Pioneering Journalist Dies After 20-Year Battle With HIV

The Black AIDS Institute mourns the death of one of Black America's shining stars this holiday. Thomas Morgan, former New York Times editor and trailblazing ex-president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), died Monday of an AIDS-related heart attack, according to NABJ and friends. He was 56.

Morgan lived for 20 years as an openly HIV-positive, gay man and worked in some of America's largest, most influential newsrooms. He was a reporter and editor at the Times, The Washington Post and the Miami Herald. From 1989 to 1991, he presided over one of NABJ's most explosive periods of growth and organization.

"He had the ability to walk into a room divided and help those who held opposing viewpoints find common ground," said NABJ President Barbara Ciara in a statement announcing Morgan's death. "His loss is not only a personal one for me, but a great loss for NABJ. As recent as last week he was making his voice heard as we debated the recent FCC ruling affecting minority media ownership. I will miss his counsel, his dedication to NABJ, and most of all his friendship."

In the years following his presidency, Morgan was a tireless advocate on behalf of fellow gay and HIV-positive journalists of color, both within NABJ and in the news industry at-large. And he always stepped forward to help all journalists learn to cover the HIV/AIDS epidemic smartly and compassionately. "I want members to know," he told the NABJ Journal in 1995, "that AIDS is a disease no different than things like breast cancer or prostate cancer. It is simply a disease. We are all mortal, and we will all die of something."

Today, NABJ boasts an active LGBT Task Force that has a significant presence at national conventions and has repeatedly tackled the AIDS epidemic in its programming -- an achievement that would have been impossible without Morgan's leadership. "When we talk about standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, we mean Tom," wrote Marcus Mabry, the task force's founding co-chair, in marking Morgan's death Monday. "In a very real literal way, we are here thanks to him."

Morgan is survived by his long-time partner, Tom Ciano, in Brooklyn, N.Y. For more information about Morgan's life and career, see NABJ's statement and his obituary in Richard Prince's Dec. 24 Journal-isms column.