Roger Morris Bio
(Author biography / Updated 2016)
Born and raised in the Midwest, Roger Morris holds a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard, served in the United States Foreign Service, on the White House Staff, and on the Senior Staff of the National Security Council under both Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, until resigning over the invasion of Cambodia.
As an NSC official, Morris was Deputy Director of Policy Planning as well as a senior officer dealing with a wide variety of issues and areas from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia to Sino-Soviet affairs and the UN. One of National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger's two-person Special Projects Staff, he was intimately involved in the first highly secret peace negotiations with North Vietnam to secure a U.S. withdrawal and an end to the war in Indochina prior to the Cambodian invasion in 1970.
After resigning from the White House and before turning to independent writing full time, he was a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate and Director of Humanitarian Policy Studies for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he co-authored two seminal, news-making and premonitory Carnegie books, Passing By, a 1973 work on the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda, and Disaster in the Desert, a 1974 study of the failures of international relief programs.
Roger Morris is the author of several critically acclaimed books on American politics, including Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician, 1913-1952, winner of the National Book Award Silver Medal, finalist for the National Critics Circle Award in Biography, and a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," and Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America, a highly-praised and instant best-seller on the New York Times and other lists as well as another Times “Notable Book.” He co-authored with Sally Denton The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, a history of the city as it silhouettes American corruption nationwide and internationally, hailed by The Los Angeles Times as "one of the most important non-fiction books published in the U.S. in a half-century," by the New York Times Book Review as "magisterial," a New York Times “Notable Book". (Review excerpts attached.)
From work growing out of a Harper’s commission, he is completing Between the Graves — a history of American policy and covert intervention in South Asia and the Middle East over the past half century, to be published by Alfred Knopf and excerpted in Harper’s. He is also at work for Knopf on Kindred Rivals: America, Russia and Their Failed Ideals, a comparative history of the inner politics of the United States and Soviet Russia in a major reinterpretation of their competition and its impact on the 21st-century.
His other books include Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy, Haig: The General's Progress, The Devil’s Butcher Shop: The New Mexico Prison Uprising, and The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency.
He has been a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellow, twice a University of Washington Helen Riaboff Whiteley Center Scholar and a Guggenheim Fellow as well as a Fellow of the Society of American Historians and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Among numerous honors and prizes, as leader of an inter-media team investigation, he has twice won the Investigative Reporters and Editors' National Award for Distinguished Investigative Journalism, including IRE's coveted Gold Medal for "the finest investigative reporting across all media nationwide." His articles on national security for the Arizona Republic and columns and reporting on local affairs in New Mexico newspapers were nominated repeatedly for the Pulitzer Prize, and he has received the International Relations Councils’ Distinguished Award for International Understanding.
He has taught at Harvard, the City University of New York, the University of New Mexico, and the University of Washington, lectured on campuses and spoken throughout the U.S., been a Ford Foundation Fellow at the British Museum, a Fellow of the Russian Research Center at Harvard, and for an academic year was an official Exchange Scholar at Moscow State University in the then-USSR, where he was the first American to study at an Institute of the Academy of Sciences.
He has written for Harper’s, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Columbia Journalism Review, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and numerous other newspapers and magazines, including regular book reviews and op-ed articles for The Globe and Mail of Canada and feature articles in Architectural Digest and other periodicals. In the 1990’s, he syndicated columns, investigative reports and a radio commentary across New Mexico, and was host and co-producer of a weekly public affairs program and numerous specials for public television in Albuquerque-Santa Fe. He has been elected to national boards of Common Cause, OXFAM, and the National Council for International Visitors.
His study on national security policy, Strategic Demands of the 21st Century: New Vision for a New World, co-authored with Steven Schmidt, was published by the Green Party Institute in print and online in 2005. The 2006 documentary on US policy in Africa, Guns, Greed and Genocide, in which he played a major role, was an award-winner at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. His 2007 profiles of Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates for TomDispatch.com gained worldwide attention. In 2009 the New York Times chose him as one of five distinguished American historians to write the paper’s special 100 Days Blog, setting the Obama Administration in the perspective of earlier presidencies.
He lives on San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest, where he is completing Kindred Rivals and The Next America, a reflection on U.S. politics and governance.
