2021 was Our Town’s 50th year of publishing, and during its golden year I’ve written about the early days and those who were there then and are here now. At year’s end - Our Town’s 51st year will be in April 2022 - I’d like to remember Katy Morgan, an editor in the early 80s, who passed in Sept 2020. Her sister, Barbara Wilcox, hosted a Zoom memorial for Katy’s friends and family, which I attended. I’d like to thank Barbara, Mark Dawson who wrote Katy’s obit, and Dennis King, who was an Our Town investigative reporter, for sharing their memories of Katy for this article. I believe Dennis was responsible for bringing Katy to the paper.
Remembering Katy: She was born Catherine Louise Morgan in Illinois. Katy graduated from Colorado State Teachers College, now Northern Colorado University, got her masters degree from University of California at Berkeley in Italian literature, and worked toward a Ph.D. at Columbia here in NY. She would study the language for countries she wanted to visit and develop local pen-pals, friends who would serve as hosts and guides for her travels in Europe and Asia. She taught French and Italian for several years at the University of Wyoming. She returned to NY in 1973 and worked with a tenant’s union.
Her first apartment after returning to NY was in a small wooden house on West 106th Street off Broadway. The three-story building next door was home to the Columbia Tenant’s Union and the Riverside Democrats. Katy was known for making a large pot of lentil soup every few days and found many takers. During this time, 1974 to the mid-1980s, Katy was teaching at Columbia, and the parties she hosted drew local political leaders and activists. Didn’t hurt that the Riverside Dems were right next door. In those years, Katy was enthusiastic about the activism of Reform Democrats and was a supporter of then-Assembly Member Jerry Nadler.
In about 1980 Katy became the managing editor of Our Town. She wrote an award-winning series of investigative articles about the fraudulent apartment referral “industry,” where scam artists would take money from people looking for rental apartments and never found places for them. Katy’s reporting was key to legislation in Albany that ultimately regulated the apartment referral business. Dennis King, then an Our Town reporter who wrote extensively about Lyndon LaRouche, said about Katy, “She could write rapidly and in perfect newspaper style, and was a very, very skilled interviewer.” After an editorial penned about a therapy cult group, she and the publisher were hit with a libel suit. While the suit was repeatedly dismissed, the lawyer kept refiling until they gave up, and it came time for Katy to move on.
I remember Katy as kind and thoughtful - didn’t hurt that she was Mom to Basil, a cat, and a dog named Rickie and that she was oh so smart. You’d have to fight with her for the last comma as she edited away and, while always even-tempered and good humored, she didn’t abide deadline slackers. Katy was the best of the best and is fondly remembered.