Jim Morris

Jim Morris was a professional bodybuilder and fitness trainer hailing from Brooklyn, New York. He achieved success on the bodybuilding stage when he became Mr America in the early 1970s. However, he never fully received the recognition earned by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He was an openly gay African American who grew up in a period of intense prejudice. Because of this, fitness magazines refused to place his picture on their front covers – despite the success that Jim earned in his bodybuilding career.

However, Jim dedicated his entire life to fitness, achieving his fitness goals while helping others achieve their own. Later in his life, Jim became a vegan, citing this as the best decision he had ever made:

“Most people have a problem becoming a vegan or stopping eating meat but because of how I want to live in this world and because of how I want to treat other creatures I have to be a vegan. In order for me to eat meat, I would have to change all my other beliefs.”

This is his story:


 

Jim Morris showing off his physique.

Athlete Statistics

Full Name: Jim Morris
WeightHeightArmsChest
215 - 225lbs (93.0 - 102.1kg)5'10" (177.5cm)18,5"54"
WaistThighsCalves
34"24"16"
Date of BirthDate of DeathAge at Death
August 31, 1935January 28, 201680
NationalityProfessionEra
AmericanIFBB Professional Bodybuilder, Fitness Trainer1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990
Weight215 - 225lbs (93.0 - 102.1kg)
Height5'10" (177.5cm)
Arms18,5"
Chest54"
Waist34"
Thighs24"
Calves16"
Date of BirthAugust 31, 1935
Date of DeathJanuary 28, 2016
Age at Death80
NationalityAmerican
ProfessionIFBB Professional Bodybuilder, Fitness Trainer
Era1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990

 

Jim Morris posing in a photo shoot later in his life.

Accomplishments

Career Stats

  • 1996 IFBB Masters Olympia – 1st (masters 60+)
  • 1996 IFBB Masters Olympia – 10th
  • 1977 NABBA Mr. Universe – 1st (tall)
  • 1974 WBBG Mr. International – 1st (tall)
  • 1973 AAU Mr. America – 1st (most muscular)
  • 1972 AAU Mr. USA – 1st (most muscular)
  • 1972 AAU Mr. America – 3rd (most muscular)
  • 1971 IFBB Mr. International – 2nd (tall)
  • 1970 AAU Mr. Los Angeles – 1st
  • 1970 AAU Mr. California – 1st (overall and most muscular)
  • 1970 AAU Mr. America – 7th
  • 1970 AAU Mr. America – 8th (most muscular)
  • 1969 AAU Junior Mr. America – 5th
  • 1968 AAU Mr. America – 10th
  • 1967 AAU Mr. USA – AAU – 9th
  • 1967 AAU Mr. New York State – 1st
  • 1967 AAU Mr. New York Metropolitan – 1st
  • 1967 AAU Junior Mr. USA – 1st
  • 1967 AAU Junior Mr. America – 8th
  • 1959 AAU Mr. New York Metropolitan – 3rd

 

Jim Morris in a photo shoot in his prime years.

Biography

Fitness Beginnings

Jim Morris was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1935. He began bodybuilding at the age of 19, training hard in the gym while lifting heavy weights. Soon enough, he was able to gain a substantial amount of muscle in a matter of months.

As a result, people around him in the gym became fascinated by his training methods. They were eager to find out how he had built so much muscle in a short space of time.

This is when Jim took it upon himself to provide his fitness expertise. By doing so, he could reach his own fitness goals while helping others achieve theirs. Initially, Jim wrote a copy of the workout that he was following at the time, but eventually he began customizing his plans for his each of his clients.

After a while, Jim took his fitness career a step further when he started an Olympic weightlifting team. Shortly after, his team found success when they stormed to a win in the state championships. Jim then used this as a basis to push his fitness career forward.

Starting Out Competing

In 1961, Jim joined the US air force. But, this was a career that was short lived. This was due to the fact he was offered a job working as a fireman for the New York City fire department.

During this time, the hours that he worked in his job were perfect for Jim. As a result, he was able to place focus on his competitive bodybuilding career alongside his job as a fireman.

Soon enough, Jim’s career as a competitive bodybuilder quickly took off, appearing in competitions such as the Mr. New York State and the AAU Junior Mr. USA throughout 1967, where Jim stormed to first placed finishes.

Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles in 1969 after he was advised by bodybuilding icon Bill Pearl to do so. As a result, his competitive bodybuilding career could be taken to the next level. Under the guidance of Bill, Jim was able to storm to the Mr America title in 1973 – becoming the oldest ever winner of the competition.

Problems Within The Bodybuilding Community

Despite earning success on the bodybuilding stage, Jim failed to receive much publicity. His bodybuilding colleagues including Arnold Schwarzenegger went on to propel to fame, however this wasn’t the case with Jim.

Throughout the prime of Jim’s career, there was a lot of prejudice towards people based on their ethnicity and sexual orientation. Jim, an openly gay African American, faced difficulties in achieving the recognition he deserved.

As a result, fitness magazines refused to place his photo on their front covers, meaning that Jim’s success as a bodybuilder failed to be recognized as the professional he was.


 

A comparison of Jim Morris and his changing physique over the years.

Becoming A Bodyguard and Opening His Own Gym

Later in 1973, Jim attended an A-list party in Hollywood, where he met music legend Sir Elton John. Instantly, Jim and Elton became good friends. Shortly after they met, Jim became Elton’s personal bodyguard – continuing to do so for a total of 15 years.

Throughout this period, Jim was able to continue personal training alongside his bodyguard duties. Jim was regularly in the public eye as part of his job role, meeting several celebrities along the way. This allowed Jim to become a personal trainer for several high profile clients that he had met through Elton.

