Newspaper editor, author of “Pipe Dreams,” “Murphy’s Law”

Joseph C. Murphy (1927-2009) was a newspaper columnist and editor best known for “Pipe Dreams,” a column he wrote for more than 50 years.

Murphy arrived on Guam December 8, 1965 to run the Guam Daily News owned, at the time, by publisher Joseph Flores. With little staff, Murphy worked seven days a week covering local news, writing editorials, and his daily column “Pipe Dreams” in addition to putting together national and international news.

In 1970, a businessman from Hawaii, Chin Ho, bought the newspaper and resold it to Gannett, Inc. a year later. Murphy became the editor of the paper renamed, The Pacific Daily News. He continued to write his daily “Pipe Dreams” column and a daily editorial for many more years.

Murphy retired as Pacific Daily News editor in 1988 but continued to write his column until he died in 2009. “Pipe Dreams” was renamed “Murphy’s Law” after he quit smoking in 1998.

Coined “Only on Guam”

Throughout his professional life, Murphy documented the changes Guam experienced as it grew from a rural-based society with a population of about 60,000 and two traffic lights to an international tourist destination with a population of about 165,000 in 2009. His writings serve as a valuable record of a dynamic period in the history of modern Guam.

His favorite topics to write about were new development, the economy, innovative ideas and politics. In 1981 Daily News gave him an entire year to travel around the Pacific and write about other islands, comparing and contrasting governments, educational systems and economies.

He coined the phase “Only on Guam” as an occasional item in his column poking fun at the idiosyncrasies that make Guam such an interesting and unique place to live. Those “items” were published into two books, Guam is a Four Letter Word and Son of a Four Letter Word.

Early life

Murphy was born February 23, 1927 in Appleton, Wisconsin. An adventurer at heart, he left home at seventeen when he joined the US Navy during World War II.

In 1944 while home on leave from the navy he met Marion, the woman who would later become his wife. They wrote to each other for a year, and then World War II was over and he went home to finish high school with her. They eloped on the night of their high school graduation and were married for sixty-two years.

He earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and worked as a journalist ever since. Murphy worked as a reporter, editor and columnist in Wisconsin, Oregon and California before taking a job on Guam in 1965.

Private life

Murphy arrived on Guam on the Feast day of Santa Marian Kamalen, the island’s patron saint, December 8th. This religious event is celebrated with a procession through Hagåtña. He joked that at first he thought that procession was a welcoming parade, just for him.

After relocating his large family to Guam, a few months later, he believed he had found his place in the world as most everyone had large Catholic families on Guam, just like his. The Murphy’s lived in Agat and then Camp Witek, Yona.

Murphy loved adventure and took advantage of offers to try things and write about them. One Liberation Day (July 21st), a celebration held on Guam to commemorate the end of the Japanese occupation during WWII, he parachuted from a small plane on a bet, breaking his leg in the process. He went to the depths of the sea on a navy submarine, rolled and dove with the showmen Blue Angels, and on the Christmas Drop to Micronesia. He also traveled by ship or on small planes to many islands in Micronesia for graduations and other news events.

He and his wife Marion traveled the world. After raising their eight children, the Murphy’s went to China the first year it was opened to Westerners, to Europe and Asia, traveling around the world at least twice. He loved to learn about history, geography, culture and politics, always looking for new ideas that might work on Guam, his beloved home, and shared those thoughts in his column in the Daily News.

He was a great believer in equality, pushing his daughters as well as his sons to find their passions and excel in life. He thought highly of people from all cultures. Because he and Marion’s attitudes were passed on to their children, they have dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren who are not only Irish and German, but also Chamorro, Filipino, Palauan, Chuukese and African American.

Murphy always kept a pen and paper in a pocket to jot down notes for his column and wanted to write until his death. He left a legacy of writers, both among his own children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and many others who were inspired by his words and actions to become journalists.

He and Marion had eight children, twenty-six grandchildren and nineteen great grandchildren (as of 2010) as well as numerous nephews and nieces. In addition to his family, he and Marion took in students from Guam, Saipan, Yap and Chuuk while they attended school on Guam.

He died at the age of eighty-one on February 5, 2009 at his home in Yona, Guam.

By Jillette Leon-Guerrero