Chief Joseph Morgan

Photo of Chief Joseph Morgan
Last Call: Sat, Mar 20th, 1943
Date of Incident: Sat, Mar 20th, 1943
Cause of Death: Structural Collapse
Service Time: 30 years
Age: 52

Survivors

His wife, 2 sons and a daughter.

Incident

Chief Morgan died while directing the fire-fighting efforts at the Goodwill Industries warehouse at 713 Howard St. in north St. Louis City. When the north wall of the warehouse started wobbling, Chief Morgan rushed up the fire escape to warn his firefighters. When the north wall collapsed, Chief Morgan and seven other firefighters were injured. He was trapped under the collapsed wall and while rescuers quickly dug him out, he had a skull fracture and died en route to the hospital.

Chief Morgan can be credited with establishing the Saint Louis Fire Prevention Bureau. He also fought for many years to have a pension plan established. Speaking before the state legislature "to have adequate compensation for firemen and their widows".

In addition to his service with the fire department, Chief Morgan was also a U.S. Army veteran of WW I.

Agency

Saint Louis Fire Department Patch
1421 North Jefferson Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63106
(314) 533-3406

Tributes

There is 1 tribute for Chief Joseph Morgan.

Left by Beth Shapard on Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Fire Chief Joseph W. Morgan was the first and only St. Louis Fire Chief to be killed in front-line performance of duty. Chief Morgan’s sudden death occurred on March 20, 1943 in a fire in a 5-story building of Goodwill Industries at 713 Howard Street. Concerned for the instability of the wall and the safety of his men, he had climbed the fire escape alone, ordering his men down. The 80-year-old building collapsed as Morgan stood on a second story fire escape, and he fell 20 feet to his death. The event was covered in papers from New York to California. Articles in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and the St. Louis Star-Times paid many tributes to his bravery, his achievements, his outstanding concern for his men and the people of his city. One of the articles in the St. Louis Star-Times dated March 22, 1943, reported:

“The memory of such a man should long be honored in the community, not only out of gratitude, but as an inspiration to others. And in the case of Chief Morgan an especially fitting memorial suggests itself at once.”

Sadly, Mayor Becker himself was killed in a glider accident the following August, it was wartime, money was tight, and such a memorial was never pursued. Now, as we approach the seventy-fifth anniversary of Chief Morgan’s death, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are committed to memorializing the ultimate sacrifice he made for the citizens of St. Louis.