Gene Morris was a force of nature. Strong, dynamic, energetic and industrious, but also tender, loving, loyal, mentoring and creative. He died on Saturday, July 24, 2010, but three months shy of his 100th birthday.
My father -- I am an only child -- was my inspiration and role model throughout my life. He first taught me about politics on our long walks to his office through Manhattan's Central Park.
He came from a political family. His uncle, Albert Cohn, served as a judge on New York state's top court and was a close associate of Ed Flynn, FDR's political advisor. Al's son and my father's first cousin was Roy Cohn, who went on to fame as chief counsel to the McCarthy Committee investigating communism in the 1950s. My father and Roy were close.
My mother, Terry Morris, was a well known magazine writer and a founder and past president of the American Society of Authors and Journalists. They were married until her death in 1993. At our dinner tables, the discussion was always lively and focused on the political issues of the day. As a result, I grew up into a life of politics.
My father's mentoring continued until his death. During my time in the Clinton White House, he would avidly follow my dealings with the president and his staff and constantly offer his usual stream of good advice.
But it was after my service there, when my life was engulfed by scandal, that he was my most cherished support and guide. "You'll be back on top in no time," he said, constantly encouraging me and offering affirmation at the worst time of my life. Indeed, when I did my first media interviews after the scandal, he accompanied me to each one, offering his support and love.
A liberal Democrat, he never agreed with my move to the Republican Party, but he also did not let his political outlook interfere with his support for me. He watched all my TV shows and rooted for me openly.
The essence of my father's life was adaptability. No matter what life threw at him, he adapted. Nowhere was this more evident than when, on the death of my mother after 59 years of a loving marriage, he picked himself up and married his old high school and college prom date, Blanche Funke, with whom he lived for 14 more loving years!
Gene had a very long and distinguished career. A lifelong New Yorker, he labored under the handicap of a disrupted family life in his youth. His father, William DeVeze, deserted the family when my dad was only 3, leaving his mother and my father's sister alone.