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Dr. William Watson Morgan Jr.


1935 - 2020
Dr.  William Watson Morgan Jr. Obituary
Dr. William Watson Morgan, Jr.

Dr. William Watson Morgan, Jr., a nationally renowned pediatric surgeon who established pediatric surgical programs at Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville NC and then at Washoe Medical Center in Reno, NV and developed many pediatric surgical techniques used today - died December 21, 2019 from complications related to Parkinson's disease. He was 84 years old.

Dr. Morgan was born August 18, 1935 in Greenville, NC. His father moved the family to Canton, NC to take an opportunity as a chemist at the Champion Pulp and Paper mill.

Dr. Morgan grew up in Canton and attended Canton High School, where he graduated in 1953.

He then attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While at Chapel Hill he received many academic honors, including the Order of the Old Well and Phi Eta Sigma. He was a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity, serving as its president his senior year in 1957.

He graduated UNC in 1957 and immediately enrolled in the UNC Medical School, where he graduated in 1961. Following his graduation he secured a position as a surgical resident in the prestigious surgical residency program headed by Dr. Tom Starzl at the University of Colorado.

During his time as a resident Dr. Morgan learned of the nascent discipline of pediatric surgery. After spending 5 years at Colorado, including a year as chief resident, he decided to pursue pediatric surgery as a discipline and was accepted as the sole Pediatric surgical fellow at Johns Hopkins University in 1966.

The time spent at Johns Hopkins under the instruction of Dr. Alex Haller would be formative in Dr. Morgan's career. At the time, pediatric surgery was an emerging surgical sub specialty. Dr. Haller and others at major medical centers were creating the discipline through the work of their fellows like Dr. Morgan. It was the work of Dr. Morgan and others at major pediatric surgical programs during this time that would form the basis for the discipline as it is practiced today.

After finishing his fellowship in 1968 at Johns Hopkins Dr. Morgan was drafted by the Air Force at the height of the Vietnam War. He was stationed at March Air Force base in Riverside, CA. March AFB was at that time the major SAC center for the west coast.

Dr. Morgan was one of a collection of surgeons at the base performing surgery on battlefield casualties; soldiers who were sometimes only 36 hours from combat, having been flown across the Pacific in a medical transport plane before landing at March AFB. Dr. Morgan spent 2 years at March before being honorably discharged in 1970. He entered the Air Force as a Captain and was discharged as a Major.

After working as a pediatric surgeon for 2 years in private practice in Norfolk, VA Dr. Morgan decided to return to his roots, and moved to Asheville in 1972 with his young family. It was there that he founded the pediatric surgical program at Memorial Mission Hospital. Dr. Morgan built the program into a regional center for pediatric surgery. He would practice at both Mission as well as St. Joseph's hospitals until 1987.

In 1987 Dr. Morgan was offered an opportunity to move to Reno, NV to establish the Pediatric surgical program at Washoe Medical Center. During his time at Washoe Dr. Morgan became a pillar of the Reno medical community and also served as an Associate Professor at the Nevada Medical School.

Dr. Morgan was a member of the Washoe County Medical Society as well as the Nevada State Medical Association. Prior to his retirement in 2003 he received both the prestigious CH Woods Award for outstanding patient care from WCMS as well as the designation of Nevada's Distinguished Physician from the NSMA. In 2003 Dr. Morgan formally retired from medicine and moved back to North Carolina to his childhood home in Canton.

Among many professional and personal adventures in a rich life well-lived Dr. Morgan was featured in 1979 on the program Lifeline produced for NBC. The program featuring Dr. Morgan became a two-hour special viewed by over 20 million people when it aired. Dr. Morgan's episode received an Emmy Award by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for special achievement. He was recognized by ATAS as a noteworthy contributor to the program and received an Emmy certificate from the Academy for his contribution.

Dr. Morgan enjoyed fly-fishing and was a champion clogger, a type of square dancing specific to the mountains of NC. He was the lead "caller" on many championship clogging teams. What he loved most when he wasn't practicing surgery was watching his children participate in whatever interest took their fancy. His dedication to his profession was only exceeded by his commitment as a father.

Dr. Morgan's life was characterized by a reverence for the sanctity of children and the protection of their welfare. His work as surgeon as well as a father reflected this mindset. He often said what drew him to pediatric surgery was his conviction that the medical needs of children required a unique set of medical skills. It was this belief that steered his career path throughout his life.

The saying on the logo of his surgical practice simply stated "Children are Different."

Dr. Morgan is survived by his three children: William III, Elizabeth and Jonathan, his sister Patricia, as well as six grand children. His wife Marietta passed due to ovarian cancer in 1983.

His life will be celebrated on Saturday June 27, 2020 with a reception at the Lambeth Inn in Lake Junaluska, NC. His ashes will be placed beside his wife and mother at Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher. Inquiries can be sent to his son at: [email protected]

The family requests in lieu of flowers that a donation be made to .
Published in Reno Gazette-Journal from Feb. 13 to Feb. 16, 2020
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