Opinion: Richard Morgan at 92 – an appreciation

As the husband of Florida journalism legend Lucy Morgan, Richard remains her biggest fan and loudest cheerleader, Florence Snyder writes.

Lucy and Richard Morgan celebrate the July 31, 1976 Florida Supreme Court decision that overturned a jail sentence given to Lucy for refusing to reveal a source. 

Lucy and Richard Morgan celebrate the July 31, 1976 Florida Supreme Court decision that overturned a jail sentence given to Lucy for refusing to reveal a source.  State Archives of Florida

Richard Morgan was a galaxy-class editor at the then-St. Petersburg Times, a perfectionist with the most exacting standards of fairness and accuracy, in a time and place that was full of such men.

But he is in a class by himself, and far ahead of his time, as a husband.

In 1970s Florida, you could count on one hand the men who were happily married to a woman whose name recognition exceeded his. Over a half-century after Richard Morgan married his star reporter, they're still happily married, and Richard is still in a class by himself. 

Far from being jealous of or threatened by Lucy Morgan's Pulitzer Prize, her 4,500 Facebook friends, and all the journalism awards named in her honor, Richard remains, at age 92, her biggest fan and loudest cheerleader.

Richard led the campaign to put Lucy in the Florida Women's Hall of Fame, and God help then-Gov. Charlie Crist if she hadn't made the cut.

"I was working ten inches away from Lucy and her messy desk," said Bill Stevens, a now-retired journalist who had the good fortune to labor under Richard's red pencil at the North Suncoast Bureau of the Times.

Like so many other great editors and reporters who came through that remarkable newsroom, Stevens bears witness to Richard Morgan's "integrity and values and honesty and all the good things that go with journalism," he said.

"He was steady. Calm," even as he navigated caring for parents' with dementia, five feisty children, and the general craziness of the newspaper business back when it was more fun and more profitable than it is today.

"Richard was such a fan of Lucy's," but he had more than enough bandwidth to look after the interests of the newspaper and everyone else in the office, Stevens recalls.

"Richard was the advocate for expanding north," said Stevens, remembering the editor Morgan's commitment to serving the needs of an expanding North Suncoast population.

This was a hard sell to bean-counters in the Times' home office who rarely ventured north of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. But Richard persisted, and obtained the only vote that mattered: owner Nelson Poynter.

Like all great editors, Richard has a gift for believing in people at moments when they do not believe in themselves. There was a day, Stevens recalls, when he was missing his family in Texas and close to throwing in the towel at the Times.

"Give it a day or two," Richard told Stevens. "Things always change." Stevens stayed, and succeeded to the editor's chair on Richard's retirement.

There is no Lucy Morgan, no Lucy Morgan Press Gallery in the Florida Capitol, but for Richard Morgan's abiding love and steadfast support. Well in to Lucy and Richard's sixth decade together, that's something that never changed.

Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant and was a member of the Poynter Institute's Board of Trustees from 1990-2000.

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