John G. Morris, Renowned Photo Editor in the Thick of History, Dies at 100

At Magnum he offered assignments to the great war photographer and photo essayist W. Eugene Smith after Mr. Smith had had a falling-out with Life.

While working for The Times during the Vietnam War, he successfully argued for front-page display of Eddie Adams’s photograph of a Saigon police chief shooting a suspected Vietcong insurgent in the head. It appeared as the lead picture on Feb. 2, 1968, and became one of the most indelible images to emerge from the war.

So did a photo of a naked Vietnamese girl running from a napalm bombing raid. (The photograph was credited to Nick Ut, whose given name was later revealed to be Huynh Cong Ut.) Mr. Morris persuaded editors to run that photo at the bottom of the front page despite a Times policy against nudity. Both that photograph and the one by Mr. Adams won Pulitzer Prizes.

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John G. Morris

CreditLibrado Romero

Mr. Morris was himself an eyewitness to history: In the early morning of June 5, 1968, he witnessed the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. “The most terrible event I think I ever witnessed up close,’’ he said in an interview.

It turned him — for a day, at least — into a reporter (he seldom carried a camera himself): His eyewitness account appeared on the front page of the next day’s Times, under his byline.


Mr. Morris wrote a firsthand account of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy for The New York Times in 1968. It ran on the front page under the headline “Kennedy Claims Victory, And Then Shots Ring Out.”

“For five minutes, the throng in the Embassy Room was thrown into a state of panic,” Mr. Morris reported. “The cries of admiration changed to hysterical screams as the shots — muffled by the crowd noise — penetrated the consciousness of the bystanders.”

John Godfrey Morris was born in Maple Shade, N.J., on Dec. 7, 1916, and grew up in Chicago. He became passionate about journalism as a student at the University of Chicago in the 1930s, going to work for the campus newspaper and founding a student magazine called Pulse, loosely modeled on Life.

After graduation he came to New York and, in 1938, found a job at Life as a clerk. He worked his way up to Hollywood correspondent and, with the outbreak of World War II, London picture editor, in charge of…

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