Bob Morgan will forever be remembered as a man who never backed away from a good boat race. His contributions and love for the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout seemed endless, even when the Shootout itself fought to stay afloat.
Morgan won the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Top Gun trophy twice, once in 1991 and again in 1995. He embodied the spirit of a race that began with a group of locals trying to see just who had the fastest boat on the Magic Dragon.
Add in Morgan's skill at verbally drumming up interest in powerboat racing, and you have a recipe for intrigue that predates the 50-foot Mystics and 200-plus mph speeds of today's Shootout. Longtime Shootout organizer and Osage Beach Fire Chief Jeff Dorhauer credits Morgan for keeping spectators interested in the race. Morgan's 46-foot Skater made thunderous noise with its four 1,200 HP engines.
"Especially in the earlier years before anyone had ever heard of Dave Scott or Dave Callan and some of these bigger names, it was Bob and the Big Thunder boat with four big blocks every year. He would be the show," Dorhauer said.
Another longtime Shootout mainstay, eight-time Top Gun winner Dave Scott, was at the race in Key West that would be the final green flag for Morgan and driver Jeff “J.T.” Tillman. While Scott competed against Morgan on their home lake, he speaks highly of Big Thunder's passion for racing.
"It's going to be devastating for the lake and anybody that knew these guys. There are no words to describe it," Scott said.
Scott was looking at Tillman and Morgan's boat when it flipped.
"It's just devastating… I mean, it's devastating. My heart goes out for Sue (Morgan) and both families. These guys were really running good, running hard. They were coming back into the harbor and the boat was really running good, it was trimmed out they got a big gust of wind," Scott recounted.
Big Thunder adapted to the changes in racing technology. In addition to winning two Shootout Top Gun trophies, the team also won two Key West World Championships. The team hit speeds above 170 mph in the last two Shootouts. Morgan also set up drag races at the Shootout pitting manufacturers Skater and MTI against each other. The drags added some interest and helped keep fans interested when the race moved upstream from Shooter's 21 to Captain Rons in 2008.
"A lot of people are tagged for making the Shootout grow to what it is and Bob is one that's been forgotten," Dorhauer said.