CHICAGO—A celebration of life memorial service was held for Howard Morgan as he was remembered as a man of strength and faith. Family, friends, and supporters gathered at the Church of the Living God to pay their respects to a man who years ago survived a violent encounter with Chicago police but lived to persevere and overcome the injustice that followed.
Over the years, a special bond between the Nation of Islam and the Morgan family developed.
Student Minister Caleb Muhammad served as the master of ceremony during the service, while Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad, National Assistant to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, read the eulogy and provided uplifting and guiding words.
“Every time I ran across him and talked to him, he would always let me know, ‘it’s not me that brought me through, it was God who brought me through that ordeal.’ He was always holding on to God, thanking God for the time he had left,” Student Minister Caleb Muhammad stated at the June 1 memorial.
One such ordeal and trial Mr. Morgan endured was surviving a February 21, 2005 shooting at the hands of Chicago police which left him fighting for his life and eventually being prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned.
On that fateful night Mr. Morgan, an off-duty Chicago senior officer for the Burlington Northern Railroad and former Chicago police officer, was a half a block away from his home when four White Chicago police officers pulled him over. Mr. Morgan is Black.
That stop ended with Mr. Morgan being shot 28 times, 21 of them in the back. The confrontation with the officers left Mr. Morgan hospitalized for six months and he underwent several surgeries. Mr. Morgan was tried and acquitted in 2007 for aggravated battery with a firearm and aggravated discharge of a firearm. The jury in the first trial deadlocked on the remaining counts and the judge ordered a new trial.
He was retried and convicted in 2012 of one count of aggravated battery with a firearm and four counts of attempted murder. Mr. Morgan, who had no prior criminal record or arrests, was sentenced to 40 years in prison April 5, 2012, and incarcerated at Dixon Correctional Center in Dixon, Ill.
Mr. Morgan, his faithful and beloved wife Rosiland and their supporters maintained it was the Chicago cops who were the aggressors and Mr. Morgan was the victim of police brutality and misconduct. He maintained he never fired a weapon and always maintained his innocence. The Morgan’s spent years fighting to clear his name.
Finally, in 2015 then-Illinois Governor Pat Quinn commuted Mr. Morgan’s sentence to time served, a move that riled the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County Attorney’s Office.
He spent nearly a decade behind bars. Through it all, the Morgans, their supporters and legal team never wavered.
“Howard Morgan was a real man, and you knew it from the moment you came in his presence. That’s why my heart is heavy. Rosalind Morgan who was his angel, his wife, she was the very definition of a wife, help mate. She succumbed a few months ago, and I wondered how long Mr. Morgan was going to be with us before he went to be with his Rosalind,” said Attorney Ben Crump, who was one of several attorneys that represented the Morgans in their fight for justice.
“We should be celebrating his life. I remember when I first met Rosalind Morgan because I hadn’t met Howard Morgan yet. He was wrongly incarcerated like so many other Black men in America and she painted this picture of a man who said what he meant and meant what he said. A man of conviction, a man of principle, a man who you would admire,” said Atty. Crump.
Howard Morgan survived being shot 28 times, he survived cancer, and he also survived COVID-19. On May 2, 2022, at age 71, Mr. Morgan succumbed to kidney failure, 10 months after his wife, Rosalind Morgan, developed cancer and passed from complications of COVID-19.
Howard and Rosalind met at Hyde Park High School in Chicago and were married for 52 years. Out of that union, two children and three grandchildren were produced.
Aukeko Jennings, daughter of Mr. Morgan, stated, “I went to his home and found him laid out. I told him I was going to call 911, and he said, ‘don’t call them sweetheart, I’ll be OK.’ I have never seen anyone shot 28 times, cancer, and COVID and still saying I’m going to be OK. He didn’t want to be a burden, and when he arrived at the hospital, we were in the emergency room, and I asked him if he was going to listen to them. He said, ‘yes sweetheart.’ That was the first time that my dad didn’t put up a fight,” reflected Ms. Jennings.
“Minister Ishmael, you all did not know my father, you all did not know my mother, you didn’t know us, you didn’t have to do anything. I am grateful for people that take time out. You don’t owe us nothing. The Nation of Islam doesn’t owe us anything. I want to say thank you. I highly respect you all,” she added.
“The words that were shared spoke to the greatness of God in Howard. The words that have been shared and in his own words is a testament to God. Your father was the personification of love. He didn’t complain, he was patient under trial, he endured much, he was persecuted. Through all of his trials and suffering, he gave the praise and the honor to God,” stated Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad.
“The spirit of God is strong. Wherever there is pain, there is the greatest manifestation of the creative force that’s in the universe, wherever there is pain, and there’s a greater manifestation and expression of the spirit of God,” he added.
Longtime Morgan family friend, supporter, and assistant for Atty. Crump, Kareem Ali, shared his relationship with the man he affectionately called his “godfather.”
“I was overwhelmed by how we got an opportunity to reflect and show the world Howard Morgan’s level of faith in God. Throughout the 17 years of him being shot 28 times, no matter what circumstance, no matter how much pain he went through, no matter how much adversity he went through, he always exemplified his faith in God,” said Mr. Ali.
“The memorial was so beautiful. I believe Student Minister Caleb did a wonderful job at tying everyone in together. Attorney Benjamin Crump’s words and his expression of Mr. Morgan’s plight, and I think Student Minister Ishmael did such an outstanding job. He really brought the spiritual root home.” Final Call staff contributed to this report.
—Shawntell Muhammad, Contributing Writer