“America’s Most Wanted” is one of those shows everyone knows. It turned hunting down criminals into a national pastime, telling the tales of fugitives’ crimes and letting audiences call in tips.
By no means has the show been futile in its efforts. To date, “America’s Most Wanted” is responsible for capturing 923 fugitives from the law.
The public face of “America’s Most Wanted” is John Walsh, the host who travels all over the country lobbying for laws and reporting against criminal suspects and fugitives. Behind Walsh is an army of reporters, publicists and computer experts based out of the main office in downtown Bethesda, Md. One of the leaders of that team is senior correspondent Tom Morris Jr.
As senior correspondent, the confident and well-spoken Morris said he is more or less the “Ed Bradley of ‘America’s Most Wanted.’” He finds stories, reports on them and shoots stand-ups for the show.
Morris graduated from Norfolk State University with a degree in mass communication. After college, he joined the White House Press Corps as a courier, shuttling videos back and forth from the crews to the news office. Morris went on to do sound and audio.
Morris said the White House was not as exciting as he had hoped.
“I never felt like I was making any kind of difference,” he said.
After leaving the press corps, Morris went on to become an economic development specialist with Prince George’s County in Maryland. In 1987, Morris embarked on perhaps his most exciting career path, working as a contract employee with the anti-terrorism Embassy Task Group in Mogadishu, Somalia East Africa.
Morris applied to join “America’s Most Wanted” in 1993 through a friend who was a neighbor of “AMW’s” executive producer. He started producing freelance segments for the show, but became a producer after about six months. In 1996, he became senior correspondent.
Morris said “America’s Most Wanted” truly makes a difference. According to Morris, the show has been responsible for more captures than episodes it has run, and it is one of the five longest-running television programs in history. Unlike his job at the White House Press Corps, Morris said he feels he is part of something that genuinely benefits society.
“It’s a great use of the medium of television,” he said.
It would be impossible to work for a show like “America’s Most Wanted” and not come away with some bizarre criminal tales. Morris said one that stands out occurred in Oregon when two lesbians were arrested, convicted and imprisoned for stoning a dwarf to death in a carjacking. While in prison, one developed a romantic relationship with one of her female guards. The guard was fired for that relationship and subsequently broke into the prison to free her lover. Thanks to “America’s Most Wanted,” the fugitives were caught in Rhode Island.
Acting as an agent of justice has some moments that are more defining than others. Morris said he’s most proud of the recovery of Elizabeth Smart, of whom the show had a hand in rescuing.
Morris said his job is still unfinished. Among the captures he would most like to see, Morris said he still hopes to see Ruben and David Lopez, two brothers who murdered a rival businessman, brought to justice.
“It was a tragic thing; it was something that really didn’t have to happen,” he said.
For Morris, “the worst part is the sadness” of the crimes for which the show tries to bring about justice.
Ultimately, Morris said he loves having a job in which he can help people. And after 14 years with “America’s Most Wanted,” he said “it beats working.”