by Merlin Guilbeau, IOM - Executive Director & CEO
The Morris F. Weinstock Person of the Year Award is considered to be the most esteemed honor in the electronic security and life safety industry.
Awarded since 1970, the achievement recognizes outstanding volunteer leadership.
This award is a great honor to everyone who receives it, but especially to those who know the story behind it – a story that begins before ESA or even the NBFAA, and has threads connecting the award’s namesake to key points in the development of the electronic security industry.
In the early 1930s, Morris F. Weinstock worked in his father’s butcher shop in Cleveland, Ohio. According to Weinstock’s son, George, crime was becoming an issue for the family business — to the point that Morris’ father slept in the shop with a pistol in his lap.
Repeated break-ins prompted Weinstock to use the skills he acquired from technical school to design a way for the family to alert each other quickly. With no knowledge of how systems were already being installed around the country, the first alarm system Weinstock ever installed was rudimentary yet inventive.
The system consisted of a doorbell button under the butcher shop counter that rang a bell in the family home behind the store.
Soon, other merchants were calling for systems like the one he had installed. So, the Weinstock brothers obliged. Jack and Morris formed Morse Signal Devices to meet the demand for their alarm system. According to George Weinstock, the newly awakened security men accepted calls on the butcher shop’s phone and rode a bicycle to install systems around town.
In no time, the company could afford a car. Then, the brothers made a couple buyouts, leapt into direct wire monitoring — bought a bigger office and before Weinstock knew it, the small business was a well-established name in the Cleveland area.
It was around this time that he received a visit from Ben Call. The fellow businessman from Boston came to Weinstock in 1948 with an idea: a trade association for the growing alarm industry. Many installers across the nation had already rejected Call by the time he spoke with Weinstock, but Morris caught the vision and believed in the idea.
In fact, he liked it so much that he paid half of Call’s expenses to start the association.
From there, the course was set for a rapid formation of the National Burglar Alarm Association in 1948, which became the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association a year later, and is now known as the Electronic Security Association. Weinstock attended the meeting where the association was formed, and hosted the second meeting of the association, which brought displays by manufacturers for the first time.
Weinstock also served as president of the newly formed NBFAA from 1955-1956, while still helping to grow a skyrocketing family business.
In 1969, at the age of 59, the visionary died from a heart attack. His impact on the industry impressed his peers so much that upon his death, his family partnered with the NBFAA to establish an award in his honor. His sons wanted the award to recognize excellence in service to the industry, because, as George Weinstock wrote of his father, “how would the history of the alarm industry have been changed – and what would the present be like – if Morris Weinstock had not followed through with his dreams?”