Morgan Freeman has captivated audiences for decades with his outstanding performances and has become one of the most beloved actors in modern American cinema. Born in 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, Freeman had a brief career in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s before acting in the 1960s. He first played the role of Easy Rider in 1971 on The Electric Company, an educational children’s television show in which he eventually starred in 780 episodes.
His first Academy Award nomination was in 1988 for Street Smart, and he won the award in 2005 for his role in Million Dollar Baby.
HIS GRANDMOTHER’S DEATH DEVASTATED HIM
At age two, Morgan Freeman went to live with his father’s mother, Evelyn Freeman, in Charleston, Mississippi. Morgan lived at his grandmother’s house with his older sister, Iris Virginia Freeman, for the next four years.
Unfortunately, it ended when Morgan was six years old and Evelyn passed away. The loss of his grandmother, with whom he was very close, not only devastated Freeman but foreshadowed more suffering, forcing him to move permanently to Chicago to live with his parents.
AS A TEENAGER, HE NEARLY DROWNED IN THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
As a teenager, Morgan Freeman spent some time in the Mississippi River, but one hot afternoon, he nearly got into a deadly drowning situation. Morgan Freeman and a friend were walking through the hills of Mississippi when they came across a pond that promised relief from the scorching sun (according to Gina DeAngelis in the movie Morgan Freeman). The boys jumped into the water, but Freeman had trouble swimming and nearly drowned as a result. As luck would have it, a few passersby were able to pick him up and pull him out of the water; otherwise, he would have indeed died.
HE HARDLY KNEW HIS FATHER
During Morgan Freeman Jr’s childhood and adolescence, one of the most tragic moments was his failed relationship with Morgan Freeman Sr, his father. It wasn’t until he was six years old, on Thanksgiving Day, that Morgan Jr. saw his father for the first time while he was on leave from his involvement in World War II (via Henry Louis Gates in In Search of Our Roots).
His relationship with his father was so bad that he only lived with him for six months, after which he finally moved in with his mother and rarely saw him after that. A few times, he stopped by to get a haircut – his father was a barber – and get a few dollars to give to his poor mother, but Morgan Jr. hated to see him. Morgan Sr. eventually died in 1961, at the relatively young age of 47, of cirrhosis of the liver caused by years of excessive alcohol consumption. When his father died, Morgan Jr. was only 24 years old, and they never reconciled.
HE STRUGGLED WITH ALCOHOLISM
In the 70s, when Morgan Freeman, having gotten the role of the Careless Rider in the TV series “The Electric Company,” seemed to be on the way to superstardom, his personal life was not going well. As Freeman told The Washington Post in a 1989 interview, while he enjoyed starring in the series and liked the cast, it also led him to slip into alcoholism briefly.
At first, he would drink at dinner, but after filming was over, he would bring alcohol home, and the martinis turned into whiskey and scotch. He once drank several quarts of whiskey a week and passed out from drinking so much.
Freeman was later able to use his knowledge of alcoholism when he played a drug counselor in the 1988 film Clean and Sober. Freeman has since replaced alcohol with marijuana, allowing him to continue his acting career.
HE LOST HIS GRANDDAUGHTER TO A BRUTAL MURDER
Many parents’ greatest fear is losing their child to some horrific accident, and tragically, Morgan Freeman experienced just that when his adopted granddaughter, E’Dina Hines, was brutally murdered in August 2015. The stepdaughter was Freeman’s adopted granddaughter from his first ex-wife, Jeanette Bradshaw, who was her grandmother before her marriage to Freeman.
Despite this, on August 16, 2015, MEDina’s body was found with several stab wounds inflicted by her boyfriend, Lamar Davenport. She was pronounced dead at the hospital later that morning, and Davenport was arrested. Authorities later determined that Davenport was under the influence of the illegal drug phencyclidine, or PCP, when he killed E’Dina. Although he was acquitted of murder, he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison.