HBD to Senior Stripper Don Wright

Two time Pulitzer Prize Editorial Cartoonist winner (1966, 1980) and five time finalist for the Editorial Cartooning Pulitzer Prize (1982, 1984, 1988, 1993, 2005) Don Wright celebrates his 90th birthday today and in doing so becomes a member of The Daily Cartoonist’s Senior Stripper club (not quite the status symbol as is his Pulitzers).

Don Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoon The Miami News, May 9, 1965

From the Syracuse University Don Wright profile:

Wright’s interest in cartoons began when he took a job as copyboy with the Miami News (1952-1956). Although the News refused to move Wright to the art department, on the grounds he probably would be drafted from that job, they did allow him to become a photographer. Wright was subsequently drafted, served in the U.S. Army as a photographer and ultimately returned to the Miami News as graphics editor in December 1958.

Shortly after his rejoining the News, Wright resigned. Not wishing to lose Wright however, the News offered, as a compromise, to publish some of his cartoons. By 1963 Wright had transformed the original one or two cartoons per week, on local issues, into a regular appearance on the editorial page.

Young Wright’s goal was to replace the cartoons The News was using with his own. Quite an objective since the regular cartoonist seen there was The Washington Post’s Herblock and on Herblock’s off days they ran with The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bill Mauldin. But as mentioned above Don began with local issues. And giving off a Herblock vibe with the drawing style probably helped.

Above are weekly samples from late 1961. Two years later he was appearing not only more often but on national issues. Then another two years and he is drawing Pulitzer Prize winning material (see “Bluffing” above).

From Don’s Prabook profile:

Wright continued to work for The Miami News until it ceased publication in 1988. In 1989, Wright moved to The Palm Beach Post where he worked until his retirement in August 2008.

Wright”s work has been syndicated by both the Washington (District of Columbia) Star Syndicates and the New York Times Syndicate. As of 2012, Wright continues to draw editorial cartoons distributed by Tribune Media Services.

Below a couple 2008 cartoons from The Palm Beach Post.

The Miami News on Don winning the 1980 Pulitzer:

4 thoughts on “HBD to Senior Stripper Don Wright

  1. For an aspiring cartoonist growing up in Florida in the mid-80s, Don Wright was a mythical figure. His concepts and humor were sublime and his draftsmanship was simply perfection. Not a line was extraneous or wasted. In 1988, I was working at the Atlanta Constitution as an artist on the Democratic Convention team and had my own office. When the convention began, our sister papers sent staff to cover it. One day, I was working at my table when some bigwigs came in and asked if I’d be willing to surrender my desk to a visitor from the Palm Beach Post. I looked up and it was Don! I almost fell out of my chair. I helped him with photo reference and whatever else he needed. At the end of the day, I dug his discarded sketches out of the trash! Years later, when interviewing for an art job at the PBP, he took a couple of hours of his day to chat and give me advice. Just a genuinely nice and generous guy. Happy birthday Don!

  2. I was the Palm Beach Post’s editorial cartoonist from 1979-1991. My work was nationally distributed by the Copley News Service. Around 1985 the Post launched a daily Opinion Section featuring my cartoons on the front page in full color (water color, gouache and India ink.) Ours was the only newspaper in the nation to feature a daily section devoted solely to editorials and columns.

    In August 1988 shortly after I returned from the AAEC convention in Milwaukee I was summoned to the Executive Editor’s office and informed that the Miami News was shutting down and Don Wright “might” be taking a spot at the Post (both papers were owned by Cox.)

    The legendary cartoonist had a difficult choice to make- both the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post wanted him. I first learned of Wright’s decision on a phone call from the greatly relieved Sun Sentinel cartoonist.

    The Legend and I met for lunch. He promised that his decision would have no negative effect on mine. Four months later, in January 1989 Wright settled into his new digs both at the Post and his large, waterfront home just a spitting distance from Mar A Lago. My cartoons were bumped inside. Wright’s ran in my old spot on the front page in black and white because “Don doesn’t do color.” He was feted in full page ads and nominated for all the awards.

    For that first year we were collegial. We played tennis every week. The Executive Editor had other ideas and around 18 months into the new arrangement I was off the page altogether and banished to the art department where I had begun 13 years earlier. My replacement looked the other way. He never said a word.

    Every once in a while I’ll come across a story about Wright. His bio reads simply that he “left the Miami News in 1988 for the Palm Beach Post…” That’s all. And Pulitzers!! And the Nominations!!

    Hang on to that trash, Rick. Reporters had to settle for a Xerox copy if they asked for an original. I never saw him walk into the newsroom and hold a conversation with anyone. Original cartoons were gifted only to the Editor and Publisher.

    Oh and that magnificent head of hair? It’s a wig.

    1. When I wrote my comment, I thought to myself, “I’ll bet Pat would have a different perspective.” What happened to you was unforgivable. I’ve told your story many times. For what it’s worth, there’s been at least one person out here who is aware of what happened and has been empathetic. To say it sucks doesn’t do it justice.

      Also, for what it’s worth, you were a hero of mine growing up as well. Your color cartoons were magical to me. I went to the Florida Political Cartoonists exhibit at the State Museum in Tallahassee in 1988 where you were on the panel. I remember being just gobsmacked by your original pieces in the exhibit. Hilariously funny and the art was so gorgeous and full of character. It was also a bit crushing, tho, because I knew I’d never be that good. I’m still trying, but I’m not there yet!

      You deserved better and I’m sorry that happened.

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