally of his time and leadership. He made recreation facilities available on his day off, and often went beyond the scope of his duties to provide leadership and guidance to youth. As one of his charges recalled, "Morris was a warm, caring man. He was also the strong, no-nonsense man we needed in our lives. He demanded respect; negative attitudes were not an option. He taught us early that we have freedom to make choices, but we do not have freedom from the consequences."
In the 1970s, Siebert's service and dedication was honored with the establishment of a summer basketball league named for him and his high school coach. The Johnson-Siebert Basketball League, which operated for three years (1971-1974) was, at that time, the third largest summer league in the United States.
Siebert retired from government service in 1990, with more than 35 years of service. For more than 20 years, he served as a model mentor and coach. His years of service honor the memory of his mentor and coach, Louis Johnson, the guidance and leadership of his parents and family, the support of the Parker-Gray community, and the great legacy of achievement and service to community that continues among the many unsung heroes in our City to this day.