Lucy Morgan honored with LeRoy Collins award from Leadership Florida
Tampa Bay Times legend Lucy Morgan was honored Saturday morning in Naples at the annual Leadership Florida meeting.
A Pulitzer Prize winner who retired from the Times in 2013 (her second time), Morgan received the 2014 LeRoy Collins Lifetime Leadership Award, the highest honor given by the statewide group. The award is meant "to recognize an individual who, like Governor Collins, has gone above and beyond by using his/her leadership abilities over a lifetime to improve the quality of life for Florida’s citizens and its future generations."
Jack Levine, a longtime advocate for children in Florida who runs the 4Generations Institute in Tallahassee, nominated Morgan for the honor based on her extensive journalistic accomplishments in Florida. He shared his letter to the group with us:
"It is my privilege to nominate Lucy Morgan, Florida’s 'Journalist’s Journalist,' to receive the 2014 Leroy Collins Lifetime Leadership Award. There is no Florida journalist over the past 45 years who has had a greater impact on improving the processes of government than Lucy Morgan.
"Her ability to find facts and report reality at every level of our governmental systems has given us citizens invaluable information about the people, policies and politics of Florida. When Lucy writes, we all read -- and are edified, sometimes enraged, but always engrossed in her telling the story of power exercised for good or evil. Her illustrious career has been highlighted by special hallmarks of courage, conscientious leadership and remarkable achievement.
"In 1973 Lucy was sentenced to jail for refusing to reveal a source. Three years later the Florida Supreme Court overturned the sentence and granted reporters a limited right to protect sources.
"In 1982 she was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for her stories about drug smuggling in Dixie and Taylor Counties that resulted in 250 people going to jail, including several government officials. Lucy and Jack Reed shared the Pulitzer for investigative reporting in 1985 for their work exposing corruption in the Pasco County Sheriff's office, leading to the resignation of Sheriff John Short.
"In recognition of an illustrious career covering state government, the Florida Senate honored Lucy by naming the press gallery, the Lucy Morgan Senate Press Gallery. Ask anyone in power in any corner of Florida to name the one person they feared most to receive a message from to return a call -- it has been Lucy. For so many decades, just the mention of her name sends cold chills up the spine of anyone crossing the line of ethical conduct, or even thinking of approaching that line.
"In recent years it was Lucy who discovered the process which went into the funding of the construction of Florida’s new First District Court of Appeal -- known by many as 'Tallahassee’s Taj Mahal.'
"Lucy ferreted out the nearly incessant flow of communications from sitting appellate judges to legislative leaders revealing intricate details about how they wished the new building to meet their esthetic architectural standards, furnishing and décor preferences and overall expectations about just how the building should look and feel.
"Lucy did not editorialize in her coverage -- the facts spoke for themselves -- ultimately leading to the resignation of one of the judges, and the 'Taj Mahal Courthouse' will forever be used as a phrase which exemplifies how shadowy special interest legislative appropriations should not be tolerated in a state which prides itself on its Sunshine Law.
"Lucy Morgan’s powerful pen seemed to never run out of ink, and her eagle eye was always focused on detecting the details of how our public officials do their work -- crediting their successes and revealing their failures. She personifies the core value of a free press and the importance of open records laws to give us honest access to the workings of our government.
"Her recent retirement leaves a void in Florida’s journalism landscape which will be difficult to fill. But it must be noted that Lucy has retired before -- and then failed miserably. But whether this retirement sticks or not, for all of us who rely on a free press and open records laws to give us honest access to the workings of our government, Lucy Morgan’s legacy will live.
"Lucy’s commanding presence, relentless pursuit of the truth and ever-present sense of justice merits this esteemed recognition. Lucy Morgan has made all Floridians much better people and our state a much better place."