Tragedy tugged at nation’s heartstrings
Courtesy of the Madera County Historical Society
These 10 Madera children were orphaned when their parents, Robert and Joyce Morris were killed in a car wreck caused by a drunk driver going the wrong way on State Route 99 in July of 1968. From left to right are Judy, 16; Kathy, 17; Edward, 3; Michael 10; Jeffery, 8; Linda 15; Carole, 14; Robert and Roberta 11; and Theresa, 12.
The driver was drunk as he traveled north in the southbound lanes of Highway 99. When he reached Ashlan Avenue in Fresno, the inevitable happened; he struck several cars in the oncoming traffic, one of them head-on. The drunk driver was not seriously injured, but the last car to slam into the grinding, wrong-way crash carried the parents of 10 children to their deaths.
Almost overnight, the plight of the children who had been made orphans on that July night in 1968 gripped the heart of the nation.
It took awhile for the Highway Patrol to identify the couple who had been killed. They were 39 year-old Robert Morris and his 35 year-old wife Joyce from Madera. While the deceased were being transported to the morgue, their children were waiting in their home at 921 West Sixth Street for Mom and Dad to return. The couple had gone to Fresno to test drive an auto they wanted to buy.