CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As Don Morris delivered his closing arguments in the murder of a Nitro man 20 years ago, he was doing more than securing a murder conviction.
He was also inspiring a young girl -- the sister of murder victim Todd Farley -- to take up the practice of law herself one day.
That young girl (who is now technically Morris' boss) has nothing but glowing remarks for her mentor and friend as he prepares to retire from the Kanawha County Prosecutor's Office on Dec. 6.
"That's why I am a prosecutor," Tera Salango, co-chief of staff to Prosecutor Mark Plants, said Wednesday evening. "I remember sitting in the courtroom and watching him, thinking 'That's what I want to do.'
"Don has been such a mentor to me and a good role model for all of us."
Morris' arguments would secure a murder conviction and life sentence for Dale Guthrie, who stabbed Farley to death at a Charleston restaurant.
In his 27 years with the prosecutor's office, Morris, 55, has made an impression on a number of up-and-coming attorneys.
"I love to just sit in my office and hear 'Don stories,'<\!p><\#148> Salango said. "He's so knowledgeable. I'm going to miss being able to sit down like that and listen."
Former assistant prosecutor Maryclaire Akers, who now works in the state Attorney General's Office, also sang his praises. She said he taught her much of what she knows.
"Don is a great lawyer, but he's an even better person," Akers said. "It really does take some patience to teach younger lawyers how to be good at the law.
"If I ever needed a lawyer, I would call Don Morris first. Because of the kind of person he is and the kind of lawyer he is, I know whatever he decides to do next he's going to be great at it."
She was assigned to juvenile court when she started at the prosecutor's office in 1999 and said he walked her to the courtroom and spent the entire day teaching her about the law.
"He's very passionate about juvenile cases and about trying to help the youth," Akers said. "That day he probably gave me the best talk I ever had and gave me advice that I've used throughout my career as a prosecutor and beyond that."
She said he was always there to answer questions and became a good friend.
Sitting in his corner office at the Kanawha County Prosecutor's Office on Virginia Street, Morris is surrounded by court documents, police reports and photos of his family. He plans to work on cases until his retirement.
"I just think I've done everything I can do in the prosecutor's office," he said when asked why he's decided to leave.
A Huntington area native, he graduated from Barboursville High School in 1976 and went to Marshall University.
He said his first career aspiration was to be a policeman. His neighbor was a Huntington police officer and had tried to recruit him, he said.
But when the opportunity for law school arose, he took it, heading to West Virginia University. He wanted to be a prosecutor.
"Quite frankly, I've always had an interest in serving the public, and I wanted to do what I could to protect the public and put bad guys in jail," Morris said.
He had just settled into private practice in Huntington when he received a call from John Frail, a law school buddy who now is an assistant U.S. attorney but then was an assistant prosecutor in Kanawha County.