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Former US Senator, Lillington native Robert Morgan dies

Posted July 16

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— Robert Morgan became a U.S. Senator during the formative years in Washington after the Watergate scandal rocked the country.

On a cold December morning in 1974 when Morgan showed up to the Russell Senate Office Building in the nation's capital, he met a young Don Vaughan with a handshake. Vaughan, who was looking for a job, was hoping to make a good impression on the new senator.

"About an hour later, I was a member of the United States Senate staff," Vaughan said in a phone call on Saturday.

Vaughan added: "I was the luckiest guy in the world."

It's been more than four decades since Vaughan met Morgan and was offered that job. But the personable senator helped shape more than just Vaughan's own time as a North Carolina state senator.

Morgan died on Saturday. He was 90 years old.

“Ann and I want to express our deepest sympathies to the family of Robert Morgan," Gov. Pat McCrory said. "His years of service to the state of North Carolina as a state senator, Attorney General, United States Senator and Director of the State Bureau of Investigation will be remembered for his devotion and love for his native state. Ann and I offer our prayers to his family during this difficult time.”

The Lillington native, a Democrat, served in the U.S. Senate from 1975 until 1981. After losing reelection in 1980, Morgan joined the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation where he worked until 1992 when he resumed general practice of law in Lillington, according to the U.S. Congress website.

"Senator Morgan was a devoted public servant for many years, in the legislature, as North Carolina Attorney General, and in the U.S. Senate," said N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper. "Our state has been fortunate to have forward thinking leaders like Robert Morgan and we must all work to live up to his example."

Morgan also served in the North Carolina State Senate from 1955 to 1969 and as the state's attorney general from 1969 to 1974.

"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Senator Robert Morgan," North Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Patsy Keever said in a statement. "Senator Morgan did an excellent job representing North Carolina in the U.S. Senate. His non-profit work helped educate voters throughout the state and advanced the cause of democracy. Senator Morgan will be missed."

Morgan pushed to reform campaign finance and spearheaded efforts to improve consumer protection laws. But his lifetime of public service never warped his view of himself, Vaughan said.

Early in Vaughan's time on Morgan's staff, a bill was being voted through the Senate; the 400-page bill, Vaughan said, had overwhelming support. But Morgan didn't agree with part of the bill that he thought was sneaked in at the end, so he voted against it.

The final vote was 98-1, Vaughan said.

In his final years, former staff members honored Morgan with a bench on the state capital grounds. Morgan was too sick to attend, Vaughan said, but the effect he had on his staff was undeniable.

"He'll be missed," Vaughan said. "It's hard for anyone to fill a man like Robert Morgan's shoes."

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