Harry Morgan: 1915-2011

Character great Harry Morgan passed away today at his home. He was 96.

Courtesy Bright Lights Films.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I grew up with Harry Morgan. His character of Colonel Potter on “M*A*S*H” was important to me during my childhood where (for good or ill) television parental analogs were as comforting to me as the real thing, often more so. Col. Potter was a hard-edged Missouri man with a heart of gold, a description that matched my own father… or half matched, rather.  One of the few times I saw my dad laugh with more than wry sarcasm was when Col. Potter’s Jeep flipped and could not be fixed; Col. Potter, an old cavalry man, took out his pistol and shot the Jeep as if it were a mortally wounded horse.

As an adult, I discovered Morgan’s career as a character actor in films. He was always an interesting actor, not content with playing a part conventionally. Morgan was talented, professional, and often very brave. His roles in Westerns may have been small in lines but never small in importance, and that was largely due to his solid acting ability. Harry never gave less than what he thought that role deserved, and if that meant crying as he watched My Darling Clementine on an episode of “M*A*S*H” then he would do it.

A few years ago I wrote a post about the picture of Mrs. Potter on Col. Potter’s desk, and received some lovely emails from a member of Mr. Morgan’s family. To you and the rest of the family, you have my most sincere condolences. Harry was an enormous part of our culture, and he will be missed.


  1. I was more of a Bill Gannon guy than Col. Potter (– he was such a ham that helped round the rough corners off of Jack Webb’s squareness), but this still bites most odiously.

    Reflecting on it, I think my favorite Harry Morgan moment came in “Support Your Local Sheriff” when he talks to James Garner about the chaos field surrounding his daughter and the horrors of “pooberty”.


  2. My dad was in WWII and a big Bill Mauldin fan. I’m certain dad must have recognized the joke, and I suspect my vague memory of hearing that the joke was inspired by Mauldin must have been when he told me about it when I was a kid.

    Morgan absolutely chewed up and spit out everything in his path in the Local Sheriff movies. Delightful and hilarious.

  3. I grew up with Bill Gannon’s chatty counterpoint to Friday’s dour complexities. And I loved Morgan’s portrayal of the reluctant lawman sent out to confront JJ Books in “The Shootist” and his joyful reaction that the old gunfighter was dying and was not going to make him another notch on his gun handle; only Morgan could have made glee at impending death comic rather than mean-spirited

  4. My favorite role is in Orchestra Wives. As soon as its evident he’s making a play for Ann Rutherford, I just know he’s doomed to failure. It breaks my heart every time!

  5. Stacia,
    This is such a lovely tribute to Mr. Morgan who lived a very long life and left us with great memories. MASH will forever be my favorite television show.

  6. I’m so sad to hear about this. Loved Harry Morgan in every screen performance. He was a great great star in his own right. The jeep shooting moment in M.A.S.H is one I’ll always laugh at.They’re all slipping away – one by one ! RIP Colonel Potter

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