Richard E. Morgan

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  • "Thank you for your service."
  • "Dick and I spent 3 years together at Beta Sigma. We both..."
    - Frederic Johnson
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Richard Ernest Morgan, 77
HARPSWELL - Richard E. Morgan, Bowdoin Class of 1959, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Constitutional Law, died on November 13 at the age of 77. At the time of his death he was an esteemed and active member of the faculty for 45 years, and had been teaching Constitutional Law this Fall until illness forced him to stop at the end of Fall break. Professor Morgan was married to Jean Yarbrough, Bowdoin's Gary M. Pendy, Sr. Professor of Social Sciences, also in the Department of Government and Legal Studies.
A noted scholar of the Constitution, the First Amendment, and the Supreme Court, Professor Morgan was known on campus as a generous colleague and a dedicated teacher who valued the quality of an intellectual argument, regardless of the political perspective from which it arose. When describing him, Bowdoin faculty and former students invariably pointed to his gentlemanly demeanor, his wry sense of humor, the clarity of his reasoning, and the precision and accessibility of his writings. An 'old school' professor, he did not use voice-mail or e-mail; students could write him a note, talk to him after class, or climb to the top of the Hubbard Hall tower to see him during office hours.
He enjoyed confounding expectations and preconceptions. The distinguished professor of constitutional law was also a Registered Maine Guide, equally at home hunting grouse and woodcock or fishing the waters between The Forks and Jackman as he was engaging colleagues and students in debates over fundamental issues of law. Although he would describe himself as conservative in his personal political views, there was no political orthodoxy imposed on the students in his classes. In public presentations outside the classroom, however, he delighted in ribbing his liberal friends, insisting that conservatives had more fun! He practiced what he preached, and lived life everyday to the fullest, especially during the cocktail hour when he relaxed with one or another of his favorite single malt whiskies. In the classroom as well as in his writings, he displayed a nuanced perspective that came from a deep understanding of history, legal precedents, and possible 'real-world' consequences of judicial decisions. In a world of 30-second news stories and sound bites, Dick's scholarly work is a powerful reminder for us to take the time to develop carefully-crafted arguments and to appreciate the well-thought-out arguments of others.
Richard Ernest Morgan was born on May 17, 1937, in Philipsburg, Penn., the son of Col. James E. and Helen Hogg Morgan. An Air Force 'brat,' he spent his formative years in Delaware and Virginia. He attended eighth grade at the American School in Weisbaden, Germany, where his father was stationed. Returning to America, the family moved to Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island. Dick was a graduate of Hempstead High School in New York, and matriculated at Bowdoin in the Fall of 1955 with three other high school classmates. As a senior at Bowdoin, he received the Sewall Greek Prize and the Senior American History Prize, and he was presented with the Pershing-Presnell Sword as the cadet colonel and commander of the Bowdoin ROTC unit. He was a member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity. He graduated cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1959.
He held Woodrow Wilson and U.S. Steel Fellowships in American Government while earning his M.A. (1961) and Ph.D. (1967) in the Department of Public Law and Government at Columbia University. He was offered a Brookings Institution Research Fellowship in 1962, but declined it to complete his military service; he served on active duty as a first lieutenant in the Army Reserve in 1963-64. He then
Richard E. Morgan
returned to Columbia to complete a Ph.D. in 1967. He was then named a Fellow in Law and Government at Harvard Law School, which sparked his lifelong interest in constitutional law. He was for many years a member of the Harvard Club of New York, where he enjoyed their excellent martinis and crab cakes.
He taught at Columbia as an instructor of government in 1962-63 and from 1965 to 1967, and as an assistant professor from 1968 to 1969. At the invitation of his mentor and friend, Athern Daggett, he returned to Bowdoin in 1969 as an associate professor of government, and was named William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Constitutional Law in 1975, succeeding Professor Daggett in that post. He served three terms as chair of the Government Department (1969-75, 1983-85, and 1992-94) and for a number of years was secretary-treasurer of the College's Phi Beta Kappa chapter.
A prolific writer of books, articles, and commentary, he was the author of The Politics of Religious Conflict (1968), The Supreme Court and Religion (1972), Domestic Intelligence: Monitoring Dissent in America (1980), Disabling America: The 'Rights Industry' in Our Time (1984), and The Law and Politics of Civil Rights and Liberties (1985). He co-authored two books with Christian P. Potholm and the late John Donovan: American Politics: Direction of Change, Dynamics of Choice in 1979 and People, Power and Politics in 1980. He and Professor Potholm also co-edited Focus on Police in 1976. Dick wrote articles for The New Leader, The Political Science Quarterly, Commentary, and for many years was a contributing editor to City Journal. In recent years, he published numerous review essays in the Claremont Review of Books.
In 1985 he was appointed to a two-year term as chair of the Maine Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, among other public service posts. He was the research director of a study by the Twentieth Century Fund to examine CIA and FBI spying of American citizens from 1975-1979. In April 2008 he was invited to address the Supreme Court Historical Society in the Supreme Court chambers in Washington, D.C. When asked for his response to this invitation, he replied, 'If I can say something that will raise some eyebrows, I will consider that my time has been well spent.' He was introduced by Chief Justice John Roberts, whose eyebrows were certainly raised as he noted that Dick's most recent work centered on Resisting Judicial Tyranny.
In addition to his wife, Jean, whom he married in 1996, he is survived by two stepsons, James Yarbrough Stern (Hilary) and John Francis Sutherlin Stern (Elisa), and three adored grandchildren Henry (7), William (5), and Alexandra (2 months). He leaves behind his beloved Britany spaniels, Topsy and Sammie, his constant companions in the mountains of Maine and the woods of Otterbrook. He is also survived by his first wife, Eva C. Morgan of Freeport.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Brackett Funeral Home, Brunswick, Maine. There are no calling hours. He was a member of St. Paul's Anglican Church, Portland, where he served in the vestry. There will be a solemn requiem in the Bowdoin College Chapel on Thursday, November 20, at 11 am. Burial will follow immediately at Pine Grove Cemetery, with a reception afterwards in the Main Lounge of the Moulton Union, Bowdoin College. For those unable to attend, memories and condolences can be expressed at
Memorial contributions
can be made to:
The Harpswell Heritage Land Trust P.O. Box 359
Harpswell, ME 04079 or:
The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust
108 Maine St.
Brunswick, Maine 04011

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Funeral Home
Brackett Funeral Home
29 Federal St
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 725-5511
Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Nov. 18, 2014
bullet Civil Rights
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