Edmund Morris, Presidential Biographer, Dies at 78

David Livingston
Edmund Morris

Morris' career took off with the success of his first book, 'The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,' which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980, but what cemented his legacy was 'Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan.'

Presidential biographer Edmund Morris, best known for writing a book about the life of Ronald Reagan in 1999, has died. He was 78.

Morris' wife, Sylvia Jukes Morris, on Monday confirmed his death to the Associated Press. He died Friday in a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, a day after suffering a stroke.

"We at Random House mourn this loss with all who knew him and loved him, and with those who read his remarkable books. Our deepest sympathies are with his beloved wife Sylvia," read a statement from Andy Ward, Morris' editor.

Morris' career took off with the success of his first book, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980, but what cemented his legacy was Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. The book earned mixed reviews in part because he inserted himself into the narrative as a sometimes-fictional character to help tell the former president's story.

Years before the book's publication, he called Reagan "the most mysterious man I have ever confronted."

Morris started working on his Reagan biography more than a decade before it published.

"I went through a period of a year or so of depression because I felt that with all my research, how come I can't understand the first thing about him?" Morris said of Reagan.

But Morris also praised Reagan for allowing him so much access and independence to write the book.

"He had the guts to let somebody come in from outside, stare at him, read his mail, go off and talk to his children," Morris said. "Whatever you say about Ron Reagan, he has guts."

Morris was born in Nairobi, Kenya, the son of South African parents. He was educated in Kenya and attended college in South Africa, according to his brief bio on the Penguin Random House website. He moved to Britain in 1964 and found work as a copywriter in London.

After the success of his Roosevelt biography, he wrote a sequel titled Theodore Rex.

Morris' upcoming book, Edison, is set to be published Oct. 22 by Random House.