Obituary: Ben Morris

Obituary: Ben Morris

Former sportswriter, restauranteur dies at 75.

   Ben Morris, a former sports writer for the Alexandria Gazette, died March 30 at the age of 75.

Ben Morris, a celebrated writer and restaurateur, passed away March 30 at the age of 75.

Morris began his career in sports journalism, where he made a mark as a sportswriter for the Alexandria Gazette, notably covering the T.C. Williams High School football team, which later gained fame through its depiction in the 2000 Disney film Remember the Titans.

“I think Ben Morris was one of the more important sportswriters we have had around here,” said local sports historian Greg Paspatis. “Compared to other sportswriters of that era, he did a lot of things that were innovative and landmark with in-depth writing that other writers did not do.”

Benjamin Rankin Morris Jr. was born March 10, 1949, in North Carolina. He was one of three sons and one daughter born to Benjamin Rankin Morris Sr. and Henrietta Hampton Morris. He was raised in Atlanta before the family moved to South Carolina, where his father took over running a group of newspapers as his grandfather, publisher Ambrose G. Hampton, neared retirement age.

One of those newspapers was The State Newspaper in Columbia, S.C., which was started by his mother’s great uncles in the late 19th century. As head of the publishing company, Morris’s father purchased the Alexandria Gazette in 1973, selling the newspaper in 1979.

Morris Jr. moved to Northern Virginia in the ‘70s and married Martha Pearl Daniel in 1981.

“I think the greatest thing he did was a six-part series in November of 1978 on the 1971 T.C. football team,” Paspatis said. “This was seven years after that season and 22 years before the movie came out so he really was the first one to write about and put into context what happened during that time.”

Morris made the move from journalism to the culinary world, opening restaurants in South Carolina and Virginia. His Virginia establishment, Ben’s Whole Hog BBQ in Manassas, earned recognition in the Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, Wine Advocate, and several travel food books, reflecting his passion for bringing people together through food and good company.

Morris is survived by his wife, Martha Daniel Morris; daughter, Claire Morris Talebian and her husband Bobby Talebian; grandchildren, Ben and Sedi; one sister, Henriette Dargan Morris Willams; two brothers, Wade Hampton Morris and Frank Page Morris; and over 20 nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews.

A funeral service will be held April 11 at noon at Christ Church Alexandria, 118 N. Washington Street.

“Ben Morris touched a lot of people’s lives here covering sports,” Paspatis said. “He has left a lasting imprint.”