Greg Morris was an American actor who rose to fame for his role as Barney Collier, the electronics expert, on the hit TV series Mission: Impossible. He was also known for his roles in Vega$, The Jeffersons, and What’s Happening!!. He was one of the first black actors to achieve mainstream success and recognition in Hollywood. However, his life and career were cut short by a series of tragedies and illnesses that led to his death in 1996. What was the cause of death of Greg Morris? How did he cope with his personal and professional challenges? This article will explore the untold story of a TV legend.
The Rise of Greg Morris
Greg Morris was born on September 27, 1933, in Cleveland, Ohio, to a jazz musician father and a homemaker mother. He grew up in a musical environment and developed a passion for singing and acting. He served in the US Army during the Korean War and later attended the University of Iowa, where he studied drama and hosted a jazz radio show. He moved to California and started his acting career in the 1960s, appearing in various TV shows such as The Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Channing.
His breakthrough came in 1966, when he was cast as Barney Collier on Mission: Impossible, a spy thriller series that featured a team of agents who used elaborate schemes and gadgets to accomplish their missions. Morris was the only black actor in the main cast and one of the few black actors to have a prominent role on a TV show at the time. He played Barney with intelligence, dignity, and charisma, and became a fan favorite. He stayed on the show until its end in 1973, and was one of the two actors who appeared in all seven seasons.
Morris was praised for his performance and received several awards and nominations, including a Golden Globe nomination in 1969. He also became a role model and an inspiration for many young black actors and viewers, who saw him as a positive representation of their race and culture. He was also active in various civil rights and social causes, and supported the NAACP and the Urban League.
The Fall of Greg Morris
After Mission: Impossible, Morris continued to work in TV and film, but he never achieved the same level of success and popularity. He co-starred with Robert Urich in Vega$, a detective series set in Las Vegas, from 1978 to 1981. He played Lt. David Nelson, a police officer who assisted Urich’s character, Dan Tanna, in solving crimes. He also appeared in other shows such as The Love Boat, The Jeffersons, and Roots: The Next Generations.
However, Morris also faced many difficulties and hardships in his personal and professional life. He struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction, which affected his health and his relationships. He divorced his wife, Leona, in 1980, after 24 years of marriage and three children. He also had financial problems and legal troubles, and was sued by his former agent for unpaid commissions.
In 1981, Morris was involved in a serious car accident that left him with severe injuries and scars. He recovered, but his appearance and his confidence were damaged. He became depressed and isolated, and his career declined. He made only a few appearances in the 1980s and 1990s, including a cameo in the remake of Mission: Impossible, where he played the father of his son Phil Morris’s character, Grant Collier.
The Death of Greg Morris
In the mid-1990s, Morris was diagnosed with lung cancer and brain cancer, which were likely caused by his smoking habit and his exposure to Agent Orange during the war. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation, but his condition worsened. He moved to Las Vegas, where he lived alone in a small apartment. He was estranged from his family and friends, and rarely left his home.
On August 27, 1996, Morris was found dead in his apartment by a maintenance worker, who had noticed a foul smell. He was 62 years old. The cause of death was a heart attack, according to the coroner’s report. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
Morris’s death was mourned by his fans and his colleagues, who remembered him as a talented and trailblazing actor, a generous and kind person, and a loyal and loving friend. His legacy lives on through his work and his influence, and he is regarded as one of the pioneers and icons of black television.