Morrie Turner

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Morrie Turner
Morrie Turner in 2005.jpg
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 Turner[1] (December 11, 1923 – January 25, 2014)[2] was an American cartoonist, creator of the strip Wee Pals, the first American syndicated strip with an integrated cast of characters.

Biography[edit]

Turner was raised in Oakland, California, the youngest child of a Pullman porter father and a homemaker and nurse mother.[1][2] He attended Cole Elementary School and McClymonds High School in Oakland and Berkeley High School.[3][4]

Turner got his first training in cartooning via a correspondence course.[5] 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.[6]

When Turner began questioning why there were no minorities in cartoons, his mentor, Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, suggested he create one.[7] Morris' first attempt, Dinky Fellas, featured an all-black cast, but found publication in only one newspaper, the Chicago Defender.[8] 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, it was picked up by more than 100 after Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968.[9]

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. Turner also 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 television season, 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.[citation needed]

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.[9]

For concerts by the Bay Area Little Symphony of Oakland, California, Turner drew pictures to the music and of children in the audience.[10]

Turner launched the first in a series of Summer Art exhibitions at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) on June 10, 1995.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Turner married Letha Mae Harvey on April 6, 1946; they collaborated on "Soul Corner,"[6] the weekly supplement to Wee Pals. Morrie and Letha had one son, Morrie Jr;[12] Letha died in 1994. Late in life, Turner's companion was Karol Trachtenburg of Sacramento.[9] Turner died on January 25, 2014, at age 90.[13]

Tributes[edit]

In 1967, cartoonist Bil Keane created the Family Circus character Morrie, a playmate of Billy and the only recurring black character in the strip, based on Turner.[14]

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.[1]

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.[15]

In 2000, the Cartoon Art Museum presented Turner with the Sparky Award, named in honor of Charles Schulz.[9]

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)
  • Wee Pals (Signet Books, 1969) — introduction by Charles M. Schulz
  • Kid Power (Signet Books, 1970)
  • Nipper (Westminster Press, 1971)
  • Nipper's Secret Power (Westminster Press, 1971) ISBN 978-0-664-32498-8
  • Wee Pals: Rainbow Power (Signet Books, 1973)
  • Wee Pals: Doing Their Thing (Signet Books, 1973)
  • Wee Pals' Nipper and Nipper's Secret Power (Signet Books, 1974)
  • 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)
  • Wee Pals: Welcome to the Club (Rainbow Power Club Books, 1978)
  • Choosing a Health Career: Featuring Wee Pals, the Kid Power Gang (Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, Health Resources Administration, 1979)
  • Wee Pals: A Full-Length Musical Comedy for Children or Young Teenagers (The Dramatic Publishing Company, 1981)
  • Wee Pals Make Friends with Music and Musical Instruments: Coloring Book (Stockton Symphony Association, 1982)
  • Wee Pals, the Kid Power Gang: Thinking Well (Ingham County Health Department, 1983)
  • Wee Pals Doing the Right Thing Coloring Book (Oakland Police Department, 1991)
  • 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)

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)
  • 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)
  • Famous Black Americans (Judson Press, 1973) ISBN 0817005919
  • Happy Birthday America (Signet Book, 1975)
  • All God's Chillun Got Soul (Judson Press, 1980) ISBN 0817008926
  • Thinking Well (Wisconsin Clearing House, 1983)
  • Black History Trivia: Quiz and Game Book (News America Syndicate, 1986)
  • What About Gangs? Just Say No! (Oakland Police Department, 1994)
  • 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 e 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 December 14, 2017. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c 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. ^ "Morrie Turner - pioneering Wee Pals cartoonist - dies". SFGate. Retrieved 2017-01-27. 
  4. ^ "Morrie Turner". The HistoryMakers.org. April 6, 2004. Archived from the original on December 14, 2017. Retrieved December 13, 2017. 
  5. ^ "California's cartooning cop". Ebony. Vol. 16, No. 12: 75. 1961 – via Google Books. 
  6. ^ a b Morrie Turner at the Lambiek Comiclopedia. Retrieved on January 27, 2014. Archived from the original on January 27, 2014.
  7. ^ Ross, Martha. "Morrie Turner: Pioneering 'Wee Pals' cartoonist, dies at 90," Contra Costa Times (Jan. 27, 2014).
  8. ^ Jesse Hamlin (2009-09-13). "Wee Pals retrospective at S.F. library". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  9. ^ a b c d "About Morrie Turner". Creators.com. Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  10. ^ Gibson, Michael P. "Morrie Turner". www.bamusic.org. Retrieved 2017-01-27. 
  11. ^ "EOYDC: A Beacon for Oakland Youth - Alameda Magazine - July-August 2009 - Alameda, California". www.alamedamagazine.com. Retrieved 2018-02-21. 
  12. ^ Ink-Slinger Profiles: Morrie Turner
  13. ^ Kelly, George (January 27, 2014). "Remembering 'Wee Pals' creator Morrie Turner: Social media reaction". San Jose Mercury News. California. Archived from the original on January 27, 2014. 
  14. ^ Chang, Jeff. "Morrie Turner and the Kids". The Believer (November–December 2009). Archived from the original on April 10, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2013. 
  15. ^ Turner entry, Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999. Accessed Jan. 27, 2013.

External links[edit]