ICR President Emeritus John Morris passed away on January 29, 2023, at the age of 76. He was deeply respected and dearly loved by family, friends, and colleagues. Fondly known to many as Dr. John, he demonstrated himself to be a leader with a heart for God and others.
God’s Call on His Life
Born on December 7, 1946, John David Morris was the third child of Henry and Mary Louise Morris. In 1970, Dr. Henry Morris cofounded Christian Heritage College with Dr. Tim LaHaye. The college’s Creation Science Research Center grew into what is now the Institute for Creation Research (ICR).
The year before, John graduated from Virginia Tech. Although he accepted Christ as his Savior at an early age, he had a period of wandering. He recalled:
There were, unfortunately, several years of rebellion and rejection. I chose to blend in with the college crowd of the 1960s, and upon graduation with a B.S. in Civil Engineering…I took a job with the city of Los Angeles Public Works Department, primarily interested in worldly pleasures. Thankfully, the Lord never ceased calling me back to Himself.1
John’s attention was caught by the search for Noah’s Ark. He was accepted on a 1971 expedition to Mt. Ararat, but the trip fell through. Disappointed, he joined a Holy Land tour later that year, and on this journey his life took another turn.
It was at Calvary and the Garden Tomb that I fully answered God’s call, recognizing the mighty work He had accomplished there and the claim He had on my life—a life which has not been the same since.1
In 1972, John took part in an ICR-sponsored Mt. Ararat expedition, and the following year he joined the ICR staff and Christian Heritage College as a college recruiter. He enrolled in the University of Oklahoma in 1975 and earned a masters in geological engineering in 1977, the same year he married Dalta Eads, with whom he had three children. He received his Ph.D. in 1980. After teaching at the university, he became a geology professor for ICR’s graduate school in June 1984. After his father, Henry Morris, retired in 1996, Dr. John was appointed president.
Noah’s Ark Explorer
John Morris is perhaps best known for his search for Noah’s Ark. He led over a dozen expeditions to Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey. His expeditions involved adventures such as being held at gunpoint, having foreign commanders take him into custody, exploring rugged terrain in brutal conditions, confronting attack dogs, having local tribes try to stone him, and more.
Dr. John often shared the story of lying paralyzed in the snow on Mt. Ararat after being struck by lightning. He wrote about it in his final Acts & Facts article.
After what seemed like hours of icy immobility,…I finally realized as daylight ended that we were likely headed toward freezing to death that night. But God wasn’t through with us yet. In answer to my fervent prayer, He graciously allowed us to recover and continue on up the mountain.2
He always gave God the glory for preserving his life and those of his teammates during that remarkable experience. Although he didn’t find the Ark, he held out hope it might be discovered some day.
Dr. John published many books related to his field, including The Young Earth, The Fossil Record (co-authored with Frank Sherwin), and The Global Flood. He also participated in ICR research projects and frequently hosted the radio programs Science, Scripture, & Salvation and Back to Genesis. Dr. John spoke at many creation events, sharing his expertise on the evidence for creation and a young earth. He commented:
It has been my continual pleasure to study and teach the freeing news of creation, praising the Lord who has done so much for me.2
Dr. John was a contributor to ICR’s magazine Acts & Facts for many years. He also regularly wrote devotionals for Days of Praise. One of his great loves was studying old Christian hymns. He based many devotionals on the rich doctrine of his favorite ones, and some were gathered into his book How Firm a Foundation in Scripture and Song.
A Gentle Man
John Morris loved to tell folksy stories and corny jokes. When listeners saw a small mischievous grin cross his face, they knew an outrageous punchline was coming. He demonstrated a gentle and upbeat nature, even when dealing with numerous health issues. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1975, he remained active but lost strength over time.
He retired from ICR in 2014 after suffering a stroke. He initially had difficulty talking, and his brother, Henry Morris III, shared that he’d say a few words and get stuck. Then he just smiled. That’s Dr. John—full of joy. He treated everyone like a valued family member, encouraging and offering words of gratitude and praise easily.
John Morris was beloved by many, and ICR regularly receives letters expressing how he touched people’s lives. We at ICR are deeply grieved by his passing, but we’re so grateful for the life of this special man, and we know that his work will continue impacting lives far into the future.
- Morris, J. 1996. Passing the Mantle (IX: ICR, For Such a Time as This). Acts & Facts. 25 (3).
- Morris, J. 2022. Creation Pioneer John Morris. Acts & Facts. 51 (10): 3-4.
Portions of this article were adapted from “Dr. John Morris Is at Home with His Lord,” posted on ICR.org January 29, 2023.