By Bob Weaver

J. D. Morris, 67, former long-time President of the Clay County Bank, has been charged with embezzling $172,000 by the federal government.He had been with the bank 50 years.

Morris, Clay's best-known civic and political leader, resigned his position as the State Board of Education President, yesterday.

He was a former member of the Clay County Board of Education for 27 years, and was a member of the state's School Building Authority.

Morris was the subject of numerous articles written by Andy Waddel, editor of the Clay Communicator, which was followed by a series of articles on problems in Clay County by The Charleston Gazette last May.

Waddel reported the Clay bank was in trouble, and was being audited after Morris resigned on April 23. The FDIC said the bank lost about $300,000 in the last quarter of 2001.The initial report focused on what seemed to be the bank over extending credit to Clay newspaper and businessman Clinton Nichols, a failed manufacturing company called Filicon, among others. Nichols recently took out bankruptcy.

Morris told media he had made "complete restitution," declining to discuss further charges. Since Morris was charged under an information, it is unlikely he will be indicted. Such action indicate a plea arrangement has been made.

The Communicator reported Morris was given favoritism in obtaining water for his new tudor-style mansion which was just completed on five acres of flat land at Ovapa. Morris moved into the dwelling in August.

Waddel said Morris was "The pillar of the community," and its major political leader. The longtime Democrat changed his registration to Independent during the Underwood administration, after which Cecil Underwood appointed him to the State Board of Education.

Clay County Superintendent of Schools Jerry Linkenogger had Morris as the keynote speaker for Clay's educators recently, and awarded him with the "Clay Leadership Award for Outstanding Service."

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