Eventually, Jim opened up his own gym in 1978 in West Hollywood. This became a platform for Jim to push forward in his fitness career, along with competing on the bodybuilding stage.

However, Jim made the decision to sell the gym in 1985, so that he could pursue his personal training profession, working at World Gym in Marina Del Rey. It was at this point, Jim decided to retire from competitive bodybuilding. But, working as a personal trainer allowed him to keep his fitness journey alive.

Later Competition History

Later in his life, Jim made the decision to return to the bodybuilding stage. It was his aim to prove that age is just a number when it comes to fitness. Also, after becoming a vegetarian upon retiring from bodybuilding, Jim wanted to prove that they too can build an amazing physique – just like meat eaters.

Jim appeared in the IFBB Masters Olympia competition in 1996, where he finished 10th overall and 1st in the 60+ category. This proved that Jim was able to perform well on the bodybuilding stage, despite his age and giving up eating meat over 10 years prior to the competition.

His Final Days

Jim continued to train upon retirement from competitive bodybuilding, hitting his own fitness goals alongside personal training for older clients at Gold’s Gym. This allowed others to achieve the physique that Jim was able to maintain – despite the fact he waved goodbye to the bodybuilding stage many years previously.

Jim stayed active in his life right up until the moment he sadly passed away. This displayed the huge amount of dedication that he had to maintaining his physique. Because of this, Jim was able to stay fit well into his 70s.

Jim regularly set goals for himself so that he could continually grow, while defying the belief that growing older means that you have to give up fitness. Jim stated the following in regard to this:

“That’s when I’m energized, when I’m alive – when I’m in training. I’ve stayed in training from one goal to another and it’s become a way of life. The only way you can keep this up for a lifetime is to make fitness a way of life”.


 

Jim Morris performing bicep curls in the gym.

Training

Throughout his entire career in fitness, Jim would always set new goals for himself so that he always had something to aim for. Because of this, Jim was able to constantly progress while adding lean muscle mass – allowing him to perform well on the bodybuilding stage.

The workout split that he followed looked something like this:

Jim Morris Workout Split

Sunday and Thursday

  • Squats or Leg Press – 5 or 6 Sets
  • Thigh Extensions – 5 or 6 Sets

Monday and Friday

  • Lat Pulldowns – 5 Sets
  • Cable Flyes – 5 Sets
  • Dipping Machine – 5 Sets

Tuesday and Saturday

  • Dumbbell Side Laterals – 5 Sets
  • Forward Laterals on Low Pulley – 5 Sets
  • Triceps Pushdowns – 5 Sets
  • Straight Dumbbell Curls – 5 Sets

Wednesday

  • Rest Day

 

Jim Morris posing in an outdoor photo shoot.

“The protein in animal products is so laden with fats and chemicals and all sorts of stuff that’s harmful to you. When I was competing and stuffing down all of that sort of stuff, I had lots of digestive problems. I know as a fact I would not be here and I would not be in this condition now had I continued eating the way I was.

Nutrition

Earlier in his bodybuilding career, Jim ate a high amount of protein from meat sources in order to continually grow. This was the typical bodybuilder’s diet at the time. Because of this, Jim thought it was the best method of nutrition to follow.

However, upon retiring from professional bodybuilding competitions in 1985, Jim became a vegetarian. He found that by cutting out meat from his diet, he was able to overcome the digestive problems which troubled his body over the years. Jim stated the following in regard to his diet choices:

“It was only after I retired from competition in 1985 that I started considering my health and eliminated what I had over the years identified as the cause of my digestive, respiratory and joint problems, namely all animal sources,(beef, fowl, dairy, pork and fish). I continued having fish on rare occasions as a treat”.

Eventually, Jim made the decision to become a vegan in 2000, keeping his diet simple while revolving around the following foods:

Jim Morris’ Vegan Diet Staples

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Beans

 

Jim Morris holding dumbbells in a photo shoot later in his career.

Idols and Influences

Early in Jim’s competitive bodybuilding career, he sought advice from professionals so that he could continue to progress. Jim highlights the influence of bodybuilding legend Bill Pearl in driving his fitness career forward:

“In 1969, I went to Los Angeles to ask for Bill Pearl’s advice. I was so taken with him, I moved to L.A. to learn from him. Bill taught me the mechanics of training and training others. With Bill’s guidance, I was able to win the Mr America”.

In addition, Bill was a vegetarian bodybuilder. He was the reason that Jim decided to become a vegetarian himself, after Bill proved that eating meat wasn’t required to obtain a phenomenal physique.

However, throughout Jim’s life he was a very self-motivated person. This allowed him to keep pushing forward, hitting every goal that he set for himself. While at the same time, motivating his clients to achieve their own fitness goals – just like him.


 

Jim Morris wearing a vest in a photo in the gym.

What we can learn from Jim Morris

Jim Morris dedicated his entire life to fitness. By doing so, he was able to maintain his excellent physique right up until the moment he sadly passed away in 2016. His fitness career spanned over an astonishing 50 year period, proving that bodybuilding was a way of life for Jim.

However, along the way he had to deal with growing up in a period where prejudice was heavily present due to his ethnicity and sexual orientation. As a result, this meant that Jim failed to gain the recognition that he deserved in his bodybuilding career.

Regardless of this, Jim remained active in fitness throughout his life. He was dedicated to helping others, while defying the belief that getting older means that you have to give up achieving your fitness goals.

What we can learn from Jim Morris is; he proved that eating meat isn’t required to maintain a great physique. In addition, to all those that knew him, he was an inspiration – a character that will be sorely missed across the bodybuilding scene.

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