Jim Morris, vegan bodybuilder
A bodybuilding legend
Jim Morris was a bodybuilder who has had an amazing career well into his older years. In the picture above he is aged 61.
In 1966 he entered his first competition aged 31 and became Mr New York City. Next year he won his first national title and in 1967 won Mr East Coast. In 1967 he entered Mr New York State competition and won as well as winning the 'Most Muscular' award. In 1969 he moved to Los Angeles and won Mr Los Angeles and was awarded Most Muscular, Best Arms and Best Abdominal, and next year he defended the title with five other awards. In 1972 he placed 3rd in Mr America and won Best Arms, Best Back and Best Abdominals.
Three months later Mr USA was held, which Jim won, along with Most Muscular, Best Back and Best Chest. This led to high expectations in 1973 at Mr America, which Jim won by the largest winning points margin ever, a record that still stands. He was also the oldest winner at age 37, and that record still stands. In 1977 Jim won the London Mr Universe Tall class and placed 2nd overall.
Jim was openly gay, and he felt that this and being black prevented him from receiving the recognition that his extraordinary achievements deserved. Magazines covering his sport left his wins with much lower profiles than previous winners, which he mainly attriuted to his skin colour.
Despite these victories, Jim is possibly best known for maintaining his physique into what is normally considered old age. In 1996 he won the over 60 category of Mr Olympia masters, which was his last competition. Aside from the awards already mentioned, he had won 18 other titles. He trained regularly into his 70s has been the subject of disbelieving news reports where he has been asked to prove he was as old as he claims.
Jim turned vegetarian in 1985 and at 2000 he became vegan at age 65.
In 2011 after 11 years as a vegan, Jim explained to us how he made the transition from meat eater to vegan. When he started competing he was aware that the traditional bodybuilding diet of animal protein had consequences for health, but he was eager to compete and win, so continued with it. "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 my "treat"."
Aged 64, Jim developed a medical condition that sharpened his outlook.
"In 1999 because of a nerve condition I consulted a cardiologist, neurologist, rheumatologist, hand specialist, acupuncturist, chiropractor and two pain specialists from Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. Had a brain scan, an MRI of my neck, another of my entire spine, had an unnecessary carpal tunnel operation, suffered Vertigo from interaction of medications prescribed by several of the above and continued to have the problem.
"A friend got me in to see the Chief of Neurology at the Norton Hospital in the USC Medical Center who advised me to try to endure the pain and the problem may clear up on its own. Which it did. The horrific nightmare of an experience so terrified me that I determined to do everything in my power to never again fall into the clutches of the Pharmedical Industry. I stopped eating fish and all processed and refined products."
The China Study
In 2004 Jim joined the millions of people around the world who had been struck by the evidence in "The China Study" by T Colin Campbell, a book that Jim described as "my bible". Jim continued to eat a healthy diet, and his website contains many photos which continually amaze visitors with his physique. He loved fruit and nuts, and was critical of synthetic foods with no nutritional value.
He was keen to promote the benefits of veganism, speaking about his relationship with his companion dogs including comparisons with him as they became older. He also posed nudet for a PETA advert while in his late 70s.
Unsuprisingly for an athlete who competed for thirty years and inspired people for 45 years, Jim had wise words for the rest of us. "Health and well being are a way of life. Not a certain diet or set of exercises or any other single area, but a combination of all the aspects of your life. Accept full responsibility for yourself, your health and your choices. The western civilization culture is anti health in that it is designed to produce profit not health. Read up on epigenetics. You control more of the genes which differentiate you from other humans than you realize. You are your own creator and creation."
In January 2016 Jim unexpectedly died aged 80 (click here for more). He had been active into his late years and continued to train himself and other people. His death led to tributes from around the world from people who felt that his actions and words had helped them in connection with training and veganism among other things.
If you've been inspired by Jim's story to build some vegan muscle and have questions about vegan protein powder have a look at our FAQs
More about Jim elsewhere online