Edmund Morris, acclaimed presidential biographer of Roosevelt and Reagan, has died at 78

By Brian Pascus

/ CBS News

Edmund Morris, the famed author who wrote acclaimed presidential biographies of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, died Friday in Danbury, Connecticut, according to The New York Times. The cause of death was not disclosed, though The Times did report the 78-year-old was at a hospital following a stroke he suffered Thursday.

Morris was a true master of biographical literature. He won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography and the 1980 National Book Award for biography for his first book, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt." The book was the first in a trilogy of works exploring the 26th president's life, the others being "Theodore Rex," published in 2001 and "Colonel Roosevelt," published in 2010.

Edmund Morris, author of "Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan," poses at Random House in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 1999. Morris said he welcomes the controversy over the literary technique he uses in the biography, in which he makes himself a fictional character in Reagan's early life and invents a few other people, too. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler) MARTY LEDERHANDLER

In 1999, he published his most controversial work, "Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan," an authorized biography written in an experimental style. Starting in 1985, Morris had been granted "fly-on-the-wall" privileges by the Reagan White House, allowing him to interview the President and First Lady and their children. He wrote the biography to include a fictional Edmund Morris who was added to the narrative as an observer and one of Reagan's childhood friends. Within the book, the fictional Edmund Morris told the story of the 40th president's life from his childhood in Illinois to the White House. While some praised the book, others were not so kind.

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Morris was born May 27, 1940 in Nairobi, Kenya, the son of South African parents. He married Sylvia Jukes Morris in 1968. According to the author's Penguin Random House biography page, Morris worked as an advertising copywriter in London before immigrating to the United States in 1968. His other biographies included a work on Ludwig von Beethoven titled "Beethoven: The Universal Composer" as well as a collection of essays.

According to The New York Times, he is survived by his wife, a brother, Eric and a sister, Judy Davidowitz.

First published on May 27, 2019 / 4:45 PM

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