Remembering Jeff MacNelly

As Ron McGeary reminds us, it was 20 years ago today that the great Jeff MacNelly left us.


Jeff is acclaimed as one of the finest editorial cartoonists of all time. Praise proven by his winning three Pulitzer Prizes in the years from 1972 to 1985; and winning two Reuben Awards during those years. (For 1978 Jeff won The Pulitzer Prize, the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year, and the inaugural Thomas Nast Prize; all three honoring his editorial cartooning.)

There is very good reason why Jeff was considered the best in his field during his time.

Here are some tributes to Jeff at the time of his death in June 2000.
Click on the images and then click again to supersize the texts.

The Chicago Tribune obituary (via The Charlotte Observer):

Kevin Kalluagher and Neil A. Grauer from The Baltimore Sun:

Gary Varvel in The Indianapolis Star:

Tony Auth from The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Jim Morin of The Miami Herald:

Jim Shumaker interview:

Dave Barry’s tribute:

Jeff MacNelly is rightfully in The Pantheon of Cartooning.


Hat tip to Susie MacNelly, Gary Brookins, and Ron McGeary.
From Gary:

On a personal note, Jeff’s cartoons were my inspiration to become an editorial cartoonist, and I had the good-fortune of landing a job in 1979 as the editorial cartoonist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, working right around the corner from Jeff who was at the afternoon Richmond News Leader. Jeff was not only an inspiration, but my mentor and friend. I still miss him 20 years later.

3 thoughts on “Remembering Jeff MacNelly

  1. My parents always got The Trib, as it’s known in Chicagoland. I remember the Jimmy Carter coathanger cartoon very well. Even though I was (and still am) a fan of Carter, I laughed my ass off. That’s quality cartooning!

  2. This is the guy that got me looking, studying, and appreciating editorial cartoons and cartoonists when I was a kid and still do to this day.

  3. As the archivist and curator of Jeff”s work, I can honestly say that though I never knew him in life, buried under the 25000 works of drawings, sketches, paintings, sculpture, letters odds and end Jeff left behind, I’ve been forced to get to know him, and know him well, albeit posthumously.

    When I was hired to archive Jeff’s work, and curate it for shows, books and articles, on my first day of work, I had no idea that his widow, Susie, was testing me. She and Jeff’s right hand man, the late Chris Cassatt, (grand nephew of the great Impressionst, Mary Cassatt.) were upstairs listening and waiting.

    When I arrived at, what was Jeff’s basement studio up Fishhawk Pass, here in Treetops, East Virginia, I was delighted to find out I would have to sort through absolutely every piece of the 25,000 + papers, graphics, toons, sketches, hundreds of his awards and miscellanea and …just to get though the door. You see, Jeff’s management style and affinity towards library and archival science was and still is accurately depicted as Cosmo Fishhawk’s desk! In short, a nightmarish coagulation of stuff! (And he knew it.) That said, I just dove in…but was stopped in my tracks, every couple of minutes by convulsive laughter at the content of each pile.

    I was raised in a politically active family, I remembered and knew many of the issues and events Jeff’s work commented upon. Apparently, when they heard my various guffaws, cackles and “HAAA”s, they knew I was a good fit for the job. No matter; it took months to get momentum on this monumental task. I had get familiar enough with the work not to be put into stitches every time I handled a toon or graphic!

    According to his widow and my superior Susie “Field Marshall” MacNelly, Jeff knew where absolutely every toon and object was in the mountains of paper stacked everywhere. My job was to figure it out. That was 2003. Now, 17 years later, I am almost there (I still have his illustrations for Dave Barry’s column and his first 3 years of “Pluggers,” now kept alive as Shoe is, by Gary Brookins, to sort through).

    Here’s the thing: sometimes I will enter through the basement door of the MacNelly homestead, and smell smoke…but no fire alarm is going off. Then I recognize the scent: Ashton Maduros, or Padrons…or…?. …and, just to appease the skeptic in me, I often see smoke lilting in the air, as well: yet? No one home. Just me. Jeff was a three cigar a day, man. No, that’s not what got him in the end. Likely the decades of inhaling the photographic solution to make washes on photosenstitve paper for his editorials, did the trick.

    But, I have smelled it so often in the air, that I occasionally go to a humidor in a shop, and partake in a smoke myself. That’s all well and good. But, when I do come into his studio, now the MacNelly Archive, I can sense that I better get to work…he’s there smoking and watching. (I’m only 5’9″ he was 6’5″ or 6″!)

    However, if his spirit really is still there, I just wish he would leave me a drawing or two – you know, just to make me laugh some more!

    Philip “Flip” S. Rosemond, archivist/curator, the Jeff MacNelly Archive.

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