Bowdoin College will honor the late Richard E. Morgan ’59, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Constitutional Law, with an annual academic award presented in his name to the student or students who have demonstrated excellence in the study of constitutional law.
Morgan, an esteemed and active member of the faculty for 45 years, died in November 2014 at the age of 77. The focus of his academic research included the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
“While I did not have the privilege of knowing Professor Morgan, his national reputation as a scholar of the institutions and principles central to American government and society make it wholly appropriate that we honor him and his lifelong accomplishments with this annual award,” said Bowdoin President Clayton Rose.
The inaugural presentation of the Richard E. Morgan ’59 Award will take place at the culmination of the 2015-2016 academic year, during Bowdoin’s Honors Day ceremony.
“With wit and insight, Richard led generations of Bowdoin students through the labyrinth of Supreme Court decisions and prepared many of them for distinguished legal careers,” said Morgan’s wife, Jean Yarbrough, Bowdoin’s Gary M. Pendy Professor of Social Sciences. “I am delighted that the College has chosen to honor his memory with this award.”
A native of Philipsburg, Penn., Morgan was a member of the Bowdoin Class of 1959. As a senior at Bowdoin, he received the Sewall Greek Prize and the Senior American History Prize, and was presented with the Pershing-Presnell Sword as the cadet colonel and commander of the Bowdoin ROTC unit. He graduated cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1959.
Morgan 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 he 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 returned to Columbia to complete a Ph.D. in 1967, followed by two years as fellow in law and government at Harvard Law School.
Morgan 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. He joined the faculty at Bowdoin in 1969 as an associate professor of government, and he was named William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Constitutional Law in 1975, succeeding his mentor and friend Athern Daggett in that post. He served three terms as chair of the government department (1969-75, 1983-85, and 1992-94), and he was, for a number of years, secretary-treasurer of Bowdoin’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter.
A prolific writer of books, articles, and commentary, Morgan 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 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 Chris also co-edited Focus on Police in 1976.
Morgan wrote articles for The New Leader, The Political Science Quarterly, Commentary, and the Claremont Review of Books, and for many years he was a contributing editor to City Journal.
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. From 1975-79, he was the research director of a study by the Twentieth Century Fund to examine spying by the CIA and FBI on American citizens. In 2008 he was invited to address the Supreme Court Historical Society in the U.S. Supreme Court chambers in Washington, D.C., followed by a dinner at the White House.