In Memory

In Memory: Maj. Gen. James M. Morgan Jr. ’45

Gen. Morgan with serious expression.

Maj. Gen. James M. Morgan Jr. ’45 died Jan. 2, 2021.

Maj. Gen. James M. Morgan Jr. ’45, longtime professor and dean of the faculty, died Jan. 2, 2021. He was 97.

Born Aug. 11, 1923, in Richmond, Virginia, Morgan matriculated at VMI in 1941 after graduating from Richmond’s renowned Catholic military school, Benedictine High School. After joining the Enlisted Reserve Corps in 1943, he returned to VMI in 1944 and graduated in 1946 with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. As a cadet, Morgan demonstrated the promise that he realized during his years of service to VMI. He was a cadet captain, a member of the Honor Court, class historian, and the recipient of the First Jackson-Hope Medal and the Society of Cincinnati Medal.

In September 1946, Morgan accepted the position of instructor in the Department of Civil Engineering, beginning a career of teaching and administration at VMI that spanned 38 years. Ten years later, he was promoted to colonel, a professor of civil engineering, and department head. In 1965, Morgan became the dean of the faculty, retiring from that position in 1984. During his tenure at VMI, he also served as the assistant commandant of cadets and the superintendent’s representative to the Honor Court.

Morgan also was a citizen-soldier in the best VMI tradition, serving in the U.S. Army Reserve for 35 years. When he retired in 1981, he was the Army sanitary engineer serving in the Office of the Surgeon General at the Pentagon. Among the many awards that he received for his service were the Legion of Merit and two awards of the Army Meritorious Service Medal.

After his retirement from VMI, he was a partner in two environmental engineering consulting firms for 15 years before he fully retired. The holder of a Master of Science degree in sanitary engineering and a Ph.D. in water resources engineering, both from Johns Hopkins University, Morgan was a registered professional engineer and served in leadership positions with the Virginia Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Lynchburg Chapter of the Virginia Society of Professional Engineers. He was a member of the Tau Beta Pi and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies and the fraternity the Kappa Alpha Order. Among his many civic activities, he served as a member of the board of trustees of the VMI Foundation, Inc. from 1957-65, as a member of the Stonewall Jackson Hospital board of directors from 1963-68, as a board member of four Lexington banks for more than 25 years, and as an historian and member of the parish council at St. Patrick Catholic Church. He was a member of the Virginia State Board of Health from 1977-84 and was the first engineer to serve as the board’s chairman.

Morgan published many scholarly and professional articles. He also was the author of The Jackson-Hope and Society of Cincinnati Medals of the Virginia Military Institute and co-author of Keydet Grey and Garry Owen: The Horse at VMI. The inspiration to write the book on horses at VMI—“one of the more colorful eras in the Institute’s history,” as he described it—came from the fact that he was “a cadet who spent many a happy hour on horseback.” His deep knowledge of the Institute’s history, sense of humor, and engaging style made him a popular speaker at VMI-related events.

The Institute honored Morgan for his decades of devoted service and intense dedication to VMI in 2007 when it dedicated a thoroughly renovated laboratory for civil and environmental engineering as Morgan Hall and also in 2020 when it named one of the Peay Academic Chairs of Excellence after him. They were well-earned honors, as Morgan exemplified what VMI strives to produce: Graduates who are leaders in their chosen professions but also dedicated to serving their country and their fellow citizens and advancing the welfare of VMI.

Morgan is survived by his daughter, Mary James Fulton; sons, Dr. James Stuart Morgan and James M. Morgan III ’84; and grandsons, James M. Morgan IV and William Lyons Morgan. His wife, Jean Aldhizer Morgan, predeceased him in 2016.

  • Scott Belliveau

    Scott Belliveau '83 Communications Officer - Executive Projects

    The communications officer supports the strategy for all communications, including web content, public relations messages and collateral pieces in order to articulate and promote the mission of the VMI Alumni Agencies and promote philanthropy among varied constituencies.