January 23, 2003

Bill Mauldin Has Passed On

If you're in St. Louis, and you walk down Delmar in the area called "The Loop", you'll find the sidewalk covered with stars. It's the St. Louis Walk of Fame, an interesting collection of stars that have deep or tenuous connections to St. Louis. There's some people there that you wouldn't expect, and a few people that you would, had you lived in St. Louis -- they're cultural icons there.

There's three cartoonists there: a unusual number in comparison to the number of stars. One is Mike Peters, who grew up and went to college there at Washington University.One is the just passed away Al Hirschfeld, who was born there.

The other is Bill Mauldin, who worked at the Post Dispatch and won a Pulitzer Prize there in 1958. He died today.

I first found out about Bill Mauldin when I was in college, and got a copy of Up Front from my grandfather. It seemed important to him that I get it -- the truth is, he barely seemed to acknowledge my existance for many years, so this seemed like something important to him. So I read it, and still have that book.

Around the same time, I wandered the Loop and found this star. I can't remember exactly where it is, to be honest. It might be in front of that Ethopian resturaunt, or in front of the parking garage that was put in in the late '90s. But I can say that when I saw it, I was surprised; I had no clue about this guy, and I considered myself (at the time) an encyclopedia of cartooning.

From that book, from his autobiography, and from a few other souces, I learned about Bill Mauldin. He was a fascinating, almost bigger than life character. I couldn't even begin to describe the life he had; it would be a poor summary at best. But his independence and willingness to do & say what he considered right is something I respect tremendously.

I can't say the book brought enlightenment of what war is -- I can say it showed me exactly how much I didn't know, brought definition to my lack of knowledge of World War II, and war in general. That alone has helped me talk to my grandfather, given me some insight into the horrors of war, and has given me some strength as a cartoonist.

I will miss Mr. Mauldin.

Posted by Ted Stevko at January 23, 2003 10:11 AM