J. Madison Wright Morris, a former child actress who underwent a heart transplant at 15 and had a heart attack a day after returning from her honeymoon in Hawaii, died Friday. She was 21.
Morris, who on July 8 married Brent Joseph Morris, a medical student at the University of Kentucky, died at the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington.
Her first major role was in the mid-1990s NBC series “Earth 2.” She also appeared in the 1997 feature film “Shiloh,” with her younger sister Tori, and in several television shows, including “ER.” Her last role was in the 1998 Disney TV movie “Safety Patrol.”
Her career began at 5, when she went to an open audition in Lexington and was chosen for a summer modeling stint in New York. By the next year, she and her sister were represented by the Ford Modeling Agency.
She used J. Madison Wright as her professional name, insisting at 12 that there were “just too many Jessicas” to be known by her first name.
In 1992, she moved with her family to Los Angeles to pursue acting and started out at 9 playing uppity young beauty contestants in “Grace Under Fire” and “The Nanny.”
In “Earth 2,” she portrayed True Danziger, a motherless girl taught to fend for herself in a world of intergalactic space travel centuries in the future, according to her fan club, the Screaming Trues. The club takes its name from her character’s propensity to shriek when frightened.
As a teenager, she and her family returned to Kentucky, where she had recurring bouts of pneumonia and was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease. Clancy Brown, who played her father in “Earth 2,” led fundraising efforts to pay for the heart transplant in 2000 at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Born July 29, 1984, in Cincinnati, she was the eldest of four children of Scott and Melissa Wright.
Morris attended the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., on cheerleading and academic scholarships, graduating this year. She planned to teach 10th-grade English this fall at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester, Ky.
On Monday, her funeral was held at Corinth Baptist Church in London, Ky., the building in which she was married.
In addition to her husband, parents and sister, Morris’ survivors include her brothers Isaiah and Elijah, two grandmothers, two grandfathers, a great-grandmother, a great-grandfather and a great-great-grandmother.