San Diego Progressives Lose an Icon – Floyd Morrow Passes

by on October 16, 2019 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

One of San Diego’s most popular progressives in the modern era has passed. Floyd Morrow died October 3; he was 86.

Called “independent” or a “lone ranger” by his colleagues on the San Diego City Council – Floyd represented the greater Clairemont community of the 5th District for 3 terms – 15 years.

Others – such as those within the then-small progressive community of San Diego – saw him as a populist, a hero to the downtrodden or under-represented, and an early environmentalist and supporter of parks and people’s movements.

Five years ago, Micaela Shafer Porte, wrote about Floyd for the San Diego Free Press, the OB Rag’s sister-publication and here are excerpts from her post:

 Floyd Morrow has had a long distinguished presence in San Diego’s political and social landscape.  He served as Deputy City Attorney in 1963 and then spent fifteen years as a City Councilman representing the greater Clairemont area.  He is a frequent contributor on KNSJ 89.1 FM, the national social justice radio station in San Diego.

Floyd’s lifelong commitment has been to peace, justice and affordable housing. He established the Environmental Trust Fund, financed by a 1% increase in the SDG&E franchise fee and helped create Mission Trails, Tecolote Canyon, and Mission Bay parks as well as thousands of acres of open space.

He ran for Mayor of San Diego in 2008.  His platform was to make San Diego “safe, affordable, green and solvent.” Although he was unsuccessful in his mayoral bid, the now octogenarian has never stopped working on these issues.

Floyd Morrow is an ex-Marine sergeant who served in combat in the Korean War and later earned a law degree at the University of Texas. He has been a career attorney and longtime citizen activist, both in and out of the San Diego political scene since 1952.

For years, he led what he called “a philosopher’s round table” and potluck every week at the Linda Vista Village community room.

“Everybody contributes” would be one of the tenants of Floyd Morrow’s philosophy of life, as well as “positivism,” his personal contribution to a round-the-table query…

Floyd’s lifelong concern for the homeless stems from personal experience in his early childhood in a Texas compound for itinerants in the 1930’s depression, and throughout his life he has always focused on equitable distribution of the self-evident global resources:  Air, water, sun and land.  … As a longtime Rotarian, he reminded us that the origin of the first Rotary Club was to provide toilet facilities for the homeless in Chicago.

His life as one of a set of twins separated at a young age (by the death of his mother during the Depression and the adoption of her nine children to all different families) led him to join a continuing psychological experiment on the nature of twins and  human nature at the University of Minnesota. Floyd and all his brothers and sisters, including twin Lloyd, have been re-united as adults and stay in touch.

Floyd is a follower of  the early 20th century American economist Henry George, who advocated for land value taxation.  He is proud of his participation in developing a real world urban village model in Linda Vista, and of his efforts to broaden the basic economic education in our school curriculum.  He is currently involved in developing and marketing expandable temporary/emergency shelters at a plant south of Tijuana.  …

One of his most memorable political escapes was NOT getting caught up in the 1970 “yellow cab” scandal simply by having diligently declared that anonymous $50 bill left on the counter of his campaign office as an  “anonymous contribution of $50.”  He is glad that much progress has been made in campaign financing laws, accountability and transparency. …

Floyd Morrow’s advice for young people and our society would be a new, improved Peace Corp,  modeled after JFK’s and civic and social missions to broaden our horizons and experience in a global outreach for peace and shared prosperity.

Those of us who were active in OB during the 1970s knew Floyd. When activists with the OB Community Planning Group were going for City Council support of our plan for a democratic election to our newly-establish planning board, Floyd was the friendliest face on the Council. He supported our populist planning movement and helped convince his colleagues on the Pete Wilson-dominated City Council to vote for the OB Planning Board.

Micaela Shafer Porte ended her post with the following:

Here is a classic Floyd Morrow moment in an excerpt from San Diego Historical Society archives from 1971,that sums up San Diego convention center politics, and how Floyd Morrow played his part with conviction and common sense:


The 1972 Republican Convention Fiasco

by Vincent S. Ancona, Assistant Curator, San Diego Historical Society

The council also heard arguments from the floor, and not surprisingly several of the same men who had participated in the ad hoc committee meetings spoke in favor of the convention. An equal number of private citizens were present to voice their protests. A few of these citizens opposed the convention because of the fear of widespread rioting such as had occurred during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Most opponents of the convention were against it because they felt that it was detrimental to San Diego as a whole. They argued that the convention would only benefit land developers and the hotel industry, and that the quality of life for the average San Diegan would be diminished by attracting even more people to live in the area. Despite several impassioned pleas from the audience, only one councilmember, Floyd Morrow, voted against the resolution. Morrow declared that if the Republican Party wanted to have their convention in San Diego as badly as the press claimed, then they should be paying the city to come here. Cheers rose up from the audience  but to no avail; once the resolution passed, Mayor Curran immediately appointed Leon Parma to chair the newly formed Civic Committee to Invite and Host the 1972 Republican National Convention.

The Republican National Convention declined San Diego’s offer in the end.

Here also is some of Floyd’s history and background at the San Diego Union-Tribune obituary.

Floyd is survived by his wife of 65 years, Marlene; his three children, Darlene (and husband Mark), Shawn (Janine), and Lance (Val); and four grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life is scheduled for Oct. 28 from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at St. Peter’s by the Sea Lutheran Church, 1371 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Brett Warnke October 16, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Amazing tribute Frank, great focus on how he never forgot his family’s history of poverty and his rise to influence. Real impressive life—hope we can be as impactful.


retired botanist October 16, 2019 at 3:30 pm

Nice article, wish I’d met him. It’s encouraging in these times to learn that there are (were) still people out there with good values and empathy. I hope others will follow his role model. Thanks for the ‘lift up” :)


Frank Gormlie October 17, 2019 at 7:42 pm

I recall the days when Floyd led the progressive wing of the local SD Democratic Party, and in the early 1980s was part of the “April Coalition” formed to mobilize against then Prez Reagan.


micporte March 4, 2020 at 6:43 am

Thanks for the memoriam, Frank , and thanks to the SD fabulous and essential OBRAG


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