‘Inspirational’ Kensal Rise journalist Lionel Morrison OBE dies aged 81

Lionel Morrison OBE has died

Lionel Morrison OBE has died - Credit: Archant

A ‘remarkable’ black journalist from Kensal Rise who is credited with opening doors for his colleagues of colour has died at the age of 81.

Lionel Morrison with the late South African president Nelson Mandela

Lionel Morrison with the late South African president Nelson Mandela - Credit: Archant

Lionel Morrison OBE, who lived in Okehampton Road, became the first black president of the National Union of Journalists and helped draw up a code of conduct about reporting on race.

He worked continuously for the union and was elected to the coveted post in 1987.

Mr Morrison is also believed to have been one of the first black journalists in Fleet Street and chaired the NUJ’s George Viner Trust charity, which offers bursary for journalism students from ethnic minorities.

In 1999 he was made an OBE for his services to journalism.

Tim Dawson, NUJ president, said “Lionel has made his presence felt at NUJ events and meetings throughout my period of activism.

“Long before I became part of the union’s leadership, he would occasionally take me to one side, either to offer advice or to suggest that a fresh approach that might provide better results. What shone through most of all, however, was his commitment to black journalism and to black journalists playing an effective, high-profile role in the NUJ.

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“His star will shine bright in our union’s firmament for many decades to come.”

Born in South Africa in 1935 he was actively involved in the fight against apartheid and had locked up in jail for five months before he was acquitted.

At the age of just 21 he was the youngest of 155 people in the dock alongside Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, who were subsequently jailed for treason.

He went on to work as a reporter for South Africa’s first black weekly newspaper, the Golden City Post and was a co-founder of the South African National Union of Journalists.

This union accepted members of all races unlike others.

He arrived in Britain in 1968 after going into exile following the Sharpeville massacre six years before.

During his exile years he spent time in a variety of countries.

Describing his father as ‘inspirational’, his oldest son Sipho Morrison told the Times: “He was one of life’s extraordinary people and will be sorely missed.

“Growing up he would tell me stories about his times fighting the apartheid system in South Africa, such as when he was in the treason trial with Nelson Mandela.

“He was an inspirational father, who dedicated his life to contributing and accomplishing good for society.”

Mr Morrison leaves behind his widow Liz and sons Sipho and Dumisa Tshabalala.

His funeral will take place at West London Crematorium in Harrow Road, Kensal Green, on November 19 at 11.15am.

The family have asked for no flowers instead people can make a donation to:

George Viner Memorial Fund

National Union of Journalists,

Headland House,

72 Acton Street,


Or online by visiting here.