Mayer recalled for his love of Demopolis

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dr. Morris Lehman Mayer, later known as a retail industry giant by his peers and those in the industry, began his life on the banks of the Tombigbee River in Demopolis. Mayer, 82, died on Friday at the DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa after suffering a long battle with Parkinson&8217;s disease.

But before he became a well-known professor at the University of Alabama and penned several successful textbooks on retailing, Mayer was the son of a prominent Jewish family in Demopolis who later founded Mayer Brothers bank, the beginnings of which later became Robertson Banking Company.

Gwyn Turner, a well-known Demopolis historian, said Mayer continued to visit Demopolis after becoming prominent in Tuscaloosa and the University. She said he would bring former students back with him to meet up with fellow Demopolites to have breakfast.

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She described him as having a &8220;gregarious personality,&8221; much like his father, Lehman.

Mayer&8217;s family moved to Mobile where he graduated from high school. He served in the United States Army from 1944 until 1946, and then attended the University of Alabama where he earned his bachelor of science degree in business administration in 1949.

He then went to New York to earn his master of science degree in retailing from New York University in 1950. After a short period with Abraham and Straus in New York, he was called to back to duty until 1952.

From 1952 until 1955, he worked as a buyer for Goldblatt Brothers department store in Chicago, and then earned his doctor of philosophy degree in business organization from The Ohio State University.

But Mayer was destined to come back to his roots. He took a position at UA, and taught marketing there for 32 years. In that time he was recognized by a number of organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, and also served on more than 100 public committees, from the Tuscaloosa Parks and Recreation Authority to the Tuscaloosa Community Orchestra Board.

Even after retiring from the University at age 64, Mayer would continue to work with students. He was described as a &8220;giant among his friends,&8221; by Johnnie Aycock, director for the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, who first worked with him in the 1970s.

But although his awards were extensive and his responsibilities numerous, those who knew him described him as &8220;delightful,&8221; and completely unselfish with both his time and his talent.

Also, as Turner said, &8220;What always stood out for me was that he was always proud to say he was from Demopolis &8230; and he would beat the drum for (Demopolis) whenever he could.&8221;

Mayer is survived by his wife, Judith Morton Mayer, and daughters Susan M. Bruchis and husband, Marcus, of Montgomery, and Betsy Mayer of Leeds; and two grandchildren, Michael and Leah Bruchis.

A funeral service was held on Sunday at Tuscaloosa Memorial Park in Tuscaloosa. The family asked that memorials be directed to Temple Emanu-el Building Fund, Box 3066, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403 or the Morris L. Mayer Award Fund, Office of Advancement, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487.

The University of Alabama media relations contributed to this report.