Selected Books / Reviews
Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of An American Politician
National Book Award Silver Medalist
Finalist, National Critics Circle Award for Biography, New York Times “Notable Book of the Year"
"A major intellectual event in the art of biography ... The sweep and style are at times breathtaking. His prose is literate and controlled, a throwback to how good English and American biographers used to write...He gives splendid backdrops ... argues convincingly... (yet] is no apologist ... he presents a rich and balanced series of portraits in a multifaceted biography of this complex man... no question that this volume approaches a grand social history of postwar America.” -- Presidential Quarterly
"A massive, powerful biography, absorbing in its research and in its skillful use of anecdote and illustrative detail ... It will no longer be possible to damn or defend Mr. Nixon without reference to this great locomotive of a work ... Like John Morely on Gladstone or Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. on Franklin D. Roosevelt... Mr. Morris's biography is filled with hundreds of moments in which the reader is tempted to say, 'Now I understand Richard Nixon.’ I am not talking here of psychoanalytic understanding or of a political or ideological response. I mean an intuitive leap --even if empathy wars with distaste-- into the inner landscape of another's existence... Mr. Morris has exhaustively established the human story ... illuminating, for better or worse, defenders or critics, the public man. The setting... is richly harvested by Mr. Morris ... Nixon's courtship of Patricia Ryan has all the power of a realist novel. ..Mr. Morris allows none of these early details to obscure his narrative's honesty or to sentimentalize it ... (and] recounts much that is new. [This biography] will continue to be read as long as there are those who understand that to fathom Richard Milhous Nixon and his career is to come close, very close, to the inner landscape of middle class America. The composer John Adams understood this in his opera "Nixon in China." So does Roger Morris.” -- Kevin Starr, New York Times Book Review
"The most detailed and authoritative reconstruction of Nixon's career we have ever had... a keen understanding of Nixon as a representative American.” -- Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Roger Morris is that rare and precious thing in our public life, a former government official who actually gave up his job on a matter of principle ... Morris's monumental new account of Nixon's early years...is elegantly written, meticulously researched, richly textured --and devastating... the wealth of details and the judicious skill with which he uses them... makes this book unique among Nixon biographies.” -- Geoffrey Ward, USA Today
"Monumental...fresh revelations ... Morris writes with a breathtaking sweep ... telling the Nixon story with a power and coherence it has never assumed before, ...reveals how much this supremely enigmatic politician has shaped and been shaped by our times ... Makes it all come chillingly alive." -- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times
"A stunning piece of work --the most thorough and sensitive account of Nixon's youth and early career, and the most revealing portrait of the man, anyone has yet written, a masterpiece of re-construction" -- Alan Brinkley, The New Republic
"No word, not even 'exhaustive,' can describe the scope of his research... After reading Morris' book... it is possible to say, 'So that's what drove Nixon'... In chapter after chapter of Morris' biography, Nixon jumps off the page, a real and vibrant character.” -- Steve Weinberg, Kansas City Star
"A captivating account of the emergence of Richard Nixon as a national political figure... elegantly crafted and measured in its judgments, this book... reveals Nixon as infinitely more complex, and considerably more interesting, than either his friends or foes have supposed." -- Medal Citation, National Book Awards
"...An accomplished historian [gives] an informed and evocative depiction...contributes significantly to our understanding..." -- Detroit Free Press
"The richest account [yet] of Nixon's roots and of his path to national power... Morris is particularly good at showing how the young Nixon waged the campaigns that gained him the unenviable nickname of Tricky Dick... In narrative force and scholarship, Morris's Nixon is a worthy companion to Robert Caro's LBJ.” -- Chicago Sun-Times
"Morris does for Nixon what Caro is doing for Lyndon Johnson." -- Robert Sherrill, Washington Post Book World
"...how is it possible to see this man anew in all his unfathomable complexity? But Roger Morris has done so... Morris paints his elusive subject with definitive strokes ... Forget everything you've ever known, or thought you've known, about Richard Nixon. Start here, from scratch. Morris has given us the real new Nixon --- a three-dimensional personality that will spark empathy even in his severest critics, without excusing his conduct or explaining away his puzzling contradictions... Morris has strip-mined the best available source material [and] his spadework has such depth that the old material blended with new findings and rendered in a graceful narrative style, yields something entirely new-minted." -- Philadelphia Inquirer
