Being inducted into a hall of fame in any profession may be the pinnacle of success for anyone. Now, 57 years into the auctioneer business, Willie Morgan can call himself a hall of famer.
Morgan, 75, of Heber Springs, was inducted into the Arkansas Auctioneers Association Hall of Fame during the annual meeting of the association Feb. 2. He is the owner of Morgan Auction Service in Heber Springs.
“It was a big honor. … It sure was,” Morgan said. “I was totally surprised. I didn’t know anything about it. I went to the Arkansas Auctioneers Association meeting. That is what I was going to do. I didn’t have a clue that I was going to be inducted into the hall of fame.”
Morgan was presented his hall-of-fame award by his grandson Brooks Morgan.
“I was totally shocked,” Willie Morgan said. “When [Brooks] went up to do something, to read something, I kind of got suspicious. They kept it all from me.”
Morgan said he gave his family some grief in a kidding way about not knowing of the honor he was receiving. Morgan and his wife, Marsha, have been married for 50 years. They have two children, son Billy Morgan and daughter Tanya King; and five grandsons.
“I had two sisters show up, and I didn’t know what they were doing there,” Morgan said, “but they were there.”
Morgan’s son, Billy Morgan, who is also a licensed auctioneer but is the radio voice for Harding University basketball, wasn’t able to attend the event because the Bisons were playing a basketball game in Searcy.
“I’m proud of him and proud of the recognition for him to get honored by his peers,” Billy said of his father. “I had to keep that a secret. We had to make sure he was there. I’ve sat there and watched him since I was a kid, going to auctions with him and tagging along. I guess I didn’t realize what an influence it had on me, with what I wanted to do with sports. It was just his work ethic, being on time and being so conscientious of everything, making sure everything was taken care of.”
Willie Morgan is a 1962 graduate of West Side Greers Ferry High School. Not long after he graduated, he got into the auction business, and 57 years later, he’s still hard at work.
“I knew some auctioneers growing up,” Morgan said. “I attended the livestock auctions with my dad in Heber Springs, Mountain View and Conway. He had a friend who kind of helped me with the livestock auction barn here in Heber Springs.
“I got started when I was 18 years old. I was interested in it. It just went from there.”
Morgan attended the Fort Smith Auction School and the Missouri Auction School in Kansas City, Missouri.
“This is something that was gifted to me,” Morgan said of his voice for doing auctions. “I had some training. A lot of it is bid calling. You’ve got to learn it on your own. You can go to all the auction schools you want, but you’ve got to learn it on your own, too. You learn some fill-in words in the training, things like that.”
According to his biography that was submitted when he was being inducted into the hall of fame, Morgan “began his bid calling by selling general items outside of the sale barn, before the livestock would be sold inside.”
When he was growing up, Morgan said, it was a thrill to watch an auction.
“I’d go to cattle auctions,” he said. “It was a big thrill. I took an interest in it. It has provided for my family. I have sold everything you could imagine.”
While he no longer does cattle auctions, Morgan said he stays busy.
“I’ve sold strawberries,” he said. “I’ve sold livestock. I sell antique furniture and collectible items and farm machinery.”
He still conducts estate auctions, farm auctions and any type of auction throughout north-central Arkansas.
While Morgan has been an auctioneer all of his adult life, he was not a licensed one until he was grandfathered in by the state of Arkansas in 1989.
“I didn’t have to take a test or do continuing education,” he said, referring to a law that was passed by the state Legislature requiring that auctioneers be licensed. “They passed the license law. There were a lot of auctioneers who were grandfathered in.
“That was a relief.”
Billy said one of the most interesting things his father sold at action was an old outhouse.
“The buyer was his good friend, John Hutchcraft,” Billy said. Hutchcraft is the former basketball coach at Guy-Perkins High School and is also a licensed auctioneer.
“I did auction an outhouse off one time,” Willie Morgan said. “And John Hutchcraft bought it. He paid $100 for it. He’d buy anything. I’d never sold one before.”
Morgan said things are slow in the auction business this time of year.
“But last year, we did it about every Saturday,” he said. “I go out to them. I don’t have an auction house. I never did. I sell for auction houses, and I’ve been doing that ever since 1979.”
Billy said his father is “old school” when it comes to conducting business.
“The biggest influence he had on me was his work ethic,” Billy said. “Your family name is everything, and people are going to remember your family name. His word means everything to him. He’s one of the guys that if everyone was like my dad, you wouldn’t need contracts. You could just shake hands, and everyone would know it’s done that way. He comes from that generation.”
Billy said watching his father do his job was entertainment for him while he was growing up.
“We didn’t have as much entertainment value as the kids do now,” he said. “When I was a kid, back in the 1970s, you just tagged along. I would be there with him.
While Billy doesn’t work as closely with his father anymore, he still helps when he can.
“I’m not as involved as I was,” said Billy, who became a licensed auctioneer in 1994. “I still take care of a lot of his ads. I still help him with anything social-media wise. I’ll take care of that for him.”
Willie Morgan said that if he hadn’t gotten into auctions, cattle might have been his way to earn a living.
“I fooled with beef cattle,” he said. “We raised cattle when I was growing up.”
But Morgan was sold on auctioneering.
Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.