Editorial and comic strip cartoonist Ralph Dunagin has passed away.
newspaper illustrator, art director, cartoonist
Ralph Dunagin, an editorial cartoonist for the Sentinel and its predecessor, the Orlando Evening Star, from 1961 to 2001, died Wednesday. He was 83.
Meeting Ralph Dunagin, it would be hard to imagine that this soft-spoken southern gentleman was one of the nation’s great cartoonists.
I began working with Ralph in the early 1980s when he drew simple line-drawing cartoons for the op-ed page. His cartoons elicited laughs from the readers and stung the politicians he skewered — the perfect combination for a cartoonist. It’s no wonder he was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize [emphasis added].
He moved to Orlando, Florida, in 1961, ultimately joining the staff at the Orlando Sentinel newspaper as an illustrator. His position evolved to Art Director which expanded to include editorial cartooning when the resident cartoonist retired.
Ralph had an aptitude for cartooning and held the position as editorial cartoonist for 30 years and also served as a member of the company’s editorial board until his retirement in 2001.
In addition to his editorial panel cartoons, his cartoon strip “Dunagin’s People” was internationally syndicated in 1967, ending with his retirement in 2001. Until retirement, he continued to be involved in two other syndicated cartoons, “The Middletons,” and “Grin and Bear It.” Ralph was twice a finalist twice for the Pulitzer Prize. Following retirement, Ralph had the time to focus his energy on other artistic endeavors including indulging his passion for watercolor painting.
Ralph was known nation-wide for his Dunagin’s People daily panel and Sunday strip. The panel began in 1969 as “Tell It Like It Is.” In 1970 a Sunday Dunagin’s People Sunday page was added, and later that year the daily was retitled Dunagin’s People. Dunagin’s People, though frequently appearing on newspaper opinion pages, was not hardcore political, mostly taking a humorous look at current social issues – though Ralph would take on the politicians in the panel.
Ralph would accept a buyout from the Orlando Sentinel in 2001,
and at the same time retire his Dunagin’s People syndicated comic.
But Ralph continued to be a presence on the funny pages. In 1974 he had become the gag writer for Fred Wagner’s Grin and Bear It panels. Around that same time Franklin Folger retired and the syndicate hired Ralph to gag caption old Folger The Girls panels. The Girls gig lasted until 1988.
In 1986 Ralph teamed with fellow Orlando Sentinel cartoonist Dana Summers and created The Middletons comic strip. Again they say Ralph was writing the gags. I have it in my mind that Dana did the dailies, while Ralph did the Sundays (at least that was the way they signed the strip).
In 2014 Ralph retired from both Grin and Bear It and The Middletons.