Our year of sadness at Press Pros continues, as we say goodbye to an iconic figure in area journalism…our colleague, and a friend to everyone who ever baited a hook. Jim Morris has passed, at 73.
This is has been a very painful year at Press Pros. Painful for the fact of having lost our friend and colleague, Stan Wilker, back in June…and this week our long-time outdoor columnist and friend to every fisherman within the reach of the internet, Jim Morris.
Jim was 73, and his passing was not unexpected. He had been in poor health for years, had licked at least one bout with cancer, and yet he persisted faithfully to grace the pages of Press Pros each month with his columns on trapshooting, fishing, boat shows…and the inevitable ‘check list’ of getting your gear in order before another outdoor season.
He is survived by his wife, Pat, and family…as well as a host of thousands who eagerly awaited his yearly fishing reports on Press Pros. And let me say, here and now, that we’re blessed on this site to have had some of the best writers in the history of journalism – Hal McCoy, Greg Hoard, Chick Ludwig, and for a time, Bruce Hooley. But none of them – none of them – was a widely read as Jim Morris…because people LOVE to fish. And when Jim wrote about where to go, what to use, and how big the crappies were in Lake Loramie, people read it and shared it with everyone they knew. His word was the gospel.
His friends called him “Mo”, and I’ll remember him for asking me about who else was writing for this website when I recruited him in August of 2010. “What’s your plan?” he asked, cocking one eye and giving me his typical quizzical look.
“So far, Hal McCoy and Chick Ludwig, and I think Hooley will come aboard,” I answered, knowing that Morris had always held those three in particularly high esteem. “Good,” he said. “Count me in. You’re doing things the right way.”
And indeed, Jim Morris did it the ‘right way’ for all those years at the Troy Daily News, and later the Dayton Daily News. He could fill just about every seat and was capable of writing eloquently about a wide range of topics. He not only knew the outdoors, but he could wax eloquent on Troy Trojan football, as well, and did for years as the community’s sports editor at TDN.
But he loved fishing – loved writing about fishing. And as importantly, Jim could rub elbows just as easily with the world best shooters at the Grand American, in Vandalia, or with a member of the Dallas Safari Club. He could do all of this because…he appreciated conservation, first and foremost. Never take more than you should, was his mantra.
He fished, but he was staunch in his view of catch and release if you weren’t hungry enough to eat what you caught. And he rarely ate fish. But when he wrote about fishing…he made a day on the lake sound like the best experience anyone could possibly have, regardless of age.
“I’ve enjoyed reading his columns for years,” says Missouri writer Tom Cappell, who has shared his own outdoors columns with Press Pros for several years. “Like few others I’ve read, Jim Morris could make a bluegill sound relevant, and a boat show sound like a Broadway opening. He’s a throwback to the days when outdoors writers pandered to the bait bucket fisherman. He was direct, simple, and highly informative.”
And, he was intensely loyal to colleagues far and wide. Jim was a graduate of the Ohio University School of Journalism in 1967, and regularly gathered OU alumni together because loyalty to school and friends mattered that much to him.
His perspective on journalism was always appreciated – as much as the bluegills and crappies he wrote about. Jim came from the age of character with one’s craft, and he never left his readers disappointed because he knew how much his words meant to them. And personally, I’ve never been sadder because I know that Jim’s absence from our staff will be hard to fill.
His absence from our hearts and lives will NEVER be filled. I know…he’s fishing better waters now!