A Tribute to

Albert H. Morehead

1909 - 1966

Games expert and Lexicographer

 

from publicity release for the CBS-TV television program "I'll Buy That," June 17, 1953:

Albert Morehead, the six-foot-four, erudite panelist of CBS-TV's new audience participation series, ''I'll Buy That," is one of those many-sided geniuses in cosmopolitan New York whose list of vocations and avocations is literally a yard long. He is a book editor, magazine writer, games authority, author, tunesmith, newspaper columnist, lexicographer, businessman, translator, amateur criminologist and a half dozen other lesser things besides.

On "I'll Buy That," Morehead's task, along with that of three fellow panelists, is to guess the identity of various articles, inanimate and animate, which studio guests bring in to "sell." If they name it, the program buys it for a neat sum. His phenomenal range of knowledge of cabbages and kings, shoes and ships, and sealing wax makes him a "natural" on a show where anything imaginable, from an unwanted coffee grinder to a Mohican artifact, may have to be identified.

But Albert Morehead, a quiet-spoken, urbane gentleman who exudes evidences of his Dixie birth, is primarily famous in the field of games, especially bridge. He has written more than 50 books on games of all kinds, and holds three of the most distinguished positions in the field -- bridge editor of The New York Times, editor of games articles for the Encyclopedia Britannica, and editor of the book "Official Rules of Card Games." For this reason he is often called "the modern Hoyle."

However, games are more a hobby than a profession with him. As to his profession, he says that that is hard to classify, because by working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, he manages to do such a variety of things. Here are the jobs he is holding down at present: editor of a new dictionary that Simon & Schuster will publish next year, editor of a smaller dictionary that Mentor Books will publish this fall, editor of a 12-volume children's encyclopedia that the Winston Publishing Company will publish this fall, editor of a series of hymn books and song books being distributed by Pocket Books, president of a music publishing firm, writer of an article on bridge every week for The New York Times, a daily article on canasta for King Features Syndicate, of two books on games, and one or two magazine articles each month.

For relaxation, Morehead writes three or four songs or hymns a year, is translating a play from the French and does occasional translations of French poetry. He also regularly contributes articles on criminology, another hobby, to books on the subject.

He has been going at the same pace for more than 20 years.

He was born in Flintstone, Ga., on August 7, 1911, but is a native Georgian because his parents happened to be spending the summer there. Their home was in Lexington, Ky. When he was 12, he took an I.Q. test, then coming into vogue. His showing was the highest recorded at that time. Young Albert was promptly skipped from seventh grader to high-school sophomore in easy stages -- a grade a month. The plan was next to graduate at the age of 13, but before this could be completed, Albert's father died and the whole family moved to Chattanooga, Tenn. He went to the Baylor School and then to Harvard.

During both high school and college he worked on the Lexington, Ky., Herald, the Chattanooga Times, the Chicago Daily News, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Newton, Mass. Town Crier (a country weekly where he was managing editor, that being the lowest title on the staff). For the last 19 years he has been on the staff of The New York Times.

From 1927 on, he played in bridge tournaments, and in 1932, during the depression, when only contract bridge was booming, he got a job as a writer on Ely Culbertson's magazine, the Bridge World. The next year he was made editor and the year after that general manager of all of Culbertson's bridge and business enterprises. He is still editor of the Culbertson bridge books and conducts a monthly department in the magazine.

In 1934, Morehead won the Charles M. Schwab Trophy (interna-tional bridge championship). He served as both president and chairman of the board of the American Contract Bridge League. He still is a director, and is on the committees that control the official bridge laws, the official canasta laws and the Vanderbilt Cup Bridge Tournament.

As a magazine writer, he set a record by having 36 articles (under four different names) published in one magazine, Redbook, in 1944, and almost matched it in 1951 with 29 articles in Cosmopolitan. From 1945 to 1947, he was puzzle and quiz editor for Coronet and consulting editor on games for Esquire. Since 1946 he has been consultant on games to the United States Playing Card Company.

In business, for three years he was vice president and general manager of Kem Plastic Playing Cards, Inc., and for three years he was vice president of the John C. Winston Company, book publishers. He edited W. Somerset Maugham's series of "The Ten Best Novels of the World" and also Fulton Oursler's great bestseller, "The Greatest Story Ever Told."

In 1939, Albert Morehead married Loy Claudon, an Illinois girl. They have two sons, 13 and 11. They live in midtown Manhattan, in a two-story house on top of a building, with a front yard that has three feet of soil, a good-sized lawn and three trees growing in it.


from The Bulletin of the American Contract Bridge League, March 1996:

In October it will be three decades since Albert Morehead died of cancer at the age of 57. Many of today's generation know little about the man except, perhaps, that there is a bridge library in Memphis named for him.

Morehead was a lad of 23 when Ely Culbertson hired him because of his talent as a player and expert analyst. In a short time Morehead was technical analyst for The Bridge World magazine and technical manager of all Culbertson enterprises. He was only 25 when he played on the Culbertson team that defeated the English in the second international match for the Schwab trophy back in 1934.

Morehead not only published and edited the magazine, he was responsible for much of the writing of Culbertson books and radio scripts. He managed details pertaining to the Crockford Clubs in New York and Chicago. He negotiated endorsements and was executive director of Kem Playing Cards, Inc. -- which he sold within a few years for a profit of more than half a million dollars.

A tireless worker, he was the first bridge editor of The New York Times. He wrote and edited bridge books. He ran a plastics business and did free-lance writing on a multitude of non-bridge subjects for leading American magazines.

After he resigned from the Times late in 1963, he devoted full time to the writing, editing and publishing of dictionaries, encyclopedias and a thesaurus which made him one of the foremost American lexicographers. His works also included many "Hoyle" books, giving the rules on card games, on which he was the leading American authority.

Meanwhile, he found time for tremendous service to organized bridge. He was an officer of the United States Bridge Association when that organization amalgamated with the American Bridge League in 1937. He became a governor of the newly formed American Contract Bridge League which he later served as president and chairman of the board. He was named Honorary Member in 1946. He was a member of the National Laws Commission and was in charge of production of the International Laws of Contract Bridge.

He not only served ACBL as advisor and laws consultant, he made enormous contributions to the Official Encyclopedia of Bridge -- far beyond the scope of duties suggested by his title of Chairman of the Editorial Advisory Board.

Early in 1966, while suffering from his then undiagnosed mortal illness, Morehead rose from a sickbed to travel to Amsterdam to present the constitution he had prepared for the World Bridge Federation -- the first formal definition of the scope, structure, powers and duties of that organization.

Some insight into the man behind all this talent can be found in his obituary in the November issue of the 1966 Bulletin. Then editor Dick Frey wrote,

"Dwarfing these magnificent achievements were personal traits rare among ment. No one ever saw him lose his temper at the bridge table or heard him speak an unkind word to a partner. He smiled often, but the only player he ever laughed at was himself.

Rarely if ever did he turn down a plea for help. Writing this, I am proud to acknowledge the debt I owe him and to claim that he was my best friend. The secret of his greatness was that there are scores of others who eill truly say exactly this of Albert Hodges Morehead."

Morehead left his large and valuable collection of books to eh ACBL, and they formed the heart of what has been for three decades the Albert H. Morehead Memorial Library.

 

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