Morrie Turner

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Morrie Turner
Morrie Turner in 2005.jpg
Morrie Turner in 2005
Born Morris Nolton Turner
(1923-12-11)December 11, 1923
Oakland, California
Died January 25, 2014(2014-01-25) (aged 90)
Sacramento, California
Nationality American
Area(s) Cartoonist
Notable works
Wee Pals
Awards full list

Morris Nolton "Morrie" Turner[1] (December 11, 1923 – January 25, 2014) was an African American cartoonist, creator of the strip Wee Pals, the first American syndicated strip with an integrated cast of characters.

Biography[edit]

Raised in Oakland, California, the youngest child of a Pullman porter father and a mother who was a homemaker[2] and/or nurse.[1]

Turner got his first training in cartooning via the Art Instruction, Inc. home study correspondence course.[citation needed] During World War II (where he served as a mechanic with Tuskegee Airmen)[1] his illustrations appeared in the newspaper Stars and Stripes. After the war, while working for the Oakland Police Department, he created the comic strip Baker's Helper.[3]

When Turner began questioning why there were no minorities in cartoons, his mentor, Charles M. Schulz of Peanuts fame, suggested he create one.[4] Morris' first attempt, Dinky Fellas, featured an all-black cast, but found publication in only one newspaper, the Chicago Defender.[5] Turner integrated the strip, renaming it Wee Pals, and in 1965 it became the first American syndicated comic strip to have a cast of diverse ethnicity.[1] Although the strip was only originally carried by five newspapers, after Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968, it was picked up by more than 100 papers.[6]

In 1970 Turner became a co-chairman of the [White House Conference on Children and Youth]].[2]

Turner appeared as a guest on the May 14, 1973, episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, where he showed the host pictures he had drawn of several of his neighbors, as well as presented a clip from his Kid Power animated series, which was airing Saturday mornings on ABC at the time.[citation needed] As well, during the 1972-73, Wee Pals on the Go was aired by ABC's owned-and-operated station in San Francisco, KGO-TV. This Sunday morning show featured child actors who portrayed the main characters of Turner's comic strip: Nipper, Randy, Sybil, Connie and Oliver. With and through the kids, Turner explored venues, activities and objects such as a candy factory and a train locomotive.

As the comic strip continued, Turner added characters of more and more ethnicities, as well as a child with a physical disability.

During the Vietnam War, Turner and five other members of the National Cartoonist Society traveled to Vietnam, where they spent a month drawing more than 3,000 caricatures of service people.[6]

Turner contributed his talents to concerts by the Bay Area Little Symphony of Oakland, California. He drew pictures to the music and of children in the audience.[citation needed] On May 25, 2009, Turner visited Westlake Middle School in Oakland to give a lesson to the OASES Comic Book Preachers Class of drawing. Turner collaborated with the class's students to create the book Wee the Kids from Oakland.[citation needed]

Turner died on January 25, 2014, at age 90.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Turner married Letha Mae Harvey on April 6, 1946; they collaborated on "Soul Corner,"[3] the weekly supplement to Wee Pals. Morrie and Letha had one son, Morrie Jr;[8] Letha died in 1994. Late in life, Turner's companion was Karol Trachtenburg of Sacramento.[6]

Turner was an active member of the Center for Spiritual Awareness, a Science of Mind church in West Sacramento, California.

Tributes[edit]

The Family Circus character of Morrie, a playmate of Billy — and the only recurring black character in the strip — is based on Turner. Family Circus creator Bil Keane created the character in 1967 as a tribute to his close friend.[9]

Awards[edit]

In 2003, the National Cartoonists Society recognized Turner for his work on Wee Pals and others with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award.[10]

Throughout his career, Turner was showered with awards and community distinctions. For example, he received the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Inter-Group Relations Award from the Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith. In 1971, he received the Alameda County (California) Education Association Layman's Annual Award.[11]

In 2000, the Cartoon Art Museum presented Turner with the Sparky Award, named in honor of Charles Schulz.[6]

Turner was honored a number of times at the San Diego Comic-Con: in 1981, he was given an Inkpot Award; and in 2012 he was given the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award.

