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RAYMOND R. MORGAN

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RAYMOND R. MORGAN Obituary
MORGAN, RAYMOND R. Died October 31, 2012 RAYMOND R MORGAN, JR. OWNER, QUEEN FOR A DAY Raymond R. Morgan, Jr., who first heard the words "Queen For A Day" as a young Marine during World War ll and was President of the corporation that owned the legendary radio and television show for 50 years, died Wednesday in Del Mar, California of natural causes. He was 88. The program was originated by his father, Raymond R. Morgan, a pioneer Los Angeles advertising man. In March of 1945, the war in Europe was winding down. The senior Morgan was on his way to New York to pitch an idea he had for a new kind of radio show. He stopped off at Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina, the Marine Corps base where his son was stationed. "What we'll do," Ray Jr. heard his father say, "is take a lady who has never had anything special happen and grant her fondest wish. We'll give her some prizes, too, and a new outfit. Then over to a swanky beauty salon to get her all fixed up and off for a night on the town." Two months later, on May 7, 1945, the words "Queen For A Day" were heard for the first time on the Mutual Broadcasting System. The show ran continuously on network radio and television for the next 20 years. Throughout the 1950s, the "golden era" of "live" television, Queen For A Day reigned as America's No. 1 rated daytime half-hour. In its two decades on the air, emcee Jack Bailey crowned over 5,000 women as Queen and gave away more than $17,000,000 in prizes - a staggering total even by today's standards. Over two million people attended the "live" broadcasts of the program which originated from a Hollywood theatre-restaurant before a daily audience of 2,000. Ray Morgan, Jr., was born in Oakland, California, October 2, 1924 and grew up in Los Angeles. In 1943 after his freshman year at Stanford University, he joined the Marine Corps and served three years, returning to graduate with a degree in Journalism in 1948. An intriguing new communications medium called television was beginning to make its presence known even though there were only 45 TV stations in the whole country at the time. Morgan wrote them all and landed a job as a time salesman for WDSU-TV, New Orleans. Four years later, he returned to California when his father's firm was acquired by Fletcher D. Richards, Inc., a large New York advertising agency. Ray Morgan, Sr., died in 1958 and Ray took over as President of Queen For A Day. The show, then on ABC-TV, continued on the network for six more years. Its last broadcast was August 14, 1964. Morgan entered the advertising business the same year, joining forces with long-time friend and Los Angeles agencyman, Robert F. Anderson. Almost overnight their new firm was in the headlines. A member of the Republican Party's emerging conservative wing and an early supporter of the presidential candidacy of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, Morgan was asked to produce a television documentary that would mark the difference between traditional American values and the "anything goes" generation of the 1960s. The result was "Choice", a symbolic 30-minute blitzkrieg of sound bites, news file, still pictures and narrative over a hard rock sound track. The tough and topical technique "Choice" used to define the "good guys" and hammer the bad would be considered mainstream today. In 1964 it was too far ahead of its time. Small market test screenings created such a furor an outraged Lyndon Johnson hinted darkly there could be consequences for any TV station that ran the file. Goldwater himself declared "Choice" too controversial and canceled prime time showings already scheduled on every major network. Critic John Crosby called it ". . . a brilliant, basic primer on mining votes from the American myth." Although never released or shown to the general public, prints of "Choice" found their way to collectors, educational institutions, and film industry archives. Even now, over 40 years later, it continues to be featured at seminars, study groups, and retrospectives as a true original and the first real classic of the political communications art. Ray Morgan was a Committee Chairman in Ronald Reagan's first campaign for Governor of California in 1966 and successful run for re-election four years later. Reagan appointed him to the Governor's Commission on Traffic Safety where he served eight years. A television commercial Ray produced about speeding - "Over 55 mph, St. Christopher gets out" - won an Emmy for the Commission in 1970. In 1978 Ray Morgan declared Los Angeles "uninhabitable," sold his advertising agency, acquired a fledgling orange grove in North San Diego County and was a "hands on" grower for Sunkist for the next 20 years. His retirement to Del Mar in 1998 coincided with television's discovery of "reality" programming. This seemed to remind the industry Queen For A Day had enjoyed great success doing essentially the same thing years before. Several pilots of a "new" version of the show have been produced, the most recent being a one-hour special on Lifetime Television in May 2005. In October, 2007, Morgan sold the rights to the title and concept Queen For A Day to former Univision President Michael Wortsman. In association with syndicator RDF-USA, Wortsman plans a new and multi-national version of the show for world release. Ray Morgan, Jr. was a member of Phi Gamma Delta, college fraternity, Sigma Delta Chi, professional journalism fraternity, and Alpha Delta Sigma, professional advertising fraternity. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Mickie; and stepsons Steve Eck of Roseville and Jeff Eck of Yorba Linda. Interment will be at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California. The funeral will be private and plans for a memorial service are pending.

Published in U-T San Diego on Nov. 4, 2012
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