A major era in Louisiana iris hybridizing in Arkansas ended with the death of Richard Morgan on August 9, 2013. He was the last living Arkansas hybridizer that had worked in the Chowning tradition of producing cold hardy Louisiana irises by including Iris fulva species native to Arkansas and existing Chowning hybrids in the his hybridizing program.
Richard was born in Little Rock on February 19, 1920. He served in the U. S. Army as a radio operator during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After discharge from the Army he returned to Arkansas and worked as a carpenter with Carpenter's Local 690 until his retirement. He and his first wife O'Dean ran Baseline Iris Garden from their home for many years. He moved to Hot Springs in 1987 after the death of his first wife and lived there until the death of his second wife in 2001. He then moved to Greenbrier to live with his son
Richard joined the American Iris Society in 1952 and was a founding member of the Central Arkansas Iris Society, which was formed in 1959 in Little Rock. He was appointed an AIS Exhibition Judge in 1960 and was a Retired Master Judge. He was active in the Hot Springs Iris Society after moving there.
Richard had tried hybridizing various classes of irises including spurias but it was his connection with Frank Chowning that led him to his success with Louisiana irises of which he registered 48. Richard produced some exceptional Louisiana irises through the years and won lO Honorable Mentions, 3 Awards of Merit and the Mary Swords DeBaillon Medal for 'Night Thunder' in 2010. While living in Hot Springs Richard became interested in Miniature Tall Bearded irises and registered 4 of them including 'Cadron' which was in bloom in Dell Perry's Garden on the SLI Tour this spring.
Richard was rather resourceful in finding names for his creations. Some he took straight from geographic locations in the surrounding areas. Many of the odd names came from thoroughbred horses running at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs. Richard was truly a Southern Gentleman, always eager to share irises and a story or two. He has left behind a great legacy of irises for us to continue to grow and enjoy,