In a rare and historic gesture, the Florida House will host a public memorial service at 1 p.m. Friday in Tallahassee for Lucy Morgan, the trailblazing Tampa Bay Times journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner who died last week.
“Lucy Morgan was an institution within the Capitol’s press corps. Republicans and Democrats have expressed their respect and admiration for how Lucy did her job, thoroughly covering the legislative process, asking hard questions and reporting honestly,” said Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, on Sunday. “The Florida House is honored to host Lucy’s family and friends to celebrate a Tallahassee legend and a life well lived.”
Morgan, who was 82 when she died, served from 1985 to 2005 as the Tallahassee bureau chief for what was then known as the St. Petersburg Times. She continued to work as a Times senior reporter in the Capitol until 2013, when she retired for a second time. Renowned (and feared) for holding politicians, lobbyists and lawmen accountable, she had a reputation that grew to levels usually reserved for esteemed governors and senators. That she attained such status in an environment and industry dominated by men made it all the more remarkable.
Morgan’s family had planned to hold her services at Bevis Funeral Home in Tallahassee. While visitation will still be held there from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, plans changed over the weekend for her memorial service.
“The Florida House has really surprised us with their offer of using the House chamber,” said Kathy Bauerlin, Morgan’s daughter. “I think Mom would be tickled pink, maybe blue! We would like to thank the speaker, Paul Renner, for this. We are so honored. The outpouring of support and love has been great.”
On Saturday, a longtime friend of Morgan’s, public affairs professional Alia Faraj-Johnson, said she wondered if the Florida House’s chamber could be made available for the Friday memorial service. She texted Andres Malave, the communications director for Renner.
Two minutes later, Faraj-Johnson said, Malave had it in motion.
Malave said House staff members had already been considering what to do to honor Morgan. In 2005, the Florida Senate renamed its press gallery The Lucy Morgan Senate Press Gallery. When Malave discussed it with Renner on Saturday night, they decided hosting her memorial service was the right thing to do.
“It’s a nice space,” Malave said of the chamber. “It’s rare that the House would do this.”
Seating for the House chamber should hold at least 400 for the service, said Malave, who added the Capitol will accommodate an overflow crowd if necessary.