RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Richard Morgan, the North Carolina Republican who forged a power-sharing arrangement in a deadlocked state House 15 years ago that made him the co-speaker but ultimately led to a destructive electoral battle within the GOP, has died at age 66.
Morgan died Wednesday at Duke University Medical Center, according to Randy Hussey with Kennedy Funeral Home in Robbins, which is handling his services. Hussey said late Thursday he had no information about Morgan’s cause of death.
In 2003, the Moore County insurance company owner brokered a first-of-its-kind deal in the state with Democrats to share speakership duties with Jim Black when the chamber was split equally between 60 Democrats and 60 Republicans. The co-speakership lasted two years, and Morgan lost his House seat in 2006 in a Republican primary as GOP factions fought over his decision and those of his allies to work with Democrats. A chief GOP foe of Morgan’s was Art Pope, a former legislator and prolific donor to conservative causes.
The split led to the defeat of several House Republican incumbents, helping Democrats to take back the House in 2007.
In a 2008 interview with The Associated Press, Morgan defended the power-sharing agreement, finalized after a weeklong impasse.
“I got the best deal that could have been gotten for Republicans,” Morgan said. “There wouldn’t have been Republican (chairmanships) and responsibility, I don’t believe. There wouldn’t have been a Republican holding the gavel.”
Current GOP House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County, who was in his first term in the legislature in 2003 when he voted for the Black-Morgan co-speakership, said late Thursday that Morgan “made a difference” in the House and for the entire state.
“I found him to be a man of strong conviction and strong will,” Moore said in a brief interview.
Black ultimately went to federal prison in 2007, and also accepted punishment in state court for bribing Republican House member Michael Decker to switch to the Democrats in exchange for supporting him for speaker in 2003.
Morgan originally joined the House in 1991 and four years later became the powerful rules committee chairman when Republicans took over the House for the first time in 100 years.
Morgan worked in GOP Gov. Jim Holshouser’s administration in the mid-1970s. Morgan ran campaigns while learning age from the powerful Congressional Club, the organization of then-U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. It was an unusual connection for Morgan, who was considered a moderate Republican.
He unsuccessfully ran for state superintendent of public instruction in 2008 and for state insurance commissioner in 2012.
Morgan’s funeral will be 3 p.m. Sunday at Faith Baptist Church in West End, with visitation Saturday evening at the funeral home.
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Photo credit/Richard Morgan’s Facebook page.