Zale, Morris Bernard (1901–1995)

By: Tommy W. Stringer

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1996

Updated: June 10, 2016

Morris B. Zale, jewelry store entrepreneur, son of Libby and Samuel Zalefsky, was born on September 5, 1901, in Shereshov, Russia. He migrated to the United States in 1908 as a child, fleeing the poverty and pogroms of Tsarist Russia. In 1910, after a brief stay in New York, the family eventually settled in Fort Worth. Because of financial difficulties, Zale dropped out of school following completion of the seventh grade. Young Morris Zale was introduced to the jewelry business by his uncle, Sam Kruger. In 1920 Zale managed Kruger Jewelry Store in Burkburnett before opening his own business in Graham in 1922. That first "store" was rented space in a Graham drugstore. Two years later Zale rejoined his uncle's store in Wichita Falls, because of Ku Klux Klan activity in Graham. He became a partner with his uncle in Zale Jewelry Corporation in 1924, opening the first Zale Jewelry Store at the corner of Eighth and Ohio. In 1925 he married Edna Lipshy, and he and his brother-in-law Ben built the business together. Zale broke with the cash-only policy of jewelry retailing, offering credit to working-class customers and allowing payment in installments. Other innovations were an employee profit-sharing plan, mass advertising, a commitment to sales training, and development of a corporate child-care facility. Zale opened a permanent office in Antwerp, Belgium, to buy uncut stones, a first for the retail jewelry business. During the Great Depression the company was caught with a large debt but was able to pay it off over five years. Following World War II massive expansion took place, ultimately making Zale's the world's largest retail jeweler. Morris Zale was known for his philanthropy, financing an orphanage for young war victims in 1947 in Europe and supporting it for four decades. He started the Zale Foundation in 1951 to expand his activities. The foundation supported numerous charities and educational activities. Zale relinquished the company presidency to his brother-in-law Ben Lipshy in 1957 but continued to serve as chairman of the board of directors. Zale retired as chairman of the company in 1971. He was the recipient of many awards including the National Brotherhood award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Zale died on March 8, 1995, and was buried at Sparkman/Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas. He had three children.

Dallas Morning News, March 9, 1995. Tommy W. Stringer, The Zale Corporation (Ph.D. dissertation, North Texas State University, 1984).

  • Peoples
  • Jews
  • Business
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Tommy W. Stringer, “Zale, Morris Bernard,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

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February 1, 1996
June 10, 2016

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