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Former Missourinet Reporter Pens Pulitzer Bio

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Morris

     Former Missourinet reporter James Morris has been working for six years on a ground-breaking biography of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is preparing to hit the road for HarperCollins to promote the new book, PULITZER, A LIFE IN POLITICS, PRINT, AND POWER. 

     James returned toJefferson City to mine the Missouri State Archives for previusly-unharvested material about Pulitzer’s legislative career as a reformer from St. Louis who, in one infamous episode, almost killed a lobbyist in a barroom fight. He also uncovered in Paris previously-unknown material from Pulitzer’s brother and wife that offer new context to Pulitzer’s life.

      Most of today’s generation knows Joseph Pulitzer because of the prizes carrying his name.  But Pulitzer’s career as a crusading state lawmaker and owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before he went to New York to revive the New York World and, as HarperCollins says, "ushered in the modern mass media."  

     Some of us used to call him  the author "James."  Others called him "Jamie."  The book says "James McGrath Morris."    His middle name wasn’t always "McGrath."  He changed it when he married Patty McGrath. 

We hired James from KRQE in Albuquerque.  He arrived in steamy Jefferson City in August and rented an apartment just a couple of blocks from our then-downtown office.  Until he adapted to the considerably less arid climate of Jefferson City, he’d show up in the mornings drenched in sweat.

     He was an excellent reporter who was (as all good reporters should be) terminally curious about things.  On his days off, he’d jump in his car and head off to who knows where and stop along the way in small town stores just to chat and enjoy the company of rural Missourians.  James, you see, had grown up as the son of a diplomat, had spent much of his time in Washington or other cosmopolitan places both foreign and domestic. In fact, he was fluent in Serbo-Coratian, a talent he seldom had to use in talking to Missouri legislators or country store patrons. 

      He loved coming out to the softball fields in the summer to watch softball games although he knew little about sports (he once did a sportscast on a football Saturday during which he thought RG, HB, and DT were player’s initials, not their positions).  It was the joy of the fellowship at the events that gave him so much pleasure.  

     When then-Governor Bond made his first overseas trade trip, we sent James with him so he could phone back reports in those pre-internet days when delivering stories from all points of the globe was more complicated and difficult than it is today.  We kept some of his reports in our sound archives and a few years ago when James passed through Jefferson City we dug one of them out and told his son that there was a theory that all broadcasts ever done were still traveling through space but we had found the technology to reach out there and bring one back.  Then we played one of the reports from Tokyo.  The boy was amazed. 

     James was our Washington correspondent for a few years before he and Patty moved to upper New York, where he published a book about the wine country.  Later he owned Seven Locks Press back in Washington before he became a teacher in Virginia and got into more serious writing.

     Now he and Patty live in a lovely hacienda in the mountains above Santa Fe, NM where they are gracious hosts to guests and visiting authors. 

     It’s always a great relief to finally hold a book in your hands that you have labored over for years. Some might think it would be an exciting thing.  But those of us who know what it is like to invest months and years in writing a book and seeing it published know the main feeling once the first copy is in your hands is relief. 

      James got his first copy of the bookstore version of PULITZER yesterday and is obviously relieved, as you can tell in the picture taken in the dining room of Hacienda Morris. Rest up, James.  The road trip starts soon.  We’ll see you at Downtown Book and Toy in Jefferson City in March.

Bob Priddy, News Director

The Missourinet

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Written by learfield

January 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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