Richard E. Morgan, 77: Distinguished professor served students, public

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BRUNSWICK — Richard Ernest Morgan, 77, a distinguished alumnus and faculty member of Bowdoin College, died Nov. 13.

A noted scholar of the Constitution and the Supreme Court, and a prolific writer of books and commentary, Morgan served the college for 45 years. He taught students as recently as this fall, until prevented by illness.

Morgan was born May 17, 1937, in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, the son of U.S. Air Force Col. James E. Morgan and Helen Hogg Morgan. He spent his formative years in Delaware, Virginia and Germany, and attended Hempstead High School in New York. He graduated cum laude from Bowdoin in 1959, as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

Morgan earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in public law and government at Columbia University, where he also held Woodrow Wilson and U.S. Steel fellowships. 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 U.S. Army Reserve from 1963-64.

He was later 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 martinis and crab cakes.

He went on to teach at Columbia as an instructor and an assistant professor. At the invitation of his mentor and friend, Athern Daggett, he then returned to Bowdoin in 1969 as an associate professor of government. Morgan was named the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Constitutional Law in 1975.

Among his other public service posts, Morgan in 1985 was appointed chairman of the Maine Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He also was the research director of a study by the Twentieth Century Fund to examine domestic surveillance of American citizens from 1975-1979. In April 2008, he was invited to address the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society in the Supreme Court chambers in Washington, D.C.

A registered Maine guide, Morgan was equally at home hunting grouse and woodcock or fishing upstate waters as he was engaging colleagues and students in debate over legal issues.

He is survived by his wife, Jean Yarbrough, a professor of social sciences at Bowdoin, whom he married in 1996. Also surviving are two stepsons, James Yarbrough Stern and wife, Hilary, and John Francis Sutherlin Stern and wife, Elisa; and three young grandchildren, Henry, William and Alexandra. Morgan is also survived by his first wife, Eva C. Morgan, of Freeport. In addition, he leaves behind his beloved Brittany spaniels, Topsy and Sammie, his constant companions in the mountains of Maine.

He was a member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, in Portland, where he served in the vestry.

A solemn requiem was held Thursday in the Bowdoin College Chapel. Burial followed at Pine Grove Cemetery, with a reception afterwards in the college’s Moulton Union.

Memorial contributions can be made to the American Cancer Society; the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, P.O. Box 359, Harpswell, ME 04079; or the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, 108 Maine St., Brunswick, ME 04011.

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