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Francis S. Murphy ’36

Francis S. Murphy ’36, March 29, 2003, in Portland, of complications from polyneuropathy. Murph graduated from Reed with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. An article he sold to the Oregonian about his trip with a friend to Mexico City in a Model A Ford—at the opening of the Pan American Highway—led to his working for the newspaper as a "copy boy." He served stateside in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, and worked as an editor of his camp newspaper and as a United Press correspondent. When Murph returned to the Oregonian, he was hired to organize a new microfilm system and to assist the radio columnist. In 1952, he became the radio and television editor, writing the column, "Behind the Mike." As television’s presence in America enlarged, Murph traveled to Hollywood, New York, London, and to a variety of filming locations, to conduct interviews with actors and network officials. He reviewed approximately 2500 programs before retiring in 1979. Murph received the President’s Honor Award of the Portland Advertising Federation in 1975. During his years at the Oregonian, he supported his passion for archaeology by taking 25 trips to the jungles of Guatemala and the Yucatan. He once reported that he held his Reed thesis on Mayan archaeology responsible for those journeys and for his role as archaeologist on three American expeditions into the Quintana Roo territory in 1965, 1966, and 1968. Murph was a member of the prestigious Explorers Club; he mapped and photographed many Mayan sites since destroyed by hurricanes and the dynamite of treasure hunters. He wrote dozens of articles on the Maya, and a book, Dragon Mask Temples in the Central Yukatan. For the Reed alumni association, Murph served as editor from 1930 to 1949, and also served a term as treasurer and as director. He was married briefly in the early ’50s. Of his second marriage he was delighted to say that his proposal to Clare Eastham (Cooke) ’38, on the night of his graduation, suffered a delayed response. "After thinking it over carefully, she finally accepted and we were married in Hong Kong in 1974." The couple lived in Portland and in Hong Kong and traveled extensively before her death in 1990. Murph returned to Portland in 1994. He was a member of the City Club and the First Congregational Church.

Appeared in Reed magazine: August 2003

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