Morgan Memoir Recalls Path to Power
In a just-released memoir, Richard Morgan admits that the way he became the most powerful Republican in the state still bothers him.
Morgan was elected co-speaker of the state House of Representatives in 2003 when he cut a power-sharing deal with Democrat Jim Black. A fellow Republican representative, Michael Decker, later admitted to taking a bribe from Black to switch parties, which made the deal possible.
"My sin wasn't that I agreed to share power with Jim," Morgan writes in his memoir, provocatively titled, "The Fourth Witch: A Memoir of Politics and Sinning."
"It was in my not looking him in the eye, later, and saying, I can read a newspaper report. Is it true you bribed Mike Decker?"
The title of the 195-page book is a reference to a King Arthur story where a witch tempts Sir Lancelot with power.
Morgan said in a telephone interview Friday that he wanted to write the book for several reasons, but mainly to purge his soul and to set the record straight.
"I have some guilt," Morgan said. "I sat back and let all that happen."
Black was convicted on corruption charges and campaign finance violations, and sentenced to prison. Morgan wound up out of politics -- defeated mostly, he contends in his book, by rival Art Pope's money and attack ads.
Morgan believes that too many people concluded that because he stood next to Black at a podium for two years, he was also guilty of something. He said he should have fought back harder against those attacks.
"I never told the other side of that story," Morgan said in an interview Friday. "When history is left written not correct, it becomes history. I felt I needed to write a book maybe more to tell what really happened, to tell the truth so that history will be corrected."
After losing to Joe Boylan in a bitter GOP primary in May 2006, Morgan took a break from public politics. But he is back, now running for superintendent of public instruction.
He self-published the book on the Web site Lulu.com. He sent out a mass e-mail Thursday with a link to where to buy the book.
Morgan said writing the book has been a great challenge.
"You work hard, then you crash," he said. "You work hard, then you crash, and it gets more and more intense. But it also gets fun."
Life in Politics
The book tells of Morgan's 30 years in politics. He takes the reader into Raleigh back rooms, bars, restaurants, living rooms and even a grand jury room.
Much of the early part of the book tells how Morgan got into politics and navigated some long-standing feuds in the local Republican Party.
"Politics is like one of the black holes scientists say hover at the edges of the universe," he writes. "When you get too close, the gravity coming out of that hole grips you and pulls you in and there's no escape."
The book gives a glimpse into Morgan's understanding of his fellow Republicans, many of whom have had problems with him because of his proclivity for reaching across the aisle.
"Now, compared to Democrats, Republican legislators could be just plain prickly," Morgan writes. "We Republicans have inherited a streak of Puritanism. We've got our creed, and on things like raising taxes we don't have much give in us."
George Little, a well-known local Republican activist, is mentioned several times in the book, as both a friend and a foe. But the two most often mentioned are Morgan's foes Leo Daughtry and Pope.
He singles out Pope as his worst enemy. He paints him as an angry person who cares more about party loyalty than was good for anyone.
"Leo didn't really like to fight," Morgan writes. "He preferred to slip around the edges, then make a deal. But Art was like a bull terrier. He charged right at you, and if he got knocked down, he'd jump right back up and charge again."
Morgan said Friday that he doesn't care if some of his enemies get angry about what he's written.
"I suppose if they find something in there that's not factual," he said, "they could always write a book."
'Close Your Eyes'
Morgan goes into extensive detail about the power-sharing deal that made him co-speaker and, at that time, the most powerful Republican in the state.
The detail is substantial, but he doesn't reveal any new bombshells that haven't been written about in the past.
Morgan got some lucky breaks in his quest to be speaker. At one point, a Democrat accidentally pressed the wrong button allowing the House to adjourn before Black could get the votes to be Speaker alone.
A Black ally, Bill Culpepper, called Morgan at midnight one night and asked for a meeting.
"I didn't say it mean -- in fact, I laughed as I said it -- but I told Bill he should do something to himself that was anatomically impossible," Morgan writes.
However, Morgan says that temptation got the best of him and he met with Culpepper. The two shared a 3 a.m. handshake at a Raleigh bar that eventually made Morgan co-speaker.
Morgan concludes the book with a moral of sorts. He talks about how his dealings with Black taught him a lesson.
"Because Jim was my friend, I closed my eyes," he writes, "and I'll warn you the easiest sin you'll ever commit is the one where you don't have to say a word or lift a finger -- where all you have to do is close your eyes."
Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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