Laura Lee Steakley Morris
1943 - 2021
J. Henry Stuhr Mount Pleasant Chapel
1494 Mathis Ferry Road
Mount Pleasant, SC
Feb, 5 2022
Unitarian Church
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Laura Lee Steakley Morris Mt. Pleasant - Laura Lee Steakley Morris passed away peacefully at the age of 78 on October 20, 2021 in the company of her family. She was born to Waymon and Robena Henley Steakley in Huntsville, Alabama in 1943. Her father died when she was very young when his bomber crashed over Yugoslavia in World War II. On the re-marriage of her mother to Clinton A. Medbery, Jr, she gained a new loving father. She grew up primarily in Charleston, SC, where her father taught at the Citadel, and she graduated from Rivers High School. She attended Agnes Scott College, and met her husband, Bill, while working at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. They moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where Bill earned his PhD in Theoretical Physics. They ultimately moved to the Washington DC area in 1977, when Bill took a job at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Laura's passion for politics began in Aiken, SC and continued to grow throughout her life. Laura served on the staff of U.S. Senator Ernest F. Hollings from 1977 to 1999 as his Projects and Grants Director and Special Assistant. In this role, she helped secure millions of dollars in funding from federal agencies for South Carolina organizations, working with economic developers, school districts, health organizations, and our colleges and universities. She was known as the go-to person in South Carolina to get things done. She and Senator Hollings shared a passion for ensuring that all Americans had access to affordable healthcare. During her time in his office, she was key to creating the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), through which tens of millions of Americans today receive primary medical care. She later obtained grants through this program to help make healthcare accessible to rural South Carolinians. She also aided many colleges, as well as state and local governments in securing funding for projects through the Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration, including the Film Industry Training program and Nursing Building at Trident Technical College. During her time at the Senate, Laura always took the time and the initiative to mentor younger staffers and to help them navigate congressional life. She taught many staffers, both Democrat and Republican, the techniques of obtaining grants and funding for projects in underserved communities. She fought for those who rarely have a voice in government and her hard work greatly improved health care access and economic development in South Carolina as she worked behind the scenes on the Senator's input on legislation, such as the expansion of Medicaid/Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These programs provide essential services such as prenatal care, childhood immunizations, vision, dental, behavioral health, nutrition counseling and treatment. These combined programs today currently serve over 56 million children and have saved many lives! Laura never gave up her personal mission of helping all residents of SC obtain access to affordable, safe housing and health care. Upon retirement from Senator Hollings' staff, she used her knowledge and professional network to continue to improve the lives of South Carolinians, especially through her work at the Palmetto Project. First, she helped to develop and write successful federal grant proposals to ensure health care for uninsured citizens for a project called AccessNet. As Project Director for AccessNet, Laura created a network of patient navigators and primary care health providers that provided access to healthcare for thousands of South Carolinians in rural communities. Congress was so impressed with her work that it funded a national pilot program that allowed AccessNet to be replicated in other states. She also was key to SCHIEx, a statewide health information exchange and platform for sharing electronic health records among providers. Using her professional relationships with state health officials, healthcare funders and cutting-edge entrepreneurs around the country, Laura helped make South Carolina one of the first states to have this key program. Until her passing, she served as the Vice Chair of the Charleston County Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board of Commissioners. Additionally, she served on the boards of Sea Island Comprehensive Health Care Corporation and Johns Island Rural Housing and represented South Carolina Citizens for Housing on the State Housing Trust Fund Advisory Board. Laura was also passionate about social justice issues. She served as Board Chair for The Penn Center, an organization whose mission is to promote and preserve the history and culture of the Sea Islands through its commitment to education, community development, and social justice. On a more personal level, she was a member of the Unitarian Church in Charleston, where she was very active in the church's community ministry, including being one of the initial co-chairs of the social justice committee and helping to obtain funding for the refurbishment of the Sanctuary. She enjoyed participating in Dining For Women and the New Yorker groups for many years. Laura was an avid world wide traveler and shared her love of adventure and of nature with her family and friends. Her last major trip to Alaska was memorable for an up close and personal encounter of the fish breath kind with 3 grizzly bears. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her! Laura is preceded in death by her parents, Waymon Steakley and Robena and Clint Medbery. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Bill Morris, daughters, Cindy Holmes (Ronnie Beasley) of Mt. Pleasant, SC and Kathy (Graham) Adams of Chapin, SC, as well as 5 grandchildren: Richie Turner, Frankie Holmes, Garrett Adams, Ethan Adams, and Lauren Adams. She is also survived by her siblings, Dr. Clinton A. Medbery III, Dr. Charles H. Medbery, and Dr. Robbie Medbery, all of Charleston. A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Penn Center, 16 Penn Center Circle, St. Helena Island, SC 29920. Visit our guestbook at
Published by Charleston Post & Courier from Oct. 23 to Oct. 24, 2021.
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Unitarian Church
4 Archdale Street, Charleston, SC
Funeral services provided by:
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Sponsored by J. Henry Stuhr Mount Pleasant Chapel.
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19 Entries
To Bill and Laura's family and friends,
my prayers and condolences are with you. I have known Laura since I moved to Charleston in 1970, In my work in health and human services planning and program development,during the 70s, I saw the work and service she provided to South Carolinians and changing the face of the South. And as a Democrat, she never stopped working to make the world better. I am honored to have known her.
Anne Osborne Kilpatrick
November 5, 2021
Judith Wyman Bruce
October 31, 2021
May all the members of Laura's family take comfort in the memories you can share with each other because of Laura. Her strength and dedication to a cause or individual was unbreakable. May she Rest In Peace knowing she made a significant improvement in many lives including mine.
Jacquetta Porter Jones
October 30, 2021
I remember Laura Lee coming into the family as a delightful 4-yr-old, and she brought a lot of light with her. I remember her in our wedding. There was a big chalk circle on the left where she was supposed to stand. She couldn't see what was going on there, so instead she was over batting my veil out of the way so that she could be part of the wedding.

