Well-known and respected local photographer Abudu Mukarram was buried on Monday, June 11, not long after suffering a brain aneurysm from which his body could not recover.
Born Morgan Murrell, he changed his name to reflect his faith in Islam, and was joined in this decision by his wife, Rukiya Jean, who is left to cherish his memory, along with their sons, Diyan Ijaaz and Jibril Riyaad.
The news of Mukarram's death spread swiftly through a wide swath of the city's business and artistic communities. For as much as he was appreciated as a master of his craft, Mukarram's one-man photography service, Morgan Photography, became revered for his giving spirit and the burning curiosity that allowed him to happily celebrate other people's special moments. Known for entering a room with his bright and brilliant smile, he was cherished for leaving many more behind, a key factor in his success as a freelancer who chronicled corporate events.
Though many knew of his name change, he often was referred to as "Morgan," not out of disrespect to his change of name, but after his many years imprint as a photographer it was just natural to do so. To those who knew him personally, (a gift for which this writer will forever be grateful), saying it was a sound you could never get enough of, as recalled by Leon Griffin, one of his colleagues at Channel 13, where Mukarram's career began as a cameraman.
"The first contact with Morgan was when I returned to WHBQ-TV in 1975. I couldn't believe this youngster with an 'old-timers' work ethic," recalled Griffin. "His attention to detail also separated Morgan from the typical studio crew member. As his experience grew, his superiors' confidence in his ability elevated him to the head of the class. But he still wanted to be more."
Griffin said Mukarram's attitude was as special as his talent.
"He then added photography to his videography skill, and that took him to the next level as he faithfully recorded history, arts and entertainment for three decades. Rarely has one person touched so many lives and then shaped facets of life in the Mid-South like Morgan Mukkaram, the boy I watched grow into this fabulous man that I will miss every day I remain on Earth!"
I met "Morgan" about this time, working as a writer with the Memphis Star magazine. Our friendship began at Mach 12 and never slowed down. From concerts to the lowliest backwater dump, if there was a story to be shot, Morgan was ready to shoot it, nine times out of ten on his own dime. The funny part about it was that at smaller places, Morgan was always the star of the room. He was just a magnetic guy.
A brilliant and humane curiosity created a running soundtrack of questions as he chewed up assignments, developing the bulk of his work in a tiny little apartment in Midtown, the rows of film hanging in the kitchen like curtains. He constantly strived to find true faith in his lifetime, with the bottom line a need to see people treated fairly.
Islam calmed him, and led him to find his wife, and he found peace in his heart. When the boys were born, he doubled his efforts to become even more productive on their behalf. The last moment we spent together was on an adventure getting the boys home from school – a proud moment for me because I could finally assist him in something important, as he had done for me as unfailingly as a raindrop's fall.
He was a Sir Lancelot of his time, the best of the bunch, the type of person for whom the poem "Death Be Not Proud" was written. His wife, Jean, and I shared a smile as we reminisced how we first met. He brought her over to surprise my mother on her birthday, June 7. We found it a comforting thought that our precious Morgan became free on this same date.
Once his joy, then his wife, now his widow, they had sixteen years together. She reported to me that the boys would be off to camp seeking their full smiles again, and she will then rest to recuperate to finish the task of raising them in the footsteps of their father.
He also leaves his parents, Morgan and Ernestine Murrell; one daughter, Kristi D. Murrell; one grandson, Honor M. Vadel; three brothers, Edwin Murrell, Edward Murrell (Ezilien) and Kenneth Murrell (Relieth); two sisters, Althea Elmore and Tracie Murrell; and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.