All political parties in Wales suspended general election campaigning and at the Welsh Assembly, flags flew at half mast and there was a minute’s silence for the passing of a Labour politician dubbed “the father of the nation”.
The Oxford and Harvard-educated son of a professor and a school teacher first made a name for himself on the Welsh political scene in 1987 after being elected MP for Cardiff West, having begun his career as a civil servant.
Ten years later he was at odds with Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair who in Mr Morgan’s own words “shafted” him by overlooking the MP’s huge grassroots popularity when it came to picking a leader for the new Welsh Assembly.
Mr Blair first favoured for the job Ron Davies until he quit over a “moment of madness” at a gay haunt, and then a reluctant Alun Michael.
Wales hasn’t just lost a great politician, we’ve lost a real father figure
Mr Morgan, whose response in the past to being asked if he wanted to lead the Assembly was to ask “do one-legged ducks swim in a circle?” finally got his chance when Mr Michael quit in 2000 to avoid a no confidence vote.
After vowing to put “clear red water” between Welsh and London Labour, Mr Morgan was First Minister for nine years.
His rare gaffes in the job included being late to meet the Queen at the Royal Welsh Show in 2004.
In 2007, shortly after sealing a fraught coalition deal with Plaid Cymru when Labour failed to win an Assembly majority, he was rushed to hospital with partially blocked arteries, a scare which saw him lose weight with drastic diet changes and more walking.
When he fully quit politics in 2011, the sports, caravanning and jazz fan vowed to catch up on gardening and wood carving and learn the piano. Six months later he was appointed chancellor or Swansea University.
His successor as Labour First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said today: “Wales hasn’t just lost a great politician, we’ve lost a real father figure.
“He was funny, clever, engaging on almost any topic and absolutely passionate about all things Welsh.
“He did so much to fight for, and then establish devolution in the hearts and minds of the public in our country.
“His bright confidence was infectious, and we can see much of Rhodri’s can-do attitude in our modern Wales.”
Mr Blair also paid tribute, despite their differences, remembering Mr Morgan as “great company, a fund of marvellous stories and a shrewd and immensely capable politician”.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies – whose “misbehaving” cows once stormed Mr Morgan’s garden – mourned the loss of “a giant of devolved politics in Wales.
Mr Morgan had a son and two daughters with his wife Julie, who is an Assembly member.