Pulitzer-Winning Cartoonist Killed in Car Crash
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette died this morning in a car accident in Mississippi at age 57. Marlette won every major award for editorial cartooning, and his work, including the comic strip "Kudzu," was syndicated around the world.
NPR's Neda Ulaby reports.
NEDA ULABY: Like a lot of editorial cartoonists, Doug Marlette prided himself on being something of an outsider, even in the newsroom or so he told NPR in 1991.
Mr. DOUG MARLETTE (Editorial cartoonist): Cartooning really kind of runs totally against the grain of journalism. I mean, cartooning is really about subjectivity and unfairness and distorting the facts in order to get at truths maybe that are greater than some of the facts.
ULABY: It was during the Watergate era that Marlette first made his name as part of a group of young turk cartoonists that also included Tony Auth, now with the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Mr. TONY AUTH (Editorial Cartoonist, Philadelphia Inquirer): The thing I remember most about Doug is that he'd laughed all the time, throwing back his head and laughing uproariously at some outrageous political crime. He had a wonderful eye for the really absurd.
ULABY: That eye was honed as a child in North Carolina. Marlette came of age among the kind of characters dear to southern novelists. Take his grandmother, Grace Pickard.
Mr. MARLETTE: She (unintelligible). She carried a .38 on her purse and she was just the kind of holy terror, this blue-haired Ayatollah.
ULABY: But Marlette credited the woman known as Mama Lucy for stoking his desire for trouble. Mama Lucy was bayoneted by a National Guardsman during no strikes in 1934. Those events inspired Marlette's 2001 novel, "The Bridge." But he was probably best known for his syndicated strip "Kudzu," also filled with eccentric southern types. It was made into a musical in 1998.
(Soundbite of musical "Kudzu")
Unidentified Group: (Singing) Oh, my Lord. Oh, my Lord.
ULABY: Doug Marlette, unrepentant tipper of sacred cows, was riding in a car through wet conditions when it hydroplaned off the road in Marshall County, Mississippi, and hit a tree. He was 57 years old.
Neda Ulaby, NPR News.
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