Morrie Turner, R.I.P.


Cartoonist Morrie Turner, creator of the strip Wee Pals, died on Saturday. He had been hospitalized for kidney problems. As recently as last Thursday, he posted a message on his Facebook page saying, "Have been having some medical issues that require surgery — and I'll be recuperating for a bit." He invited folks near Sacramento (where the hospital is located) to drop by and visit him while he underwent dialysis.

Morris "Morrie" Turner was born in 1923 and grew up to become the first nationally syndicated African-American cartoonist. The heavyweight parlay of Charles M. Schulz (whom he called his "mentor") and comedian Dick Gregory urged him to create his own strip and so Wee Pals made its debut in 1965. It was a charming feature that rarely called much attention to its multi-racial cast, though some of the animations of it over the years were a little loud about that.

In 2003, the National Cartoonist Society awarded him the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2012, he received the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award at the Comic-Con International in San Diego. He was a friendly man, much-liked in the cartooning community and probably by everyone who ever met him. I sure liked him…and I also liked Wee Pals, too.