Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Robert Wathen

Robert Griffin Wathen was born in Madisonville, Kentucky, on October 14, 1910, according to the 1942 Monthly Supplement to Who’s Who in America. Wathen’s parents were George Francis and Nell Griffin.

In the 1920 census, Wathen was the second of three brothers. Their father was a merchant in a notion store. The Wathens lived in Madisonville at 248 Broadway.

The Monthly Supplement said Wathen graduated from Louisville Male High School in 1927. He attended the Louisville School of Art from 1926 to 1927. In 1928 Wathen was in the art school of the Louisville Conservatory of Music where he studied with Bethuel Moore (1929 to 1931) and Paul Plaschke (1932 to 1934).

A 1928 Louisville, Kentucky city directory listed Wathen as an artist at 1023 South 1st. The 1929 and 1930 directories said Wathen was employed in the engraving department of the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times. His address was 1023 South Brook.

That address, according to the 1930 census, was the Wathen family residence. Wathen’s occupation was newspaper cartoonist. Wathen continued to live with his parents through mid-1932.

The Monthly Supplement said Wathen married Helen Eugenia Page in June 1932.

The 1933 Louisville directory listing said Wathen was an advertising artist at the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times. He and his wife lived at 202 Linden Lane.

Over the next few years their address was 205 North Birchwood Avenue in Louisville. 

The Monthly Supplement said Wathen was creative designer and artist with the Courier-Journal Job Printing & Lithographing Company from 1933 to 1939.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Wathen drew the strip Bela Lanan, Court Reporter, aka You Be the Judge, starting July 6, 1936. It was written by L. Allen Heine. The strip was handled by the Carlile Crutcher Syndicate and ran into Fall 1942.

According to the Monthly Supplement, Wathen was an instructor at the Louisville Art Academy in 1935. He served as art director at the M. R. Kopmeyer Advertising Agency beginning in 1939.

1940 census recorded two sons and two daughters for artist Wathen and his wife. They made their home in St. Matthews, Kentucky, at 513 Cornell Place.

Louisville directories, from 1949 to 1960, said commercial artist Wathen maintained a studio at 633 South 5th in room 200.

Wathen passed away December 5, 1988, in Louisville, according to the Social Security Death Index. He was laid to rest in Resthaven Memorial Cemetery

Further Reading
Will the Real Bela Lanan Please Stand Up?

—Alex Jay


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