Friday, January 31, 2014

Morrie Turner 1923-2014

Morrie Turner, cartoonist and creator of the syndicated comic strip, Wee Pals, died Saturday, January 25 at the age of 90.

Turner is usually credited as the first African-American cartoonist to draw a syndicated comic strip.

Back in the 1960’s, as a teenager (and hopeful cartoonist) living in the SF bay area, I got wind of the fact that Morrie Turner lived in Berkeley. I somehow found away to contact him and he invited me over for a visit to his studio.

At the time I lived south of Oakland and had to take a long succession of buses (no rapid transit then) to get to his place. I arrived late which he ignored. Morrie Turner was very gracious man. He showed me his set up, what kind of pens and materials he used, told me of his many years of struggle to make it as a cartoonist and ultimately invited me stay for dinner with his family. When I left he gave me an original Wee Pals.

I‘m still not precisely certain how it all came together but sometime later Morrie Turner became the focal point of my high school humanities project.

For my project I chose to do a presentation on comic art (big surprise).  I had a display on the history of cartooning and an exhibit of original art (I had some comic book originals at the time and work by Milton Caniff, Charlie Schulz, Al Vermmer and a few others including, of course, Morrie).

Somehow it came to pass that Morrie was scheduled to appear at my high school to speak to the journalism class. I ran into him there and told him about my humanities project and he offered to be my guest speaker (!).

That certainly made my day (and probably helped my grade).

You will note that every obit and testimonial you read about Morrie Turner will talk about his openness, his enthusiasm, his supportiveness and kindness.

I just wanted to second the motion.

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