Monroe Bowers “Pink” Morton was the original builder, owner, and operator of the Morton Building and founder of the Morton Theatre.  

Monroe Bowers Morton was born in May 1853 in Athens and was the son of a white father and African American mother. Originally a reference to his complexion, Morton acquired the nickname “Pink” from his family and friends. Pink Morton was an ambitious man, and he tried several professions before establishing himself as a building contractor. He built the Morton Theatre in 1910, and the theatre is one of the oldest surviving vaudeville theatres in the United States. Additionally, the Morton Theatre was the first African American built, owned, and operated vaudeville theatre in the state.  

The Morton Theatre opened on May 18, 1910, with a classical piano concert by Alice Carter Simmons. During the theatre’s beginning’s, the Morton hosted many prominent African American performers such as Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Louis Armstrong, and Cab Calloway. In more recent years, local bands such as Dreams So Real, The B-52’s, and R.E.M. have used the Morton Theatre as rehearsal space. You can even catch the Morton Theatre as the setting for portions of R.E.M.’s music video for “The One I Love”.  

The Morton Building is a part of the African American Heritage Pathway, which explores the rich history, past and present, of African Americans in Athens. To learn more about Monroe “Pink” Morton and upcoming events at the Morton Theatre, please go to . 

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