William Morris, generally known as Bill Morris, was born in Manchester, Jamaica on 19 October 1938. After the death of his stepfather, William, a part-time policeman, his mother, Una, went to England to find work and settled in Birmingham. In 1954 Bill joined her, finding work at Hardy Spicer Engineering Ltd, a local firm. In 1958 he joined the Transport and General Workers' Union and in 1962 became a shop steward.
After serving on the TGWU General Executive Council (GEC) from 1972 to 1973, Bill Morris joined the Union as a full-time official. He served as District Officer of the Nottingham District from 1973 to 1976 and District Secretary of the Northampton District from 1976 to 1979. In 1979, he became National Secretary of the Passenger Services Trade Group, which was responsible for staff working for bus and coach companies. In 1986 he was elected Deputy General Secretary. On Ron Todd's retirement in 1992, Bill Morris was elected General Secretary. He was re-elected in 1995 and served until his own retirement on his 65th birthday, 19 October 2003.
Bill Morris was a member of the TUC General Council and Executive Committee from 1988 to 2003. He was appointed a Non-Executive Director of the Bank of England in 1998. He was also a member of the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords from 1999 to 2000. He was a Member of the Court of the University of Luton from 1994, and a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Open University Foundation from 1997, the Board of Governors of South Bank University, and the Assembly of the University of Greenwich. He was appointed first Chancellor of the University of Technology, Jamaica in July 2000 and Chancellor of Staffordshire University in 2004. He was also a Commissioner of the Commission for Racial Equality and a Trustee of the Prince's Youth Business Trust. He chaired the Labour Party Conference Arrangements Committee and the Labour Party/Trades Union Liaison Committee. He was a member of the Advisory Board of the BBC, the General Advisory Council of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, the Prince's Youth Business Trust's Advisory Committee, the New Deal Task Force, the Commission for Integrated Transport (1999-2005), the Economic and Social Affairs Committee of the European Union, the Architects Registration Board (from 2002), the Executive Board of the International Transport Federation, and the England and Wales Cricket Board (from 2004). He chaired the Morris (Public) Inquiry into Professional Standards in the Metropolitan Police in 2004.
Bill Morris received Honorary Fellowships of the RSA and the City and Guilds of London Institute in 1992. He held Honorary Doctorates from South Bank University (Doctor of Laws, 1994), Leeds Metropolitan University (1996), University of Westminster (Doctor of Letters, 1997), University of Greenwich (Doctor of Business Administration, 1997), University of Teesside (Doctor of Laws, 1997), University of Luton (Doctor of Laws, 2000), University of Birmingham (Doctor of Laws, 2002), University of Warwick (Doctor of Laws, 2002), Middlesex University (2002), and Staffordshire University (2002). He was also awarded Honorary Degrees by the Open University (Masters, 1995), Thames Valley University (and Visiting Professorship, 1997), University of Technology, Jamaica (2000), and University College, Northampton (Master of Arts, 2001).
Morris married Minetta in 1957. She died in 1990. They had two sons. Bill Morris was awarded the Order of Jamaica in 2002 and knighted in 2003. In 2006 he was ennobled as Baron Morris of Handsworth.