Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Doug Marlette — A Warrior for Truth
Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette, creator of the "Kudzu" comic strip and a relentless and honest observer of the human condition, was killed in a car accident in Mississippi yesterday morning.
He was 57, my age, and one of my oldest friends.
We met our freshman year at Florida State, working for the school newspaper, and shared those crazy years together. Just when I thought we were all going to grow up and become "serious" journalists, Marlette got a job at the Charlotte Observer and talked me into moving to North Carolina. It was Marlette who believed — absolutely believed! — I could spin a haphazard career out of air. I sold him my first real bicycle, a Raleigh, when I moved to New York City to become a magazine editor.
When he drew the cartoon above, What Would Mohammed Drive?, a few years ago, he did so as a committed liberal and a religious man who was as appalled at the rise of Islamofacism as he was by the rise of the Praise the Lord Club — he was, as he always said, an equal opportunity offender. The fascist declared a fatwah on my friend and called for his death.
More painful to him, far too many of his long-time "friends" deserted him; publications who routinely ran Marlette's broadsides against the Pope, against PTL, against Jerry Falwell (a favorite target) refused to run the Mohammed cartoon out of "sensitivity" to Muslims. "Cowards," he called them.
And he went on with his life, because Doug Marlette was not a coward.
Got an email from him a month or so ago complimenting me on "your web empire" and telling me he had started drawing for the Tulsa World. "Hey, we'll get together soon!" he wrote, and he signed his note, "Your old friend..."
I don't know what else to say, except that my friend was always a warrior for truth and a true son of the South in the oldest, deepest and most profound sense.
I will miss him. So will the world.