Richard Morris (1933-2015)

Obituary for Richard Artells Morris

(08/01/1933 – 07/14/2015)


Richard Artells Morris, Ret. Lt. Colonel of the U.S. Army and Professor of Cultural and Applied Anthropology, passed away in his Woodburn home on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 following a long battle with MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndrome).


He leaves behind his wife, Tamara Morris, stepdaughter Natalia Arno, stepson Michael Arno and a grandson, Vladimir Budaev, mother-in-law Anna Sakharova, nephews Christopher Morris and Steve Morris, cousin Robert Aegerter and many close friends.


Richard A. Morris was born on August 1, 1933 in Independence, Iowa to parents Robert Humphrey Morris, born on 12/23/1898 in South Dakota and Margaret Lucile Stanley, born on 09/02/1900 in Indiana. Richard was the youngest of three boys – Robert Stanley Morris and William Lloyd Morris - who preceded him in death. In their early years, they were referred to as ‘Bob, Bill and Dick.’ The brothers grew up in a military family and moved many times around the world.


Richard joined the Regular Army on July 4, 1955. He was sent to many places around the world and reached the rank of Lt. Colonel of the US Army.  He served with distinction with oversees service in Korea (1958-59), Germany (1963-67), and Vietnam (1969-70). For his service he was awarded with Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Parachute Badge, and Bronze Star Medal.


From 1963-68 Morris worked as Specialist in Russian and Soviet Affairs for the U.S. Government. In 1965-67 he was Academic Director at the US Institute for Advanced Russian and East European Studies, in Garmish, Germany. In 1969 Morris served as Director, Land Reform Information Program and Community Development Program, Vietnam (for US State Department and USAID in coordination with the then Government of Vietnam).


In 1971 Morris worked as a Lecturer in Russian Studies at the University of Oklahoma’s oversees program at Munich, Germany. He came to the University of Oregon in 1974 to complete a PhD on a second career, having retired as a US Military Officer. Discovering that Woodburn, a small town not overly far from the campus, served as the nominal center for a recently arrived community of Russian Old Believers, as well as smaller communities of Molokans and Russian Pentecostals, he began making visits to the area and became well acquainted with many Russians, culminating in a book, Old Russian Ways: Cultural Variations among Three Russian Groups in Oregon and a PhD. In total, Morris is an author or co-author of twelve books and over 60 articles published in seven countries.


A Russian language speaker, Morris integrated into the communities and eventually moved to Woodburn to continue research and observations. He began making presentations of the Russian communities around Oregon and at various academic conferences in the United States. When Soviet fishing ships began to make port calls for supplies at Astoria, Morris was invited by the Astoria Chamber of Commerce to translate and help local citizens host the Russian officers. This was augmented by Morris giving courses on the history of Russia at Astoria College for local residents.


Morris participated on a series of IREX grants to Russia with principal contact with the Institute of Ethnography of Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. He traveled throughout Russia making presentations on the Old Believers of Oregon and Alaska. In 1985 he began to convene a series of international conferences on issues of Russian traditional and contemporary culture, namely, Old Believers: Washington DC ’85; Zagreb, Croatia ’88; Novosibirsk, Russia ’90; Warsaw, Poland ’92; Tulcea, Romania ’93, ’96; Imatra, Finland ’94; Perm, Russia ’94, ’96 ’98; Moscow ’95 ’98.


He travelled frequently to Russia participating on field trips with Russian academic scholars, giving reports in Russia and in Oregon upon return.


In 1991, he received a Fulbright grant for nine months of continued research in Russia. At the completion of the grant, the Soviet Union ceased to be, and there began a massive resettlement program, with many Russians forced to return from the former Soviet Republics to Russia proper. Morris was offered a position as the only Field Representative for the International Organization of Migration (IOM), Moscow Bureau, as the Bureau began to address the problem of resettlement for the many forced to return to Russia. He worked for the IOM until 1998 and at the same time continued his liaison with Russian scholars and occasionally participated in academic conferences until his departure to the U.S in 1998.


In 2002, Morris travelled frequently for four years to the countries of East Europe: the three Baltic counties, Poland, Romania and Ukraine. These countries also maintain villages of Old Believers with their distinct histories.


In 2005, Morris – as was his habit on many occasions over the years – invited a small group of Russian scholars to Woodburn visit the American Old Believers. Amidst the small group was an erudite and attractive Doctor of Sciences, Tamara Yumsunova, with considerable experience with Old Believers in general and with Siberian Old Believers in particular. On her second trip to Oregon, they were married.


Until Richard’s death, he and Tamara cooperated in research projects and publications. They were both affiliated with the University of Oregon, Eugene and Portland State University, and they always worked closely together.


Richard had a big heart and helped a huge amount of people. It was his main mission in life – helping others.


He had passion for Russia and Russian culture. He loved music, poetry and travels. And he had an outstanding sense of humor. He was a very positive, generous and supporting person. He was very happy in his marriage and was proud of his wife’s achievements.


We will always miss him.


Services will be at the Willamette National Cemetery (11800 SE Mt. Scott Blvd, Portland, OR 97086) on July 31, 2015 at 9:30 am following the memorial lunch for immediate family and close friends.