In this imaginative self-caricature, Fred Lasswell showed how he has merged with his comic strip character, Snuffy Smith, who has taken over both his body and brain.
|Born||July 25, 1916|
|Died||March 4, 2001 (aged 84)|
|Barney Google and Snuffy Smith|
|Awards||National Cartoonists Society Humor Comic Strip Award, 1963|
Reuben Award, 1963
Elzie Segar Award, 1984 & 1994
Born in Kennett, Missouri, he got his early start as a sports cartoonist, in third grade, when his first comic strip "Baseball Hits" was published in the Seminole Heights Elementary School newspaper: "The Seminole Searchlight." He got his first professional start working for Tampa Daily Times. In 1933, while playing golf at Tampa's Palma Ceia Golf Course, Barney Google creator Billy DeBeck was intrigued by Lasswell's poster of funny characters running, jumping, hop-scotching, and laughing their way, to the Tampa Chamber of Commerce Jamboree. After one interview, he hired 17-year-old Lasswell to be his assistant. Billy was a refined city gentleman, an avid golfer, world traveler, and bon vivant. He wanted to create a backwoods character that would appeal to Depression-era audiences. Lasswell was a confirmed hayseed from the sticks with lots of kinfolk wisdom and make-do humor. He possessed the talent for drawing clean lines and visualizing the funniest cartoon images to give each punchline preeminent punch. Lasswell fondly remembered his Big Tour with Billy to the backwoods, where DeBeck copiously recorded hillbilly phrases, while Lasswell sketched the characters, critters, and scenes he'd always known. This collaboration made comic strip history, when, in 1934, Barney Google met his distant cousin Snuffy Smith, and demand for Billy's Barney Google Comic Strip soared. Over the next seven years, Lasswell became the son DeBeck never had. He showed Lasswell a world of people who were the very best in their fields. He sent him to apprentice with some of the great illustrators, to study at the Art Students League, in New York, and to walk the streets of the city with a sketchbook to observe and capture the movement, personalities, and situations Lasswell saw.
After DeBeck's death in 1942, Lasswell took over Barney Google and Snuffy Smith and gradually introduced new characters, including Elviney Barlow, Parson Tuttle, Ol' Dock Pritchert, and Tater.
World War II
During World War II, Lasswell served as a flight radio operator in Africa In the Marines, he and a battalion of talented artists created posters and illustrated military manuals. He also worked on all editions of Leatherneck Magazine, for which, he created cover art, humorously illustrated stories and the famous wartime comic strip Sgt. Hashmark.
Inventions and Educational Materials for Children and their Teachers
Lasswell was a prolific inventor and early adopter of certain new technologies. He was one of the first cartoonists to email his strips to his syndicate, King Features Syndicate, and to invent his own computer-generated comic strip lettering. A member of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, he patented a mechanical citrus fruit harvester that dramatically increases productivity and does not damage the trees, buds or unripe fruit. He devised an apparatus for producing off the grid electricity from the movement of the tides and sun; A wind/energy machine that uses kinetic energy for more efficiency; And a Braille comic strip that "feels" funny. Among other inventions, he created an apparatus for controlling artistic paint splatters, to achieve pleasing patterns and designs, on walls, paper and canvas that he called: "Drop Art;" And a "Rocking Rolling Rest Machine" that attaches to a bed or crib, and uses a gentle elliptical movement to lull children and adults to sleep.
Beginning in the late 1970s Lasswell ventured into the educational field and designed innovative teachers' guides, new ways to learn the alphabet, a geography game to develop children's sense of direction, a fishing game to increase environmental awareness, and A Very Merry Vegetable game, to emphasize fruits, vegetables, roots and seeds that make children grow strong, by their color. Since the 1980s launch of Lasswell's first award-winning educational video entitled: "Draw and Color Your Very Own Cartoonys with Uncle Fred," young students have learned to effortlessly draw hundreds of Uncle Fred's original Cartoony characters and objects, with silly songs, sounds, and sights that reinforce their retention of Uncle Fred's fun facts. About Uncle Fred's Draw and Color series, Shirley Ann Hufstedler, First U.S. Secretary of Education, wrote: "Fred Lasswell has created a unique and whimsical way to bring fun and focus into our K-6 classrooms. . . The simplicity, low cost and genuine effectiveness of his teachers' manuals and methods, (for students at all levels of language proficiency) are a breath of fresh air for our children and their teachers."
