Bob Morris, one of the most colorful and storied figures to inhabit Jackson Hole in the last half century, died Tuesday afternoon at Legacy Lodge. He was 87.
A longtime political activist and perennial candidate, Morris was stalwart in his support of affordable housing, marijuana legalization and the elimination of the $1 bill. But he was known as well, and as affectionately, for the countless memorable encounters he had with the residents of the community he joined in 1970.
A common sight on Teton County roadsides, Morris hitchhiked when he wasn’t riding the START bus or pedaling his custom-built bicycle, come rain or snow. He never owned a car after 1956.
Untold numbers of drivers shuttled Morris around the valley over the decades, and he tipped many of them with his signature — and less wasteful — $2 bills. More often than not, he was picked up wearing his floppy hat and carried his iconic briefcase, filled with pamphlets and an assortment of other printed material, as well as his own silverware, stein, coffee cup and other personal effects.
As news of his passing spread Wednesday, tales of “Captain Bob” filled social media. Over and over, one word kept popping up: legend.
One woman recalled the time she picked him up in the mid-1970s: “He didn’t stop telling me how I was ruining the air by driving a car.”
Those who knew him remember Morris as a unique and principled man. Former Jackson Town Councilor Don Frank called him “one definition of a mountain man.” He inspired many of the leaders in the generations that followed him, including Town Councilor Jim Stanford — who outlined Morris’ life in an article published on social media and shared with the Jackson Hole Daily early Wednesday — and Town Councilor Jonathan Schechter.
“In both thought and action, he was the quintessence of integrity, embodying the absolute best of our community, nation and world,” Schechter said.
Morris was the son of Newbold Morris, who served seven years as the president of the New York City Council and worked with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Though the younger Morris was named after his father, he went by the nickname “Bob” for much of his life.
After attending the Groton School and Yale University, where he studied Greek and Latin and majored in history, Morris enlisted in the Marines. During his service he earned the title that followed him throughout the rest of his life.
A staunch critic of the Vietnam War, he was discharged in 1967 before being deployed. A few years later he came to Wyoming to work on the reelection campaign of U.S. Rep. Teno Roncalio, a Democrat and veteran who shared his anti-war sentiment.
Soon after, Morris built a passive solar home in Teton Village and, in 1974, founded KMTN, Jackson’s first FM radio station. Even after he sold it in 1988, his deep voice was a regular presence over the airwaves, as he continued to record and broadcast radio spots to promote marijuana legalization and affordable housing.
Throughout those years, he pursued politics as a Republican, running in every election between 1986 and 2010. He opposed Dick Cheney for Wyoming’s sole U.S. House seat three times, before switching focus to the Board of County Commissioners and the state Legislature.
Though he never won a race, he did eventually win the Republican primary in 2000, apparently appealing to voters with his plans to “kill the black market” by allowing adults to grow marijuana at home. The Jackson Hole News’ front page announced his victory with the headline, “County voters high on Capt. Bob.” The Jackson Hole Guide took a similar tack with “Capt. Bob smokes GOP field.”
Years after he left his political aspirations behind, some still seemed to miss seeing his name on the ballot: In the 2018 primary, one voter wrote it in for every available public office.
Elected or not, Morris left an indelible stamp on Jackson Hole. As County Commissioner Mark Newcomb put it in a Facebook post, “You’re an old friend to almost all of us Captain Bob. So glad I gave you a ride whenever possible and followed through on your exhortation to ride a bike instead of drive.”
Above all, Schechter said, “Capt. Bob was an extraordinarily wise man. He knew exactly who he was: a conservationist; a patriot; an idealist brave enough to live his convictions, regardless of how others perceived him.”
This article has been edited to correct the last election Morris ran for office. — Ed.