ShareThis Page

Key free-speech test involving second U.S. president is focus of book by North Huntingdon man

Jeff Himler
| Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Richard Lyon Morgan of North Huntingdon has authored or co-authored numerous books on aging issues. His latest volume, 'Resist Tyranny,' written with his brother, John, focuses on their distant relative, Matthew Lyon, an early champion of freedom of speech in the United States.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Richard Lyon Morgan of North Huntingdon has authored or co-authored numerous books on aging issues. His latest volume, 'Resist Tyranny,' written with his brother, John, focuses on their distant relative, Matthew Lyon, an early champion of freedom of speech in the United States.
Richard Lyon Morgan of North Huntingdon looks at a few of the 20 books he has authored or co-authored. At left is a copy of 'Resist Tyranny,' written with his brother, John, that focuses on their distant relative, Matthew Lyon, an early champion of freedom of speech in the United States.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Richard Lyon Morgan of North Huntingdon looks at a few of the 20 books he has authored or co-authored. At left is a copy of 'Resist Tyranny,' written with his brother, John, that focuses on their distant relative, Matthew Lyon, an early champion of freedom of speech in the United States.
Matthew Lyon (1749-1822), an Irish immigrant, U.S. congressman and champion of freedom of speech, is the subject of 'Resist Tyranny,' a 2017 book written by Lyon's distant relatives, Richard Morgan of North Huntingdon and his brother, John.
Submitted
Matthew Lyon (1749-1822), an Irish immigrant, U.S. congressman and champion of freedom of speech, is the subject of 'Resist Tyranny,' a 2017 book written by Lyon's distant relatives, Richard Morgan of North Huntingdon and his brother, John.
'Resist Tyranny,' by Richard Lyon Morgan of North Huntingdon and his brother, John, focuses on their distant relative, Matthew Lyon, an early champion of freedom of speech in the United States.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
'Resist Tyranny,' by Richard Lyon Morgan of North Huntingdon and his brother, John, focuses on their distant relative, Matthew Lyon, an early champion of freedom of speech in the United States.
Richard Lyon Morgan of North Huntingdon wrote 'At the Edge of Life: Conversations When Death is Near' in 2014.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Richard Lyon Morgan of North Huntingdon wrote 'At the Edge of Life: Conversations When Death is Near' in 2014.

Many of Richard Lyon Morgan's 20 published books have drawn upon his experience as a counselor and chaplain to help people cope with issues of aging.

“Resist Tyranny” — his latest volume, written with his brother, John — reaches back in time to explore a little-known episode of early American politics. Focusing on Matthew Lyon, a distant relative of the brothers, it speaks to an issue that remains a point of contention — freedom of speech.

“His political views were what intrigued me,” Richard Morgan, 88, of North Huntingdon said of the brothers' chosen subject. “It's quite a story.”

“We felt we were bringing back to life someone that most people didn't know,” said John Morgan, 76, a philosophy professor at Albright College and former news reporter and editor who lives near Reading.

The Morgans have collaborated before on writing projects — including a biography of their grandfather, well-known British minister and Bible scholar G. Campbell Morgan — written with a third brother, Howard, of Chicago.

For the Lyon book, John Morgan said, “Dick and I would talk a lot. There were a lot of things he would fill me in on and vice versa.”

As recounted by the siblings, Lyon, a newspaper publisher and congressman in Vermont, was fined $1,000 and jailed for four months in 1798 — for criticizing political enemy President John Adams in print, a crime under the recently passed Alien and Sedition Acts.

“It all started when Adams wanted every congressman to go by his home after his inauguration, and Lyon refused,” Richard Morgan said. “He called him pompous. From then on, there was antagonism between them.”

Lyon may have had the last laugh when he was re-elected, while still behind bars, and later cast the deciding vote that turned the presidency over to his friend, Thomas Jefferson — under whose administration the Alien and Sedition Acts were repealed in 1804.

Morgan began researching Lyon's life almost a decade ago, as a personal genealogical study. When he and his brother discovered the price their relative paid for speaking out about his political convictions and some letters he wrote from prison, they decided the topic was worthy of a book.

“I think his resistance to John Adams is the most important thing, that someone stood up to Adams and said you can't prohibit freedom of speech,” Richard Morgan said.

Unlike other books each brother has written, they self-published an initial version of “Resist Tyranny.” To make it more desirable for a traditional publisher, Morgan is adding a chapter on Lyon's later life in Kentucky while his brother is delving into their subject's early days in his native Ireland.

With 10 grandchildren to command his attention, Richard Morgan vows this will be his last full book project.

“It just takes too much effort, time and stress,” he said.

But he plans to help edit and write a chapter for a book provisionally titled “Worship for People with Alzheimer's.”

Morgan is a founder of a local Alzheimer's support group and the group Clergy Against Alzheimer's. Teaming with a gerontologist in 2009, he co-wrote “No Act of Love is Ever Wasted: The Spirituality of Caring for Persons with Dementia.”

He is a volunteer counselor at the Redstone Highlands at North Huntingdon retirement community, where he and his wife reside, and has organized teams of caring visitors to spend time with those who live in the facility's memory care unit.

Dementia, he noted, is “one of my great concerns. My mother had Parkinson's disease and vascular dementia in 1966, and she died one year later. From that time on, it's been a major passion in my life.”

A native of Lexington, Ky., Morgan lived in Philadelphia and North Carolina before joining the retirement community in North Huntingdon.

Morgan served in the Naval Reserve and has earned a number of academic credentials including a master's degree in counseling from Wake Forest University and three degrees from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va.

“I've had five careers,” he said, including stints as a sports reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, a sports information director at two colleges, director of counseling at Wake Forest and a hospice chaplain.

His work with hospice patients inspired the 2014 volume “At the Edge of Life,” which is his best-selling title based on orders through Amazon. “I wrote about conversations I had with people who were dying and their families,” he said. “It tries to help a family member talk with someone who is dying and feel good about it.”

His favorite book, another he co-authored with gerontologist Jane Marie Thibault, is “Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life: Seven Gateways to Spiritual Growth.”

“That's another of my concerns,” he said. “There's very little that's been written on people in my age category, 80 and beyond.”

Morgan suffers from neuropathy and has organized a support group for that condition as well. He's also survived three small strokes and takes medication to help prevent another.

“Fortunately, I haven't had any loss of speech or mobility,” he said. “But you never know. I'm living on the edge, so to speak.”

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.