"This brilliant study of Nixon on the rise ... maintains throughout the narrative an even balance, eschewing what in less objective chronicles would have been an irrepressible urge to wax splenetic over some of Nixon's most heinous acts ... Of all the books on this couple [Richard and Pat] ... none has succeeded so well in analyzing their relationship ... Scattered throughout this fascinating study are a number of illuminating anecdotes ... A compelling biography." -- The Miami Herald
"Morris neither simplifies nor vilifies his subject. Painting on the widest of canvasses, he is superb at describing the interior political reality... succeeds brilliantly in bringing all the various Nixons we have known into sharp and disturbing focus. In doing so, it reveals more about our political selves than many may want to know..." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"A rich lode of new details and insights… has plumbed the depths of the Nixon psyche." -- St. Petersburg Times
"Exhaustive...rich...detailed description of the politics and double dealing." -- Atlanta Journal and Constitution
"Drawing on a massive array of sources, Morris writes critically of Nixon [but] is no prosecutor. Of hostility there is none. Nor is there admiration ' But through a thousand pages... tell[s] (the Nixon story] from all angles, from behind the scenes, from countless sources ... and [does] justice to the sad transformation of Patricia Ryan Nixon from a sprightly woman of independence to the political wife who knew her place... Look forward to reading the projected second and third volumes." -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America
New York Times “Notable Book of the Year,” Pulitzer Prize Nominee
"A meticulous product of a fine historian's diligence, and at the end of the day the best book of all on the Clintons. If even half of our crisply coiffed media commentators had read and heeded this book, America would be a far better place.” -- The Progressive
“Comparable to De Tocqueville in the scope, depth and brilliance of its insight...” -- Der Spiegel
”In addition to being the author of several well-received books, Morris was a very highly respected public servant, working for Dean Acheson, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and resigning from the National Security Council over the Cambodian invasion. Bill and Hillary Clinton are viewed as emblematic of a rotten political system that has sold out the interests of its citizens for the support of corrupt moneyed interests. Arkansas was a fertile training ground in no small part because of its few wealthy corporations, including Tyson Foods, Stephens, Inc., and Wal-Mart…Hundreds of understandably confidential interviews present a sordid tale of a governor who sold his political soul to the Arkansas power structure…. No one should come away from this book happy; complicity in the government's breakdown includes and transcends both parties…An instant best seller that will stir considerable discussion and should be purchased by all libraries.” -- Library Journal
”After three years of painstaking research and hundreds of interviews, Morris provides a riveting, revealing expose of the untold secrets of the most politically powerful couple in American politics today: Bill and Hillary Clinton… also the story of Washington itself, a capital steeped in its unique culture and the pervasive power of special interests that today corrupts both political parties. A "must" for anyone with an interest in the story behind today's political controversies...” -- Midwest Book Review
“Resigning from Nixon's National Security Council in protest over the Vietnam War, Roger Morris left the White House for a distinguished career as a historian and investigative journalist. Fellow scholar Geoffrey Ward calls him "that rare and precious thing in public life, a former government official who actually gave up his job on a matter of principle.” Analysis of a political system gone lethally wrong, Partners in Power offers a brilliant perspective on a government and ultimately a people. Historian Morris goes far beyond the public facade to expose the inner politics, tormented relationship and moral compromise that marked the rise of Bill and Hillary Clinton.” -- Ingram Reviews
Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy
Pulitzer Prize Nominee
"After more than two decades and dozens of books, Morris's, published in 1977, is still the best ever written on the real nature of Henry Kissinger, like no other book on American foreign policy and after reading it your view of government and diplomacy will never be the same." -- The New Statesman
The Devil’s Butcher Shop: The New Mexico Prison Uprising (in print a record 29 years by University of New Mexico Press)
"A modern horror story told in graphic detail. Meticulous documentation traces prison corruption . . . proving the tragedy could have been avoided. We recommend this book without reservation.” -- Washington Post
"Riveting, upsetting and ultimately enraging." -- New York Times
"No book makes a more compelling argument, once again, for a reevaluation of our society’s attitude toward prisons and their inmates." -- Seymour Hersh
"The story of the 1980 convict uprising at the New Mexico State penitentiary at Santa Fe…extremely well researched, with copious, detailed footnotes. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal
"Surviving Victory" Conference
- Roger Morris / Keynote speaker
- Washington DC, 2006
Strategic Demands of the 21st Century: A New Vision for a New World
- By Roger Morris & Steven Schmidt