Richard A. Morse was born in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Morse. He graduated from the Milton Academy, Harvard University and the Harvard School of Design. He was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Moving to New York City for seven years he practiced architecture starting in 1927 before moving to Tucson in 1932.
Morse’s work was influenced by the European Modern movement and the Bauhaus. In 1931 he wrote the article “Where are these Modern Buildings? Examples to be found in Holland and Germany,” for the magazine Pencil Points.
In Tucson he met and married Ann Houle in 1934. Their engagement, marriage and honeymoon were of significant social interest and covered extensively in the local papers. In 1935 Morse filed a homestead with the General Land Office west of Tucson (Section 26, Township 17S Range 12E) and served as president of the Tucson Fine Arts Association and president of the Tucson Architects League.
At a presentation to Architects League in November 1935, Morse reflected on the role of the Architect and Client: “The architect must know his client’s personality. He must be able to design a home to fit the owner’s temperament and arrange the plans to answer all of his needs. The architect must give his client what he wants and at the same time what his requirements demand, and must do it all within the limitations of his pocketbook. Again, the architect must have not only a fundamental knowledge of construction but also a thorough knowledge of what building materials are best for eas part of the house, Due to his professional status, he is obligated to pick without prejudice one material for its specific use on the basis of it suitability to the job.” He continued to reflect on the development by Tucson architects of a “southwestern” style distinctive from any other part of the country the style he described as “a gracious rambling plan with wings only room deep to enclose or partially enclose the patio. […] patio arrangement for outdoor living. (ADS 11/1/11/1935)
Morse joined the City of Tucson Planning and Zoning Commission in 1936, and served as chairman from 1938 until his resignation in 1942. During his tenure he advocated strongly for a regional planning. In his civic roles he was often featured in the local papers discussing Architecture including history and local stylistic development. He served on numerous boards and committees including Chairman of the Committee on Truck Routes. He designed theatrical sets for productions at the Temple of Music and Art and in 1938 he designed the first additions to the architect Henry C, Trost designed Carnegie Library with funding from the PWA.
Morse regularly lectured in Tucson on topics of architecture and civic design. In May 1939 Morse participated in the Tucson Fine Arts Association first “Architect’s Show” sponsored by the American Institute of Architects. The exhibition presented “photographs and drawings for the work of Arizona architects.” The exhibit was billed as “the first of its kind in the state” Participating in the show was Morse, Margaret Spencer, Josias Joesler, Arthur T. Brown, William Y. Peters, Jr. and D. Burr Du Bois. Morse was quoted in the Arizona Daily Star on March 17, 1939 discussing the planning of the exhibit “Our object is to show what is being done in architecture in Arizona, rather than to glorify the architect. For this reason only a limited number of carefully selected works can be submitted by the various architects and architectural firms.”
His architectural work, mostly in simplified Spanish-Revival, and early Modernist styles, were primarily residential, including the home designed and built for the Countess of Suffolk in 1937, and the demolished Charles Reynard home near Kolb Road and Broadway, which was built in 1939. Other significant projects during the 1930s included C.P. Anderson House near Willcox
Morse partnered with Tucson architect Arthur T. Brown from 1939 – 1942, the partnership yielded important projects including the Floyd C. Kimball house in Douglas Arizona, five FHA homes in Douglas built by the Douglas Investment Company, and the Stewart Wightwick House in the Tucson Mountain Foothills.
In June 1940 Morse’s design for Joseph Seabury Home on Los Altos Road in Rancho Palos Verde was featured in Architectural Form. Morse was a founding member of the Arizona chapter of the American Institute of Architects and was president in 1941 and 1942. In 1941 Morse married Linda Rocke-Ley.
After serving in the US Navy during World War II, Morse returned to Tucson in September 1945.
In the fall of 1945, Morse with associate William Y. Peters opened a firm at 3207 North First Avenue. In June of 1947 Morse partnered with Merritt H Starkweather, creating a new firm called Starkweather and Morse, with offices at 40 West Congress Street. In November 1947, the book “Your Solar House,” published by Simon and Schuster, featured plans for a Starkweather and Morse solar home.
During the 1960s, Morse served on the Historical Sites Commission, advocating for the preservation of historic properties in the path of urban renal. Having served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, he retired from the aviation branch of the Naval Reserve as a lieutenant commander in 1961. He was also secretary and treasurer for the western mountain region of the American Institute of Architects from 1968 to 1970.
After retiring in Tucson in 1975, Richard A. Morse died in summer of 1982.