Morgan valued humor, Tlingit identity
May 10, 2018
A memorial service for Albert Morgan (Kichgaaw E'esh, Killerwhale Fin House Klukwan) will be held on June 10 in Haines. Jessie Morgan says her father, "A single dad extraordinaire," died unexpectedly of complications from the flu at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage on April 24. He was 76.
Morgan moved to Haines from Fairbanks in 1996 in part to reconnect with his Tlingit culture. His mother was from Haines, and his uncle Judson Brown was a Tlingit clan leader and among the first Native mayors in Alaska, serving two terms in Haines in the 1930s. Morgan championed Native rights, and served on the Camp Counsel of the Haines Alaska Native Brotherhood.
He was a regular at the Bamboo Room restaurant where co-owner Christy Fowler said he showcased his "wicked sense of humor," with routines such as "pretending he had a call from the President, and then carry on a whole conversation with him." She couldn't share Morgan's best "zingers" as they were "probably unprintable."
Morgan was proud to be one of 17 Alaskans and Yukoners whose DNA was linked to Kwaday Dan Ts'inchi or "Long Ago Person Found." The man's several-hundred-year-old remains were discovered on a glacier in 1999 in Tatshenshini-Alsek Park.
"He valued education, culture, and community," son J.D. Morgan said. After spending much of his life away from his roots, he was "hungry for knowledge."
He had a healthy appetite as well, fellow ANB member Lee Heinmiller said. "Albert was famous for being first in line for the food. He wasn't a big man by any means, but he could really eat."
Albert David Morgan was born Dec. 22, 1941 in Tatitlek to Minnie (Brown) Stevens and teacher David Morgan of Tenakee. The family moved to Kasaan when Morgan was four and his father died shortly afterward. Morgan told NPR's StoryCorps that he and sister were sent to boarding schools. He spoke well of his eight years at the Wrangell Institute:
"The dormitory matrons would bend common pins for us to make hooks, and then we'd use huckleberries for bait because they look like salmon eggs. They'd give us thread...make fishing line, and attach it to a stick, and fish for trout. So it was a good life."
"My father had friends from all around the state because of the school. He used to say he wouldn't have changed it for the world," his daughter said.
Morgan spent the summers of his youth working on fishing boats. He graduated from Mount Edgecumbe School in Sitka in 1960, attended the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, and studied electronics in Los Angeles. He spent the next 30 years in Fairbanks working as an electronics technician for the University of Alaska at the Geophysical Institute and in personnel, and for the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. He earned a bachelor's degree in business from UAF in 1993.
A longtime member of the NRA, he collected guns and made traditional daggers from old metal files. He read widely, raced speedboats on the Chena River, was married twice, and had seven children.
Morgan kept his three youngest children, J.D., Jessie, and James, with him after he and their mother, his third partner, split up. "We were very young at the time, but he refused to place us in foster care, boarding school, or farm us out to relatives," Jessie said.
"We all knew how much he valued us and that we were very important to him," J.D. said.
Albert Morgan leaves his sister Jeanette A. Williams of Juneau; aunts Linda Thompson of Seattle and Elsie Brown of Juneau; children David Morgan of Anchorage, Sharon A. Serrano of New Mexico, Donna Mae Morgan of North Carolina, Katherine Elaine Morgan of Fairbanks and Judson David Morgan, Jessie Alberta Morgan, and James Leonard Morgan of Haines, and six grandchildren.
Cards may be sent to the family, Jessie Morgan, 8991 Long Run Dr., Unit A, Juneau AK 99801.