When Richard Morris (8/16/43-11/21/17) died suddenly, he had begun his fifth “social justice” novel during the span of a ten-year retirement from his career in the building industry. In addition to the novels, he wrote over two hundred blog posts (www.richardmorrisauthor.wordpress.com/blog) on writing and the social justice issues which propelled his stories. At the time of his death, Morris had just completed blog posts related to the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick series on The Vietnam War in which he reviewed each episode, described how his own life fit into the narrative, and commented upon how he and the country had both been on “The Wrong Side of History.” This brought his writing full circle from when he commenced it with a funny but heartrending Cologne No. 10 for Men, which satirized the use of the body count as a means of determining whether your side is winning a war.
In hindsight it may be noted that ten times in his blog posts, Morris wrote about Agent Orange as one of the many lingering tragedies of the Vietnam war. But he never linked to his own narratives that Agent Orange was the presumptive cause of the cancer which had caused his retirement and the broken bones that led to an emergency surgery ending with complications and death. As part of his writings about war, Morris also produced a CD, Skytroopers: Songs of war, peace, and love from Vietnam (www.cdbaby.com/cd/RichardMorris) of nineteen songs he wrote while serving as a rifle platoon leader with the First Cavalry (Airmobile) Division in Vietnam.
Well Considered and Canoedling in Cleveland were novels Richard Morris wrote which had themes of racial and environmental justice woven into historical thriller and adventure plots. Masjid Morning incorporated Morris’s many years of construction, codes, and zoning experience into an interfaith romance which explores the emotional struggles between religions. Morris’s novels may be found at online bookstores.
Richard Morris was born in Pittsburgh. His mother was a school teacher and homemaker, and his father, a chemical engineer and raw materials sales manager for a steel company. He always loved canoeing. In high school and college, he canoed on Lake Temagami and in Algonquin Park in Ontario, on Rocky River, Lake Erie, and the lower Cuyahoga in Cleveland, and later, on the Youghiogheny River, Deep Creek Lake, Casselman River, and Antietam Creek in Maryland, and the Potomac River in West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
He attended K-12 in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, graduating in 1961. In high school, he worked two summers at West Side Community House near W. 25th Street, and while attending Haverford College (Sociology, 1965), he worked for three summers at a mental hospital.
While attending graduate school in medical sociology at Western Reserve University in 1965-66, he became Carl Stokes’ driver in his first mayoral campaign and further explored the east-west divide in Cleveland.
Morris was always interested in race relations. When editor of his high school newspaper, he asked a realtor why there were no Negroes living in town, and fifty years later, he developed his inquiry into his young adult novel, Canoedling in Cleveland, which also built on his many canoeing adventures.
In 1967-1968, he served as a second lieutenant rifle platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam, earning a bronze star, air medal, and combat infantryman badge. This experience provided a platform for his first novel, the war satire, Cologne No. 10 For Men (iUniverse 2007). Morris wrote twenty-five songs in Vietnam (lyrics at www.vietwarsongs.com), and in 2007, recorded “Skytroopers – songs of war, peace and love from Vietnam,” (www.cdbaby.com/cd/RichardMorris).
After returning from the war, he earned an MBA from Harvard (1971), and worked in various areas of the housing industry, designing and building custom homes, doing research, and writing three books and numerous magazine and newspaper articles on topics related to building codes: energy conservation, frost-protected shallow foundation design and construction (www.toolbase.org/PDF/FieldEvaluations/NAHB_fpsf.pdf and http://www.toolbase.org/PDF/DesignGuides/revisedFPSFguide.pdf), lead paint and remodeling, and universal design (www.hcd.ca.gov/codes/shl/pa036401_attach_1d.pdf).
During this time, while living in Bowie, Maryland, he became interested in Maryland history. He was researching Don Speed Smith Goodloe, first principal of what is now Bowie State University, when he learned that there were lynchings in the area as late as 1906. Further research led him to the plot of his second novel, Well Considered (iUniverse 2010), a thriller in which the protagonist, Ron Watkins, looks into the 1907 mob murder of his great-grandfather on a Maryland tobacco plantation.
See “Considering the Written Word” – Interview by Sarah Nemeth – 3-11-2011
Gloria Minott interview – WPFW 89.3 FM – 2-24-11
Contact Barbara Morris