Joe Alex Morris Jr., the veteran correspondent for the Los Angeles Times who was killed in Tehran yesterday, had been a journalist since graduating from Harvard in 1949.

He worked for the Minneapolis Tribune and the Hartford Times before joining United Press. He served as a UP correspondent in West Ger. many, Britain, and the Middle East before joining the now defunct New York Herald Tribune.

In 1961, after 10 years overseas, he returned to the United States, and covered the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba before joining Newsweek magazine. Newsweek sent him to the Middle East. Where he spent two years before joining the Los Angeles Times. In 1967 he won the Overseas Press Club award for his coverage of the Arab-Israeli war.

He went to Bonn in 1969 and reported from Germany until 1975. when he was transferred back to the Middle East. After Lebanon's civil war, the Times moved its Middle East bureau to Athens, where Morris's wife Ulla and their three daughters live.

Morris had frequently covered Iran and he went to Tehran two weeks ago on his latest reporting trip there. He was the first correspondent killed during the past 15 months of disorders in Iran.

His father, Joe Alex Morris Sr., served as foreign editor of United Press from 1938 to 1943 and subsequently wrote a book about the first 50 years of the wire service, "Deadline Every Minute."

At the time of his death, Joe Alex Morris Jr. was regarded by his colleagues as the dean of American correspondents in the Middle East. For more than a quarter century he chronicled them all, Arabs and Israelis, Farouk and Nasser and Sadao Hussein and the Palestinians, the shah and Khomeini, always insisting on reporting from up front.

One of his closest friends, Jonathan C. Randal of The Washington Post, described him yesterday as "a brave man in the normally accepted sense of the word. But he was no macho fool driven by unspeakable demons.

"If he was ever physically afraid, I never knew it. As a frequent companion of his more outrageously danger ous reporting, I often both praised and cursed him. He basically chronicled the losers, downtrodden, the manipulated, the cannon fodder with a devotion and honesty that lesser journalists envied."