Bibliography[edit]

Wee Pals collections[edit]

  • Wee Pals That "Kid Power" Gang in Rainbow Power (Signet Books, 1968) ASIN B002T6NAOG
  • Wee Pals (Signet Books, 1969) ASIN B003ZUKTLW — introduction by Charles M. Schulz
  • Kid Power (Signet Books, 1970), ASIN B001IKPRM2
  • Nipper (Westminster Press, 1971), ASIN B002IY2XOM
  • Nipper's Secret Power (Westminster Press, 1971) ISBN 978-0-664-32498-8
  • Wee Pals: Rainbow Power (Signet Books, 1973) ASIN B000M8UYII
  • Wee Pals: Doing Their Thing (Signet Books, 1973) ASIN B00129HWKO
  • Wee Pals' Nipper and Nipper's Secret Power (Signet Books, 1974) ASIN B001M5GOOS
  • Wee Pals: Book of Knowledge (Signet Books, 1974) ISBN 0451058003
  • Wee Pals: Staying Cool (Signet Books, 1974) ISBN 0451060768
  • Wee Pals: Funky Tales (New American Library, 1975) ASIN B00072KLVE
  • Wee Pals: Welcome to the Club (Rainbow Power Club Books, 1978) ASIN B003VC7JQW
  • Choosing a Health Career: Featuring Wee Pals, the Kid Power Gang (Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, Health Resources Administration, 1979), ASIN B0006XCLLC
  • Wee Pals: A Full-Length Musical Comedy for Children or Young Teenagers (The Dramatic Publishing Company, 1981) ASIN B0006XW1I0
  • Wee Pals Make Friends with Music and Musical Instruments: Coloring Book (Stockton Symphony Association, 1982) ASIN B00072YGD8
  • Wee Pals, the Kid Power Gang: Thinking Well (Ingham County Health Department, 1983) ASIN B0007259DY
  • Wee Pals Doing the Right Thing Coloring Book (Oakland Police Department, 1991) ASIN B0006R4G98
  • Explore Black History with Wee Pals (Just us Books, 1998) ISBN 0940975793
  • The Kid Power Gang Salutes African-Americans in the Military Past and Present (Conway B. Jones, Jr., 2000), ASIN B0006RSDC4

Willis and his Friends[edit]

  • Ser un Hombre (Lear Siegler/Fearon Publishers, 1972) ISBN 0822474271
  • Prejudice (Fearon, 1972) ASIN B00071EIOG
  • The Vandals (Fearon, 1974) ASIN B0006WJ9JU

Other books[edit]

  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Freedom (Ross Simmons, 1967) ASIN B0007HK27W
  • Black and White Coloring Book (Troubadour Press, 1969) — written with Letha Turner
  • Right On (Signet Books, 1969)
  • Getting It All Together (Signet Books, 1972)
  • Where's Herbie? A Sickle Cell Anemia Story and Coloring Book (Sickle Cell Anemia Workshop, 1972) ASIN B00BKQ85LE
  • Famous Black Americans (Judson Press, 1973) ISBN 0817005919
  • Happy Birthday America (Signet Book, 1975) ASIN B000RB1SGM
  • All God's Chillun Got Soul (Judson Press, 1980) ISBN 0817008926
  • Thinking Well (Wisconsin Clearing House, 1983), ASIN B00072F9E8
  • Black History Trivia: Quiz and Game Book (News America Syndicate, 1986) ASIN B000727N5Q
  • What About Gangs? Just Say No! (Oakland Police Department, 1994) ASIN B0006R58TA
  • Babcock (Scholastic, 1996) — by John Cottonwood and Morrie Turner, ISBN 059022221X
  • Mom Come Quick (Wright Pub Co., 1997) — by Joy Crawford and Morrie Turner, ISBN 0965236838
  • Super Sistahs: Featuring the Accomplishments of African-American Women Past and Present (Bye Publishing Services, 2005), ISBN 0965673952

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Cavna, Michael (January 31, 2014). "RIP, Morrie Turner: Cartoonists say farewell to a friend, a hero, a ‘Wee Pals’ pioneer". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 13, 2015. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Bernstein, Adam (January 28, 2014). "Morrie Turner dies at 90; pioneering ‘Wee Pals’ cartoonist". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 1, 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  3. ^ a b Turner entry, Lambiek's Comiclopedia. Accessed Jan. 27, 2014.
  4. ^ Ross, Martha. "Morrie Turner: Pioneering 'Wee Pals' cartoonist, dies at 90," Contra Costa Times (Jan. 27, 2014).
  5. ^ Jesse Hamlin (2009-09-13). "Wee Pals retrospective at S.F. library". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  6. ^ a b c d "About Morrie Turner". Creators.com. Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  7. ^ Kelly, George. "Remembering 'Wee Pals' creator Morrie Turner: Social media reaction," San Jose Mercury News (Jan. 27, 2014).
  8. ^ Ink-Slinger Profiles: Morrie Turner
  9. ^ Chang, Jeff (2009). "Morrie Turner and the Kids". The Believer (November/December). Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  10. ^ RIP, MORRIE TURNER: Cartoonists say farewell to a friend, a hero, a ‘Wee Pals’ pioneer, by Michael Cavna, at the Washington Post; published January 31, 2014; retrieved March 16, 2014
  11. ^ Turner entry, Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999. Accessed Jan. 27, 2013.

External links[edit]