Jeannie Morris, a pioneering sports broadcaster and journalist who had close ties to the Bears for decades, passed away Monday at the age of 85.
The former wife of Bears star receiver Johnny Morris, Jeannie started writing about the Bears and the NFL in the late 1960s for the Chicago American newspaper and later for the Chicago Daily News.
She then became one of America's first woman sportscasters when she joined Johnny at WMAQ Channel 5 in Chicago in 1970. Together, they moved to WBBM Channel 2 in 1975. Johnny and Jeannie divorced in 1985 but remained on good terms, continuing to work together at Channel 2, including on "The Mike Ditka Show."
Johnny played 10 seasons with the Bears from 1958-67 and is still the franchise's all-time leading receiver with 5,059 yards. After Brian Piccolo signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 1965, Johnny and Jeannie became friends with Piccolo and his wife, Joy.
When Brian Piccolo was being treated for embryonal cell carcinoma at a New York hospital in 1969, Jeannie spent hours at his bedside collaborating with him on a book. After Piccolo passed away June 16, 1970 at the age of 26, Jeannie released the book entitled "Brian Piccolo: A Short Season," in 1971. The book was re-released this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his passing. Jeannie, who remained lifelong friends with Joy Piccolo, donated all proceeds to the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund.
"We are saddened by Jeannie Morris' passing and send our deepest condolences to her family," the Bears said in a statement. "Jeannie was not only a trailblazer in the sports media landscape, but also eloquently and beautifully shared the story of Brian Piccolo's life in 'Brian Piccolo: A Short Season.' Like Brian, Jeannie's legacy will live on."
In 1975, Jeannie became the first woman to report from the Super Bowl.
Jeannie grew up in Southern California. She met Johnny while they both attended the University of California-Santa Barbara. But they didn't get married until 1960—after their first marriages had ended in divorce.
Jeannie worked as a sportscaster until the late 1980s when local newscasts began to change, favoring short standups over more comprehensive feature stories that she enjoyed constructing.
In 2014, she became the first female to be presented with the Ring Lardner Award for excellence in sports journalism.
Jeannie is reportedly survived by her sons Dan Boorman and Tim Morris, her daughters Debra Dimick and Holly Morris, seven grandchildren, and her ex-husband Johnny Morris.