The world not only lost a notable cartoonist when Morrie Turner (here with Sparky in 1965) died at age 90, but it lost a real gentleman and a caring, humble and sensible human being. I say sensible because Morrie was so down to earth, so practical, so willing to jump into life and be with people and THEIR lives, with no thought to politics or profit or who was up and who was down.
It was quite amazing to be around Morrie because he had a calming and cheerful presence always. I asked my friend and Schulz Museum Board Member, Rosie McDaniel, to write a little about her relationship with Morrie which began long before mine did.
On January 25 the world lost the first nationally syndicated black cartoonist, Morris Turner (Morrie) at age 90. Morrie’s feature, “Wee Pals,” was syndicated in 1968. My husband, Mark Cohen, met Morrie in the ’70s at the local Northern California Cartoonist and Humorist Association, a group of cartoonists, gag writers and collectors. (Sparky was a member of the group.)
Morrie’s strip reflected his values of peace, understanding, equality and, of course, humor. The “Wee Pals” Sunday “SOUL CORNER” also included an homage to an individual that contributed to make his or her community a better place.
Morrie’s commitment of love for his fellow man was reflected in his speaking engagements at schools, community events, and the use of his characters and art for teaching, charities, libraries, and police departments, usually free of charge.
In the 80s & 90s, Mark and I wrote gags for “Wee Pals” and brought Morrie to Santa Rosa to speak and teach cartooning at some of our local elementary schools. In 2005, after Morrie won the National Cartoonists Society Milton Caniff award for outstanding contribution as a cartoonist, the Schulz Museum held a celebration to honor him that included a panel of other noted cartoonists. The event was attended by 749 guests. Morrie was also honored at the ToonSeum in Pittsburgh during Black History Month in 2008.
To say that this truly honorable, dedicated and wonderful man will be missed is an understatement.
Unlike Sparky, Morrie accepted gags from other writers, and Rosie mentioned that she and Mark wrote gags for Morrie. Well, I have a story about that. Sparky and I were at the Symphony and I came away with an idea which I sketched out for him. “That’s pretty good,” he said, “why don’t you give it to someone else.”
Well, it wouldn’t have been an appropriate joke for most of the strips I knew and read regularly in our paper, but I thought of “Wee Pals” as the closest cast to the Peanuts gang. So I called Morrie, explained it to him, and asked if I could send it to him to see if it could fit in his strip. Lo and behold, a few months later Morrie sent me the black and white original and the Sunday colored page from the newspaper (seen above).
— Jean Schulz