Looking back at age 79
In 1996, Lasswell reflected on the increase of social commentary into comic strips: Now you have all these little messages all over the page. I feel like saying, "If they'll keep this stuff off the comics page, I promise to stay off the editorial page." I just try to do what tickles me. You can't go to school and take a course in sense of humor, and if you don't love this stuff, it gets to be just like chopping wood. It can be a real chore. I've always believed that creative talent gravitates to the marketplace. Someone told me once to always remember that there's never room at the bottom. But there's always room at the top.
Fred Lasswell was one of the first cartoonists to create a digital image archive of his work. He did this to ensure that his art could provide source material for future art students and their teachers, and to ensure the continuation of his comic strips. His archive contains thousands of images of cartoon characters, expressions, costumes, poses, actions and activities depicting helpfulness; useful and funny objects, tools and gadgets; Healthy foods and happy vegetables, plants, trees, flowers seeds; Cartoony alphabet letters, numbers, big things, small things and ways to measure; Animals, birds, bugs, scarytoons, crawling critters and sea life; Interior and exterior background scenes and seasonal themes, sports, pastimes, outdoor activities and habitats in Nature.
"On the day he died he was twelve weeks ahead on his strips; he finished his last video for kids and schools; he called his patent lawyer with his new invention for animating comics on the internet; he spent the evening remembering wonderful times; he went to bed in a high spirited mood and passed away in his sleep. A gentle death for a wonderful, genuine man who spent his life making millions of people laugh every day. He was the cartoonists' cartoonist and his colleagues honored him many times with every distinguished industry award, some of which they awarded him twice. He left us with a Charitable Foundation for "Learning and Laughter," which, since 2001 has worked on programs for nutrition, recreation, arts education and advocacy for kids and is working on developing some of his brilliant ideas for teacher learning aids." 
Cartoonist R.C. Harvey remembers: "He was "Uncle Fred" to his colleagues in the National Cartoonist Society. He was an actively contributing member to the convivialities of the group for almost its entire existence, and no Reuben Weekend was complete without some shenanigan from Uncle Fred. Even the last year when he didn’t attend, an unprecedented occurrence, he supplied punchlines for others standing at the microphone: all you had to do was refer to Uncle Fred—to one or another of his well-known proclivities—and you could get a laugh. Even though absent in person, he was present. His picture was on the cover of the program booklet. And one of the souvenirs of the event was a flip book featuring Uncle Fred in action.
Lasswell was survived by his wife, Shirley, three sons, a daughter and two grandchildren. Lasswell wrote and drew all of his material. He was blessed with remarkably gifted art assistants over the years, including Bob Donovan, Bobbie Swain, Beau Break, Ping Chen, Wendolyn Bocardo, John R. Rose who was chosen to take over the production of Snuffy, for King Features Syndicate, and other young Tampa Artists as well as the students he mentored. Cartoonist Bob Donovan worked with Lasswell for the longest stretch. Bob Donovan was one of the great old guard cartoonists who, like Lasswell, had the genuine artistic ability to translate almost any situation into a subtle style of humor that brings levity, laughter, and forgiveness to humanity.
Major Awards and Honors
Fred Lasswell received:
1. The Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the year 1963. The Reuben Award is the highest honor that the profession of cartooning bestows. It is akin to the Academy Awards, for members of the National Cartoonist Society.
2. The Banshee's Silver Lady Award for the Most Outstanding Original Cartoon Art.
3. The National Cartoonist Society Award for the Best Humor Strip 1963.
4. The Elzie Segar Award 1984 for the most unique and outstanding contribution to the profession of cartooning.
5. The Elzie Segar Award 1994 - a second award, ten years later. Only two cartoonists have received it twice: Fred Lasswell and Mort Walker.
6. The University of South Florida Doctor of Humane Letters Degree in 2000 for lifetime experience, achievement and dedication to the greater good.
- Carter, John. "Serious Comics," Augusta Chronicle, September 2, 1996.
- Lasswell entry, Lambiek's Comiclopedia. Accessed Nov. 22, 2018.