The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) was not particularly welcoming to its lesbian and gay members before Thomas Morgan III was elected as the association’s president in 1989. Many doubted that they existed — sometimes openly referring to homosexuality as “a white thing” — while others adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude.
That attitude left the black gay and lesbian members of the country’s largest organization of journalists of color closeted — afraid to be outspoken, active members and unable to bring their full selves to the table.
Morgan’s election helped change that attitude. But the veteran New York Times reporter and editor did much more than pry open the closet door for lesbian and gay NABJ members during his four-year presidency. He also expanded scholarship programs and created mentor training to increase the numbers of young African-American journalists. “I was elected as a black journalist, not a gay one,” Morgan has said.
Thanks in part to Morgan’s pioneering efforts, NABJ members voted in January 2005 to create the organization’s first LGBT task force. And at its inaugural reception, the task force and NABJ members and guests paid tribute to Morgan.
A graduate of the University of Missouri in 1973, Tom began his career in journalism as a reporter at the Miami Herald following a stint as a lieutenant in the Air Force. He joined the Times in 1983. At the Times, Morgan served as a reporter, editor and business manager before he retired in 1995 in order to maintain his health as a long-term survivor of HIV disease. Several years ago, the Times created the Thomas Morgan Internships in Graphics, Design and Photography program to honor talented college juniors and seniors.
Thomas Morgan suffered a heart attack and died in December of 2007.