“You never do things alone,” Ted Morgan told the cheering audience at Sunday’s event honoring him. On Monday, Mr. Morgan and his wife, Floss, sat in their cozy Edgartown living room and talked with a Times reporter about those words. They have been married for 68 years. Mr. Morgan will be 89 in September.
In the military, Mr. Morgan rose through the ranks as an Air Force medic, treating the wounded on battlefields in six WWII campaigns. As an NCO, he received a battlefield promotion to Second Lieutenant. “I qualified for that promotion,” he told The Times, “but I wouldn’t have received it without the men I worked with. I had the support of my men.” He went on to explain, “You can’t just order people around. You have to treat them with respect and explain why you’re giving a particular order. I give my subordinates credit for my making Second Lieutenant.” Treating others with respect became the key to Mr. Morgan’s leadership, both in the military and as a civilian.
Mr. Morgan eventually retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and still leads the veterans in the Edgartown 4th of July parade.
“Is Ted a shy and modest man?” The Times asked Mrs. Morgan. She gave the question some thought.
“Ted hates to take credit for things,” she said.
“Because I don’t do anything alone,” Mr. Morgan was quick to add. He cited the Morgan Woods affordable housing project as the perfect example. The working name for the project, which has received national acclaim, was the Pennywise Path project, but it was renamed to honor Mr. Morgan, who resisted the eponym. “We had an excellent affordable housing committee, and we had The Community Builders, a nonprofit that’s built thousands of affordable housing projects. We went back and forth, disagreed, argued, meeting after meeting after meeting. Because we all shared the same goals, eventually we worked it out.”
Mr. Morgan went on to say, “Throughout my time as a selectman, I made it a point to communicate with all the various committees and boards. We appoint them, so we should know what’s going on. I visited all the departments.” They didn’t always agree, but communication was always open. “You didn’t carry grudges. Things worked out,” he said. “In 30 years as a selectman, there were very few situations where we didn’t come to some kind of agreement.”
Mr. Morgan took firm positions on many issues, but he was always careful to treat those with whom he disagreed with respect. “I never encountered anyone who didn’t have the best interests of the town of Edgartown at heart. I don’t recall ever blasting anyone in public.” He was quick to concede that he did sometimes disagree with ideas in strong terms. “I might have said something like, ‘That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard of,'” he confessed.
Ted and Floss Morgan agree that raising a family is hard to do alone and were most sympathetic to single parents. When Mr. Morgan was away on military duty, Mrs. Morgan had charge of six children, one with a disability, for a lonely year (plus a seventh child who was staying with them). “But you’re never alone on a military base,” Mrs. Morgan commented. “There is always support.” However, both the Morgans felt that raising a family is a team effort, and they are very proud of their children.
The Times asked Mr. Morgan if he could think of anything he had done that he did alone. He could think of only one. “When you’re a medic on the battlefield and someone is hurt, you’re all by yourself. You’ve got to give first aid, try to save the soldier’s life, and stay with him until things quiet down enough to get him out of there.”
However, Mr. Morgan was quick to say that that is an isolated and uncommon example, and perhaps not still true today with helicopters and modern communications. He stands by his philosophy: “You never do things alone.”