San Diego has lost its premier chronicler, a red-haired transplant who came here as a young sailor in the 1940s and became the most respected journalist in the city he called a “stumblebum with character.”
Through his long career, Neil Morgan tried to figure out what it meant to be a Westerner, a Californian, a San Diegan. He sought to understand what makes us different and why so many Americans are drawn to the Golden State, a place filled with flim and flam, opportunity and ruin, beauty and disaster.
Toward the end of his life, Morgan boldly took aim at the city establishment he’d so eagerly joined. After being sacked by the local paper after a 54-year career, he helped create a small but mighty news organization — this one — designed to shine a light on the city’s darkest corners and help San Diego become a better place.
Morgan died Feb. 1 at his La Jolla home at the age of 89.
Judith Morgan, his wife, said there will not be a service, at his insistence.
“He felt that this city and region had honored him abundantly over so many years. He loved San Diego and San Diegans very much — even when nagging us to do better, fly straighter, rise higher,” Judith Morgan said in an email to our staff.
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We lost one of the greatest journalists yesterday. My wife, Laura Preble, worked as a reporter at the Evening Tribune when she first moved to San Diego, and Neil was her boss. His passion for good journalism was infectious, and led the Evening Tribune to be a great paper. When it was merged with the San Diego Union, to create what is now called U.T. San Diego, Neil eventually was given less responsibility, and the paper correspondingly got worse. I can't even read it, anymore. (That's partly because of it's extreme editorial viewpoints, but also because of the incredible number of typos; that's what happens when you get rid of most of the editors.) I'm so glad he co-founded VOSD, because this is the only place that I can now turn to for good local news coverage. Thank you, Neil Morgan.
Graceful. I called him up one day to ask if he would be a luncheon panelist along with Reo Carr and Dean Calbreath, discussing San Diego's future to an organization of marketing and BD people...though we didn't know each other, he said yes right away. No wheedling or begging needed. A few weeks later, San Diego suffered through the fires that ravaged East County. He wrote a column about it and that's how I knew his and Judith's place in the Cuyamaca mountains had burned. I called him to say that under the circumstances we would understand if he was not able to make the luncheon. He said "Nonsense. Can't do anything about the fire now, but I might be able to educate a few people." He came to the event, which sold out, and told stories about San Diego, implored us to make it a better place and to keep a watchful eye on the politicians.Charmed us with his grace and humor--and you could see a bit of the pugilist in him too.But graceful and charming. I still have his signed column from that day's edition, a treasure. Bon Voyage, Mr. Morgan.
He was an honorable man in a profession that tests one's honor almost daily. To call him a liberal only makes sense in San Diego and No. Carolina; during his tenure as editor of The Trib the Copleys had already done some dental work that dulled its bite, and the task was completed when the Union was made to absorb the Trib. But he was clean, and wrote carefully and well. RIP