Friday, August 19, 2011

Doug Marlette

by Dee Newman

In the late 1960s I was stationed in Sanford, Florida, at the Naval Air Station there in Attack Squadron THREE as an Aviation Electronics Technician. During that time I met Jack Reeves and his family. Jack was teaching psychology at Seminole County High School.

A young man by the name of Doug Marlette was enrolled in one of his classes. Doug usually sat on the front row, dividing his attention (multi-tasking) between taking notes on Jack’s lectures and drawing cartoons. After class Doug would often share his drawings with Jack.

Jack was impressed with the young man’s talent (his unique ability to create original cartoon characters) and encouraged Doug to pursue his remarkable gifts, assuring the young man that he had a future in the field.

After graduating from Seminole High School Doug attended Seminole Community College where he worked on the student newspaper as a cartoonist. Later he went on to Florida State University where he drew political cartoons for The Florida Flambeau (1969 to 1971) and illustrating the 1970-71 FSU yearbook, Tally Ho, including a wraparound cover.

Between 1972 and 1987 Doug worked for The Charlotte Observer developing his style and reputation as an outstanding cartoonists. It was at the Observer where he began writing and drawing the internationally syndicated comic strip Kudzu in 1981. In 1987 he began working for The Atlanta Constitution where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

He also collaborated with Bland Simpson and Jack Herrick of the Red Clay Ramblers on a musical comedy adaptation of his Kudzu strip – “Kudzu, A Southern Musical”.

Doug’s work regularly appeared in Time and Newsweek, as well as, other influential publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

In 2002, he drew criticism from Islamic groups for drawing a cartoon depicting Mohammed driving a Ryder van with missiles pointed out the back with the caption – "What would Mohammed drive?"

Doug also became an award winning novelist. His first Novel, The Bridge, was published in 2001 by HarperCollins, winning the SIBA Book Award for fiction as the Best Book of the Year. His second novel, Magic Time, was published in 2006 by Sarah Crichton Books, receiving critical acclaim.

Doug died in Marshall County, Mississippi, in 2007. The Toyota pickup truck in which he was riding hydroplaned and struck a tree, killing him instantly. He was on his way to Oxford, Mississippi, to help students at Oxford High School prepare for their performance of Kudzu, A Southern Musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He died less than a week after he delivered the eulogy for his father in Charlotte, North Carolina. At his funeral in Hillsborough, North Carolina, his best friend, the writer Pat Conroy eulogized him saying, "The first person to cry, when he heard about Doug's death, was God."

Awards and Honors (from Wikipedia)
In 1981, Marlette became the first cartoonist ever awarded a Nieman Fellowship. He won every major award for editorial cartooning, including the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, the National Headliner Award for Consistently Outstanding Editorial Cartoons (three times) and first prize in the John Fischetti Memorial Cartoon Competition (twice). In 1997, he won his second Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Two days after Marlette's death, North Carolina Governor Michael F. Easley awarded him the honor of membership in the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the governor of North Carolina.

At the time of his death Doug was with the Tulsa Daily World .

An Example of his work from The Atlanta Constitution:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Newman,
Thank you for acknowledging Doug Marlette. His light burned out far too quickly; his brilliance , his insights , his kind heart were remarkable and sadly there is a heavy void now that he is no longer among us. His contribution is painfully missed.