The Bowdoin Orient

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College mourns loss of beloved government professor Richard Morgan '59

Richard Morgan ’59, one of the College’s longest-serving and most beloved professors, died last night at the age of 77. Morgan, part of the faculty for 45 years, was married to Gary M. Pendy Sr. Professor of Social Sciences Jean Yarbrough.

Morgan not only occupied a distinguished position among the faculty, but he also inhabited the office at the pinnacle of Hubbard Hall’s gothic tower, a testament to his stature at the College and a cherished spot for students who attended his weekly office hours.

A man revered in the fields of constitutional and international law, Morgan started teaching at Bowdoin in 1969, 10 years after graduating from Bowdoin and subsequent to receiving an M.A. and Ph.D. in the Department of Public Law and Government at Columbia University and serving as a fellow in law and government at Harvard Law School.

“I would have had a lot of fun as a lawyer, but I wouldn’t have been able to spend my time on precisely those legal problems that interest me most,” Morgan said in a 2005 interview with the Orient. “In academic life, you trade income for freedom to concentrate on the things that really interest you.”

Morgan has written a number of books, among them “The Supreme Court and Religion,” “Domestic Intelligence: Monitoring Dissent in America” and “The Law and Politics of Civil Rights and Liberties.”

In addition to his significant academic credentials, Morgan was a first lieutenant in the Army Reserves from 1963-1964. He was also a registered Maine Guide who loved fishing on the Kennebec River near Jackman, Maine.

Morgan, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Constitutional Law, was teaching his Constitutional Law I course until October 16. Free speech cases were Morgan’s favorites to teach.

“Free speech problems tend to give us pure issues of democratic theory. If you think seriously about liberty, there is a fundamental contradiction at the base of the idea,” he told the Orient in 2005.

On a campus made up of predominantly liberal students, Morgan was often referred to as “the conservative professor.” When the Orient asked Morgan about this reputation in 2005, he responded in a typical cheeky manner.

“Yeah, I’m a right wing ideologue,” he said.

In addition to his wife, Morgan is survived by two stepsons, James Yarbrough Stern (Hilary) and John Francis Sutherlin Stern (Elisa), by three grandchildren, Henry, William, and Alexandra, and by his first wife, Eva Morgan of Brunswick.

The College is planning a service in the Bowdoin Chapel on Thursday, November 20th, at 11:00 a.m.

The Orient will run a full obituary of Professor Richard Morgan in its November 21 issue.

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