I also remember her in College Station during a holiday production. A line of girls was on stage in rocking chairs holding baby dolls. They were afraid to sing, but Laura rocked her doll and sang like mad.

I recall her waking up one day saying, "Uncle Russ has got it!". They'd been learning to wink together.

She was a good defender of progressive politics.

She was a delightful person, and we'll all miss her.
Margaret Neff
October 29, 2021
I knew Laura through the Unitarian Church in Charleston and found her to be a passionate advocate for social justice. I wish I'd had a chance to know her when she was younger, but I am glad I got to know her a little bit in her 70s.
Hillary Hutchinson
October 29, 2021
Her memory will live on in the hearts and minds of the many people whose lives she changed!
Rose-Marie Williams
October 28, 2021
My spirit is truly shaken right now to hear that this wonderful and dedicated soul has transitioned on. To the family, thank you for sharing her with those of us who needed her wisdom and guidance. I hope you will find peace in your memories of her and comfort through the memories and stories of others .
Bonita Holly Shropshire/Hollings Alumnae
October 28, 2021
I was very sad to hear about Laura Lee's passing. Being a first generation immigrant, I truly believe that I owe thanks to Laura Lee for helping my late husband and me become American Citizens. My husband and I met Laura Lee in Charleston when she came from Washington to visit her Mother. At that time we were going through the process of becomming American Citizens and going through a lot of difficult paperwork and interviews. Laura Lee offered to accompany us during our last interview, which happend to be the most important in our life . We became proud American Citizens soon after that and I will always be indebted to this remarkable woman, which I am also honerd to call my friend . My deepest sympathy to Bill , Cindy , Kathy, and Robbie, Buddy and Chuck . Love always, Barbara Rembiesa
Barbara Rembiesa
October 26, 2021
I'll miss Laura's force of personality, sense of humor, and deep knowledge of all matters political; I'm glad to have met her.

My sympathy to Bill and the family.
Suzanne Penuel
October 25, 2021
It is with heavy heart that I learned of Laura's passing today while reading The State Newspaper. Laura was one of the most important people in my life and I will always remember her. If it were not for Laura, there would be no South Carolina Occupational Information System in this state. She successfully guided the creation and establishment of a system of some 2200 sites for career guidance and occupational exploration in South Carolina through her leadership in Senator Hollings' office and exemplified a life of service for the betterment of the community. Her vision was broad and deep-- her persistence in obtaining her goals incredible. I worked with Laura for years and always admired her courage and wisdom. She was a blessing to my life and to all those around me. May she rest in peace. Carol Kososki
Carol Kososki
October 25, 2021
I am deeply saddened by Laura´s passing. Ever since meeting her many years ago in Senator Hollings´s office she kept a genuinely fair minded approach to services.
Emory S Campbell
October 25, 2021
Our deepest sympathy to Bill and to Laura's family. Laura's was a life well lived in generous, tireless, and effective service to others. We cherished her friendship and will miss her very much.
Arnold & Patty Penuel
October 25, 2021
Laura and I worked together on Fritz's staff for 10 years. She was a true force of nature and responsible for an amazing array of successful efforts to obtain grant funds and set up programs to help South Carolinians. She didn't slow down after leaving Fritz's staff either. She will be missed. My very best to the family. RIP old friend.
Deb Stirling
October 25, 2021
May your spirit of giving live on in the folks that you.
Lorna Shelton Beck
October 25, 2021
I offer my condolences to the Morris family.
John Randall
October 24, 2021
We cross path in our lives journey. Thank you. Rest in Peace.
John Glover
October 24, 2021
Laura was a close and dear friend. In addition to serving together as trustees of our beloved Penn Center, we worked throughout South Carolina on issues of concern to rural communities. I will miss her terribly. I extend my heartfelt condolences to Bill and the family.
Deloris P Pringle
October 24, 2021
I was sorry to hear about Laura's death. She and I worked together in the DC Office of Senator Earnest Hollings from August 1994 until December 1999.
Mary Latif
October 23, 2021
Cindy and family, I am so very sorry for your loss. Ut what a life well lived!
Sharon Coste Tudor
October 23, 2021
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