Morrie Turner, who passed away at 90 in January, 2014 in Sacramento, California, was a top newspaper cartoonist.
He created the popular comic strip "Wee Pals," in 1965, a comic strip that at its peak was carried in over 100 newspapers, and as of this writing, is still in over 40 newspapers.
What made Morrie so successful?
As a black man, he wrote "Wee Pals," with interracial characters that made readers laugh and it touched their consciences, at a time when comic strips were written almost exclusively by white people.
No black people need apply.
But when Morrie was a child in Oakland, he sent a fan letter to famous cartoonist Milton Caniff, the creator of the popular comic strip, "Terry and the Pirates," and later "Steve Canyon," as well.
Caniff didn't just cast away young Morrie's letter.
Instead, he sent Morrie a six page type written personal letter of encouragement, explaining how a cartoonist creates story lines and drawings.
"It changed my whole life," Morrie told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005.
Prior to "Wee Pals," Morrie was a freelance cartoonist, but with "Wee Pals," his characters: whites and blacks and Asian and others freely mingled, initially at a time when comic strips were about white people.
Later, Morrie added a girl in a wheel chair and a deaf girl as well.
Yet at its launch, "Wee Pals" got off to a slow start, carried by only five newspapers. But after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the cartoon jumped sharply in popularity, and Morrie became well known in cartoonist social circles.
Included in Morrie's San Francisco Bay Area social circle of cartoonists was Charles Schulz, the creator of one of the most popular cartoon strips ever, "Peanuts."
When Schulz decided to add a black character to "Peanuts," he consulted with Morrie about that character.
As "Wee Pals" grew in popularity, much like "Peanuts," its cartoon strip expanded into books and other products. In the early 1970's it even became a TV cartoon show, entitled "Kid Power."
But Morrie never forgot the difference Milton Caniff had made for him, and he in turn reached out to other young would be comic strip cartoonists.
One of those cartoonists was a young African American, Robb Armstrong, whose "Jump Start," cartoon strip now appears in over 300 newspapers.
The nearly 50 year old comic strip "Wee Pals," according to its syndicator, Creators Syndicate, is still very popular and has over 2 million readers.
At the time of his passing, Morrie was several months ahead, meaning if you are a fan of "Wee Pals," you will for now continue to read new comic strips. But collectively "Wee Pals" is there to be enjoyed by readers for time immemorial.