University of Arkansas’ First African American Professor Dies At 88

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFSM) — The first African American professor to be hired by the University of Arkansas, passed away Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019.

Gordon Morgan, hired in 1969 as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, earned promotions to associate professor, full professor and then the rank of University Professor during his more than 40 years on campus.

Morgan conducted research on the topics of race and education and was a key mentor to thousands of students.

He also helped African American students organize governing bodies for the first time and assisted in the integration of student residence halls.

"I was saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Gordon Morgan," Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said. "He was well known as one of the first African American professors at the University of Arkansas and as a sociologist who chronicled the first 40 years of campus life after desegregation began at the university in 1948, but his true legacy was his decades of nurturing, mentoring and teaching countless students. While a small thing, we are grateful that we were able to recognize him earlier this year by naming a student residence hall in his honor."

Morgan retired in 2012 but continued to teach and write.

One of his best known works is a book that he wrote with his wife, Izola Preston, titled The Edge of Campus: A Journal of the Black Experience at the University of Arkansas. The book examined the first 40 years of campus life after desegregation began at the U of A.

In 2006, Morgan received the J. William Fulbright Distinguished Alumni Award. He was also a recipient of the Silas Hunt Legacy Award, a National Endowment for the Humanities Teaching Fellowship and a Ford Foundation Fellowship.

Gordon Morgan Hall, a residence hall in the Northwest Quad, was named in his honor, along with the adjacent Margaret Clark Hall.

Gordon and Clark are the first two African American professors at the U of A.

"It's hard to sum up what Gordon means to students," Dan Ferritor, chancellor emeritus, said. "By working every day in every way to help students reach their full potential, Morgan was a rock in many students' lives. Even at 80 years of age, Morgan 'was a cool dude.'"

Gordan Morgan. (Photo Courtesy: University of Arkansas)

Morgan was from Mayflower in Faulkner County and earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College, now known as the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. After college, he enlisted in the Army and served during the Korean War.

He earned a Master of Arts in sociology from the U of A and went on to earn a doctorate at Washington State University and teach at Lincoln University before joining the U of A faculty.

He is survived by his wife, Izola Morgan; his three children, Marsha, Brian and Marian; two grandchildren; one great-grandson; and two sisters, Geraldine Smith and Bobby Dewberry (Lenard).

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 27, in Fayetteville at the Nelson Berna Funeral Home on 4520 N. Crossover Road. Interment will follow at National Cemetery in Fayetteville.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the Gordon Morgan Family Scholarship at the U of A. Those gifts can be made to the University of Arkansas Foundation and sent to:

Gordon Morgan Family Scholarship
University of Arkansas Student Affairs
325 Administration Building
Fayetteville, AR, 72701

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.