Keith Morris, SI's energetic director of publicity and special events, is retiring. Morris has been with Time Inc. since 1950. In 1954, when he heard that Henry Luce was starting a sports magazine, Keith immediately began pushing for a job with the new publication. "I had worked for LIFE on a 1952 Olympic fund drive," Morris says, "and on a promotion called LIFE'S National Golf Day. I had good friends in sports. I knew SI was for me."
He persisted. Morris understands adversity, and he's not easily discouraged. Both his parents were deaf as a result of childhood illnesses. They met at Alexander Graham Bell's school for the deaf in Washington. D.C., and they knew Helen Keller, who became Keith's godmother. "She gave me a Great Dane," Keith says, "but the only thing I can remember about it is that it ate the rug."
SI took him on, and Keith was off and running. "I went everywhere," he says. "Every sports dinner, every lunch, every breakfast, every press conference. I was on the go seven days a week. My wife, Lotta, was very understanding."
Essentially, Keith's job was to help SI become known and accepted by people in sports. He arranged appearances for athletes on radio and TV. He helped organize SI's Speakers Bureau, which scheduled appearances and speaking engagements for athletes and other sports personalities.
He found that celebrities enjoyed talking about sports and the athletes they admired, and he taped interviews with them for use on radio and TV shows. On a flight from Los Angeles to New York, he met Bob Hope, who was on his way to a championship fight. Morris took three or four athletes to that fight and afterward introduced them to Hope. He also invited Hope to an SI advertising sales meeting. Hope accepted and made an appearance as Keith's "mystery guest." Later, an SI editor asked Keith if Hope, then a part owner of the Cleveland Indians, would do a cover story with us. Morris made a phone call. Hope said O.K. and even posed in a Cleveland uniform on the cover (SI, June 3, 1963).
When Jockey International was planning a new ad campaign several years ago, its ad agency phoned Keith to ask if he could find nine athletes willing to pose in their underwear. When Jockey decided to concentrate on just one athlete, Morris got another phone call. "I suggested Jim Palmer," he says. The rest is underwear history.
"It's been crazy," Morris says of his career, "but it's been fun. SI gave me freedom to move around, to develop ideas. Now it's time to stop."
I'm sure Keith's many friends will join me in wishing him a fond farewell.