November 17, 2008: Jim Morrison’s Father Dies








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Steve Morrison and Family

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.

Anne and Jim Morrison, Undated
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
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.

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6 Comments on "November 17, 2008: Jim Morrison’s Father Dies"

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Shelley
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Steve not having supported Jim left a mark..I think the old man realised this after Jim had died..Maybe they’ve made up ..’Somewhere in the heavenly brilliance..’

jymwrites
Guest
Hi Shelley! You’re probably right. Parents may disagree or disapprove of the choices their children make in life, and it may have taken Admiral Morrison a while and distance to see what Jim had accomplished but I think he may have come to appreciate it. There is some anecdotal evidence that Jim may have been interested in closing the rift between him and his family. In Paris, its been reported that Jim was telling family stories and had a fond and affectionate memory of them, maybe if Jim had left he would have reestablished the link. ???? Thank you for… Read more »
Lucille Bonamo Landry
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Lucille Bonamo Landry
Lucille (a 4ever fan!) I, like so many others, have loved Jim and the Doors since my youth, around 13 and I’m 50 now. In the beginning, it was primarily loving the talented Doors band, the music and a fondness for the beauty of Jim and the poetry, of course, in a fun spirit of teenage rebellion. Jim sure gave us his all! So ahead of his time, an original and what seemed to be an extremely sensitive, charming & loving man. Sure, he made mistakes and was human but what he left to us, his heart and soul will… Read more »
Lucille
Guest

Thank you Jim Cherry! I’ve read your book and it was insightful and respectful! I always see you on different videos, comments, etc. I think you have a great knowledge and convey it well on all things relating to the Doors and Jim, especially!

Keep up the great work and thankful you responded so quickly, I feel lucky to be a part of the “Doors” community!

Lucille

P.S.- I didn’t know the Doors sang a song with my name in it until my husband surprised me with it! Who knew I could love them any more! Lol!

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[…] and rock and roll history. But most aren’t aware of the extent of Morrison Sr.’s involvement. George Stephen Morrison was not only in command of the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) at the Gulf of Tonkin, he was in […]

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