WEAI mourns the loss of James Morley

September 29, 2020

Former East Asian Institute Director James Morley died on Sunday, September 27, 2020. He was 99 years old. 

Professor Morley was a teacher, role model and friend. He was a mentor to generations of students throughout his long tenure at Columbia, which began in 1954 and lasted until his retirement as Professor of Political Science in 1991. In addition to his research and teaching work, he served for three separate terms as director of the East Asian Institute (renamed in 2003 as the Weatherhead East Asian Institute). In 1967, following his first term heading the Institute, he served as an assistant to the American ambassador to Japan at the US embassy in Tokyo, where he worked to strengthen the countries’ bilateral ties.

Professor Morley was a prolific scholar, and published such books as The Japanese Thrust Into Siberia, 1918 (1957), Forecast for Japan: Security in the 1970s (1972), Prologue to the Future: the United States and Japan in the Postindustrial Age (1974), and Japan’s Road to the Pacific War: Selected Translations from Taiheiyo Senso e no michi: Kaisen Gaikoshi (five volumes) (1976-1984). He also served as editor of such works as Dilemmas of Growth in Prewar Japan (1976) and Security Interdependence in the Asia Pacific Region (1986), among others. 

After breaking Japanese codes for the US during WWII, Professor Morley devoted his career as an academic to understanding Japan and to healing the US-Japan relationship. Recognizing his contributions, he was awarded the prestigious Order of the Sacred Treasure, second class, by the Japanese government. He was also a recipient of the 1987 Japan Foundation Award for significant contributions to "the enhancement of mutual understanding between Japan and other countries."

Professor Morley is remembered for his warmth and generosity, and for inspiring and encouraging so many young East Asia scholars. The loss of Professor Morley is the loss of a great leader and a brilliant mind. He will be missed by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute community and by all who knew him.