Morgan died at his home in Brentwood after a bout with pneumonia, his daughter-in-law, Beth Morgan, told the Associated Press.
Photos: Harry Morgan | 1915 - 2011
Three years after it debuted, he joined the show in 1975 as commanding officer of the unorthodox 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, which patched together the wounded during the Korean War.
When the 2 1/2-hour "MASH" finale aired in 1983, 77% of the people watching television were tuned in, making it the most widely watched show in history.
Shortly before the final episode was broadcast, Morgan told The Times, "There'll never be another 'MASH.' There's nothing in the way of doing your best work on this set, absolutely nothing."
Although he set out to be a lawyer, Morgan fell into acting and stayed. The son of an auto mechanic, he was born Harry Bratsberg in Detroit on April 10, 1915. He grew up in Muskegon, Mich., played high school football despite his small stature and was a member of the school's champion debate team.
Morgan attended the University of Chicago but left in the 1930s to sell office equipment in Washington, D.C. As a salesman during the Depression he had free time, so he joined a theater group. Performing on a hotel stage he experienced success in "The Front Page" and "The Petrified Forest."
He left his office equipment job to appear in summer stock. In the fall of 1937 he went to New York City and appeared in several Broadway productions, using the name Harry Bratsburg.
"In my ignorance, I thought to myself, 'Hey, this acting business is a great life!' Little did I know! Things got rougher from then on. If I had had to struggle at the beginning like most actors … I'd never have stuck it out. But having such complete success at the beginning, I was stuck with being an actor for life," Morgan said in the 1983 book " 'MASH': The Exclusive, Inside Story of TV's Most Popular Show."
In 1941 he and his actress wife, Eileen, headed for Hollywood, and Morgan did hit a rocky patch of sorts – he didn't work for five months.
After appearing in a one-act play in Santa Barbara titled "Hello Out There," he was offered a contract with 20th Century Fox and, going by Henry Morgan, promptly made six movies, starting with "To the Shores of Tripoli."
Morgan went on to appear in such films as "High Noon" (1953), "The Glenn Miller Story" (1954), "Inherit the Wind" (1960), "Support Your Local Sheriff!" (1969) and his personal favorite, 1943's "The Ox-Bow Incident."
One of his early TV credits was "December Bride," in which he played Pete Porter, the wry-humored, henpecked neighbor who cracked jokes about his wife, the never-seen Gladys. At this time Morgan started using Harry as his first name to avoid being confused with television comic Henry Morgan.
After seven years on "December Bride," Morgan appeared opposite Cara Williams in an early 1960s spinoff, "Pete and Gladys." His TV career continued with the anthology series "The Richard Boone Show" and with "Kentucky Jones," in which Morgan played a ranch handyman who works for the title character, portrayed by Dennis Weaver.
Until "MASH" Morgan was best known for his role as Officer Bill Gannon in "Dragnet", a show that he had first appeared on in the 1940s on the radio. In 1967, Morgan replaced Ben Alexander as the partner of Jack Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday in the show that lionized the Los Angeles Police Department. He remained a fixture for four seasons.
The intense two-day shooting schedule challenged Morgan, as did Webb's insistence that they speak in a flat monotone so they wouldn't appear to be emotionally involved with the other characters. (Morgan later had a cameo in the 1987 Dan Aykroyd-Tom Hanks "Dragnet" spoof and provided the voice of Gannon for a 1995 episode of "The Simpsons.")
In the early 1970s Morgan worked on another Webb creation, the courtroom drama "The D.A.," and appeared opposite Richard Boone in "Hec Ramsey," a western that was part of "NBC's Sunday Mystery Movie" series.