On November 17, 2008, United States Navy Rear Admiral George Stephen “Steve” Morrison died at age 89. He was the father of The Doors’ lead singer Jim Morrison. Steve Morrison may be one of the most reviled men in rock ‘n’ roll history. He was accused of sodomy by a woman who wrote a book about her affair with Jim Morrison. However, she may be more fantasist than memoirist. The Morrisons, junior and senior, were estranged during Jim’s musical career and fans comment on and judge both without knowing either. There is anecdotal evidence that in his last days, Jim talked fondly of his family and father and may have even been contemplating a rapprochement, but the truth of any family lies within it.
Steve Morrison was born in Rome, Georgia on January 7, 1919. Morrison entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1938, graduating in the spring of 1941. He was assigned to the minelayer Pruitt at Pearl Harbor and witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Morrison met Clara Clarke in Hawaii in 1941 on a blind date. They were married in April of 1942. After the attack on Pearl Harbor Morrison applied for flight training and was transferred to Pensacola, Florida where on December 8, 1943 their first son, James Douglas Morrison, was born. The Morrisons had two other children, Anne and Andy Morrison. After graduating flight school in 1944 Morrison was stationed in the South Pacific for the duration of the war, while Clara and son Jim lived with Morrison’s parents in Florida.
L-R: Anne Morrison, Jim Morrison, Anne’s son Dylan(?), Pamela Courson, date unknown
After the war Morrison was assigned to secret nuclear weapons projects in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was while the Morrison family was moving to New Mexico that they supposedly witnessed the aftermath of a car crash in which a truckload of Indian workers were hurt. This incident greatly affected the young Jim Morrison (approximately four years old). Jim later related that he had the sensation of the souls of one or two of the Indians having jumped into his soul. He became distraught and his mother calmed him by telling him it was all a dream, probably cementing the incident in young Jim’s mind. After Jim’s death the family was asked about the incident and they didn’t give it much credence, chalking it up to Jim’s active imagination. In the “Indian and the Coyote” Jim mentioned the incident stuck with him because he realized his parents didn’t know what was happening any more than he did and it was the first time “I tasted fear.”
The Morrison family moved frequently as Steve Morrison’s career advanced. During the Korean War, Morrison was assigned to Seoul, Korea and took part in actions against the North Koreans and Chinese earning him a Bronze Star. In 1958 Morrison was promoted to Captain and assigned to the Pentagon. It was in Alexandria that Jim Morrison’s reading intensified and he would often steal away to the Library of Congress to find and read arcane books, as well as sneaking off to the blues bars outside of town. In 1963 Morrison was given command of the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard. During this command a teenaged Jim Morrison visited his father on the ship and was struck by how his father had absolute command, giving the order for the ship to leave the harbor with a barely perceptible nod. In stark contrast at home his mother was in charge and the Captain took orders from her.
Jim and Steve Morrison on the Bon Homme Richard
After Jim attended the UCLA film school and graduated, he along with fellow student Ray Manzarek started The Doors. Jim wrote home to his parents and telling them of his plans to be a singer. His father replied that he thought it was a “crock” and that Jim was wasting his time. Jim never spoke to his parents again.
As Jim Morrison was graduating from UCLA and living on the rooftop, writing the first songs/poems that would become the basis of The Doors, Steve Morrison was at the Gulf of Tonkin Incident that escalated the Vietnam War. In 1966 Morrison was promoted to Rear Admiral at age 46. In his later career Morrison was named Commander Naval Forces Marianas and was in charge of relief efforts for Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon. Morrison retired from active service in 1975.
Admiral Morrison was the keynote speaker at the decommissioning ceremony of the Bon Homme Richard on July 3, 1971, the same day his son, Jim Morrison, died in Paris.
Originally published November 17, 2012 and appears in The Doors Examined.