The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Morrie Turner

Share on Social Media

Information about Morrie Turner

Profile image of Morrie Turner

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Cartoonist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Turquoise
Favorite Food:
Meatloaf
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Keep the faith.

Birthplace

Born:
12/11/1923
Birth Location:
Oakland, California

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Cartoonist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Turquoise
Favorite Food:
Meatloaf
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Keep the faith.

Birthplace

Born:
12/11/1923
Birth Location:
Oakland
See how Morrie Turner is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Morris Turner was born on December 11, 1923, in Oakland, California, but prefers going by the name Morrie. He attended Cole Elementary and McClymonds High Schools in Oakland and graduated from Berkeley High School in June of 1942.

Turner began drawing caricatures in the fifth grade. In high school, he expanded to creating cartoons. He joined the Army-Air Force following high school graduation, and while on guard duty, he drew cartoons. His work was noticed and he was hired by Stars and Stripes to draw a series, "Rail Head," based on his own war experiences. Following the war, he created community affairs publications for the Oakland Police Department while free-lancing cartoons to national publications. Baker's Helper, a baking industry publication, was the first to buy one of his cartoons for $5.00.

Turner had had no formal art training and sought the advice and encouragement of other professional cartoonists. When he began questioning why there were no minorities in cartoons, his mentor, Charles Schultz of Peanuts fame, suggested he create one. In the early 1960s he created a series Dinky Fellas that evolved into Wee Pals, a world without prejudice celebrating ethnic differences. In 1965, the series became the first multi-ethnic cartoon syndicated in the United States. Wee Pals appears in over 100 newspapers worldwide. On Sundays an additional panel is included called Soul Corner detailing the life of a famous person belonging to an ethnic minority.

Turner has written several children's books including The Illustrated Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Turner has been honored by the Cartoonist Society in 2000 when he was presented their Sparky Award, has been inducted into the California Public Education Hall of Fame and was recognized by Children's Fairyland in Oakland. He is the subject of a film called Keeping the Faith with Morrie. Bill Keene so admired Turner's work that he added a young black boy to his Family Circle series named Morrie.

Turner passed away on January 25, 2014, as a widower with one son and several grandchildren. He had lived in the same house that his father purchased in 1945.

See how Morrie Turner is related to other HistoryMakers
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Morrie Turner interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Morrie Turner lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Morrie Turner remembers his mother and father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Morrie Turner recalls his grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Morrie Turner describes his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Morrie Turner details his extended family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Morrie Turner shares childhood memories
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Morrie Turner recalls growing up in 1920s Oakland
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Morrie Turner discusses his parents' occupations
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Morrie Turner recounts his childhood recreations
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Morrie Turner remembers a childhood friend
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Morrie Turner reflects on other childhood recreations
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Morrie Turner shares his school experiences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Morrie Turner relates his childhood fears
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Morrie Turner describes himself as a less than stellar student
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Morrie Turner details how he started cartooning
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Morrie Turner recalls his high school extracurriculars
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Morrie Turner recounts moving from Oakland to Berkeley, California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Morrie Turner discusses the lack of opportunities for black artists
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Morrie Turner reflects on his childhood job and occupational choices
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Morrie Turner remembers his military service and his first cartoon
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Morrie Turner recalls his first cartoon strip, 'Railhead'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Morrie Turner details how he syndicated the first integrated cartoon
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Morrie Turner describes the first integrated cartoon, 'Dinky Fellows'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Morrie Turner remembers the first cartoon panels that he sold
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Morrie Turner explains how he learned cartooning
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Morrie Turner recounts his trip to Vietnam to entertain troops
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Morrie Turner discusses nicknames in the Army
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Morrie Turner recalls his cartoons for Ebony
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Morrie Turner talks about the success of 'Wee Pals'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Morrie Turner shares some negative responses to his strip
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Morrie Turner explains how he started 'Soul Circle'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Morrie Turner describes the creative process behind his comic strip 'Wee Pals'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Morrie Turner lists some of his other projects
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Morrie Turner reflects on his film about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Morrie Turner recalls working with Fred Rogers
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Morrie Turner contemplates writing books and other media projects
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Morrie Turner remembers his wife's struggle with Alzheimer's
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Morrie Turner expresses his concern for youth and the black community
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Morrie Turner reflects on his happiest moments
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Morrie Turner discusses his attitude towards his work
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Morrie Turner wishes his father could see his work
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Morrie Turner ponders his legacy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Morrie Turner shares some advice to youth
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - Morrie Turner's father and mother, Berkeley, California, ca. 1950s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - Morrie Turner with his siblings and mother, ca. 1930s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - Morrie Turner's kindergarten class, Oakland, California, not dated
  • Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - Morrie Turner and others in the Army Air Force, ca. 1944
  • Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - Morrie Turner and his wife, Leatha, Berkeley, California, ca. 1940s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - Morrie Turner, ca. 1940
  • Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - Morrie Turner, promotion photograph, not dated
  • Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - Morrie Turner Day, Oakland, California, ca. 1966
  • Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - Dick Gregory, ca. 1960s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - Morrie Turner with Bill Keane, 2003
  • Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - Morrie Turner, Washington, D.C., ca. 1976
  • Tape: 6 Story: 21 - Photo - Morrie Turner with children, not dated