Thursday, March 10, 2016

Morrie Turner (1923-2014)

Morris Nolton "Morrie" Turner was born on December 11, 1923, in Oakland, California. He served as a mechanic with the Tuskegee Airman during World War II and contributed to Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the Armed Forces. In the 1960s, he traveled with other cartoonists to entertain the troops in Vietnam.

Turner began drawing cartoons and comic strips in the mid 1960s, mostly for the Chicago Defender, a black newspaper. Titles included Dinky Fellas (1964-1965), Press Gremlins (1964-1965), Reverend Smiley (1964-1965), Sepia Smiles (1964-1965), Dogbert (1965-1969), and Classified Chuckles (1966-1969). In 1965, Turner's syndicate rebranded Dinky Fellas as Wee Pals, the comic strip for which he will always be known. Wee Pals began on February 15, 1965, and is still running today, two years after the cartoonist's death.

Morrie Turner was a friend of Charles Schulz and Bil Keane, two other cartoonists of childhood. His Wee Pals is very much like Peanuts, with a large cast of kids who have their own distinct personalities, backgrounds, dress, and interests. It was and is a great strip. By the way, Nipper, the boy with the soul food stand on the cover of Doing Their Thing, wore a Confederate cap, though without the crossed swords. When asked why, he replies,"'Cause I'm non-violent!"

Morrie Turner died on January 25, 2014, in Sacramento, California.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley