By Joyce H. Munro, Morris Arboretum Archives Volunteer

Someone taught Maurice Bower Saul tenacity—the stick-to-itiveness to remind the Morris Foundation Board, time and again, that Lydia T. Morris never wanted the Compton mansion saved; she wanted it torn down and a memorial erected in its place. Someone taught Saul the importance of goodwill—the generous spirit (and whimsy) to request a single red rose in lieu of rent for one of his properties. Someone taught him fair work ethics—the evenhandedness to defend clients whether rich or poor, famous or unheard-of.

The someone who instilled these qualities in Maurice Saul was John Graver Johnson, Esq. There was no Philadelphia attorney more knowledgeable, more successful (colleagues quipped he won cases just by showing up in court), or more unassuming (he declined two nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court) than Johnson. In fact, Johnson’s record for number of cases argued in the U.S. Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court still stands. By the time Saul became Lydia Morris’s personal attorney, Johnson had schooled him well, starting back in 1905 when Saul graduated from UPenn Law School and Johnson invited him to become an associate.

The thread of legacy between mentor and protégé was strong and enduring. Like Johnson, Saul represented an astonishing number of corporations and individuals. And like Johnson, he kept an eagle eye on all of the firm’s cases, earning him the title “The Boss.” The legacy was tangible as well. Saul inherited his mentor’s desk and inkwell and paper weight—emblems of the law office where Johnson had worked twelve-hour days for individuals like J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, P. A. B. Widener, John Wanamaker, and firms like Baldwin Locomotive and Standard Oil.

When Johnson died, his associates—including Saul—took over the law practice. But Saul quickly earned the reputation and the clientele necessary to establish a new law firm in Philadelphia: Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul. That same year, Saul and his wife Adele bought Rose Valley Farm, fifteen miles west of his offices in the Land Title Building. From then on, Saul invested much time and effort in improving the farm and the valley along Ridley Creek. He extended his services to his neighbors by filing incorporation papers for the Borough of Rose Valley and served as its President for many years.

Midway through his career, Saul was elected a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania and within one month of his election, he had arranged nothing short of a coup for his alma mater. It was July of 1931. As usual, Saul had gone to his lodge on Long Lake in the Adirondacks. And as usual, Lydia Morris was at her favorite summer resort in Lake Placid. Saul interrupted his vacation to motor over to Lake Placid and meet with Miss Morris to find out whether she had decided, once and for all, to bequeath her property to his alma mater. There had been rumors she was leaning toward giving everything to Penn State and UPenn’s senior administrators were concerned that the Morris estate might slip through their fingers. But Saul argued the case successfully and assisted Miss Morris in revising the terms of her will, thus ensuring that Compton and Bloomfield would come under the custodianship of the University of Pennsylvania.

Lydia Morris died the following year and Saul continued on as Counsel to the Advisory Board of the Morris Foundation. Four years later, he won the appeal for exemption from inheritance taxes on Compton and Bloomfield, arguing that Miss Morris intended for the properties to be used as a public arboretum. But there was one argument he never won on her behalf: the Board declined to tear down the Compton mansion and it stood, the sad victim of misuse and neglect, until 1968.

Maurice Bower Saul, 1923, courtesy of Saul Ewing LLP