Lt. Col. Robert Morgan Memorial, Asheville
This monument honors Lt. Col. Robert Morgan, the pilot of the Memphis Bell which was the
first B-17 Flying Fortress bomber credited with completing 25 missions during World War II. The
marker commemorates the day in 1943 when Morgan, an Asheville native, while on a war bond
tour with the Memphis Bell flew the plane as a stunt between City Hall and the Buncombe
County Courthouse. The polished black granite marker has an etching of a painting of the
bomber flying between the two buildings. Near the bottom a bible verse was inscribed which
was not a part of the original design (See "Controversies" below).
Images: Far-off view
IN REMEMBRANCE OF COL. ROBERT K. MORGAN 1918-2004 / COLONEL ROBERT K. MORGAN
AND HIS B-17 BOMBER CREW OF WWII’S “MEMPHIS BELL” / WERE THE FIRST TO COMPLETE
TWENTY-FIVE COMBAT MISSIONS OVER GERMAN-OCCUPIED / EUROPE. AT A TIME WHEN
BOMBER CASUALTIES REACHED EIGHTY PERCENT, THEIR / EXCEPTIONAL ACHEIVEMENT WAS
CELEBRATED IN A SUBSEQUENT HOME FRONT WAR / BOND TOUR. AT THIS SITE ON AUGUST
14, 1943, COL. MORGAN MADE A LOW PASS / OVER PACK SQUARE, TIPPED HIS LEFT WING
SIXTY DEGREES, AND FLEW BETWEEN THE / BUNCOMBE COUNTY COURTHOUSE AND THE
ASHEVILLE CITY HALL BUILDINGS. THE / CONTRIBUTIONS AND EXAMPLE OF ASHEVILLE’S NATIVE
SON AND HIS CREW ARE HEREBY / HONORED. THE COURAGE AND SPIRIT OF THIS
ACCOMPLISHED PILOT AND THE MEN AND / WOMEN OF HIS GENERATION WHO FOUGHT IN
WWII ARE SUMMED IN COL. MORGAN’S / OFT DECLARATION – “I WAS JUST DOING MY JOB.”
Front, near base: John 12:46
City of Asheville
August 14, 2014
35.595780 , -82.548900 View in Geobrowse
"Robert K. Morgan," wikipedia.org, (accessed December 18, 2015) Link
Barrett, Mark. “Monument Recalls 1943 Bomber Stunt Downtown,” Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), August 14, 2014, (accessed October 7, 2015) Link
Boyle, John. “Answer Man: Col. Morgan’s Bible Verse Removed?” Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), April 22, 2015, (accessed October 7, 2015) Link
“'Memphis Belle', The Robert K. Morgan Crew” U.S.A.A.F. Resource Center, (accessed October 12, 2015) Link
Morgan was reassigned to the Pacific Theater following the bond drive and PR tour in the USA. Lt. Col. Morgan commanded the 869th Bombardment Squadron and flew the Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Dauntless Dottie" on the very first B-29 raid over Tokyo. Morgan also completed 25 combat missions in B-29s by the end of the World War II.
The Lt. Col. Robert K. Morgan memorial is a part of the city of Asheville public art collection and
the bible verse engraved at the bottom was not a part of the approved design. The city has with
limited success tried to apply paint to the engraved verse, restoring the piece of art to its
original design. Someone in the public continues to paint the inscription so that it is visible.
The actual verse, which states, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness,” was Morgan’s favorite verse and not carved into the monument.
The marker is located off Court Plaza Street in Asheville, NC. It faces Pack Square Park which is across the street. The marker was erected between the two buildings the bomber flew between.
In the immediate area of the old Buncombe County Courthouse there are other notable plaques, monuments and memorials: Western North Carolina Veterans Memorial, Revolutionary War, Spanish American and other wars, Police and Firemen who died in the line of duty, 60th North Carolina Regiment and former Governor Samuel Ashe for whom Asheville was named. Several hundred yards to the west stands the monument to Zebulon Vance and several other small markers.
Trees and shrubbery form a beautiful small park surrounding the granite memorial.