Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ink-Slinger Profiles: Morrie Turner

Christmas card, 1972

Morris Nolten "Morrie" Turner was born in Oakland, California on December 11, 1923, according to Who's Who in the West (1980). In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, he was the youngest of four children born to of James and Nora. The family lived in Oakland, California at 1310 Eighth Street. His father was a porter for the Pullman Company.

The U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records show Turner enlisted on February 5, 1943. Who's Who in the West said he served with U.S. Air Force from 1943 to 1946. He married Letha Mae Harvey on April 6, 1946, and they had a son, Morris Arnold. Turner was a police clerk at the Oakland Police Department from 1950 to 1964.

Ebony magazine profiled him in its October 1961 issue. The profile was illustrated with several cartoons; a sample of the strip, The Incredibles, under the pseudonym Gemo; and many photographs of Turner at home, at work at the police department, and with colleagues in the comics business. His strip, Dinky Fellas, was created in the early 1960s. The strip was reworked into Wee Pals, which was syndicated by the Register and Tribune Syndicate.

On October 10, 1970, The Afro-American (Baltimore, MD) profiled Turner, on the release of his book, Nipper. He authored several more books including Nippers Secret Power (1971), Black and White Coloring Book (1971), Willis and Friends (1972), and Kid Power (1972). Kid Power, based on Wee Pals, was turned into a half-hour animated ABC series in 1972. Who's Who in the West said he taught cartooning, from 1971 to 1972, at Laney College in Oakland and San Mateo College, in California. He was a member of the National Cartoonist Society, the Magazine Cartoonist Guild, and Northern California Cartoonist and Gagwriters Association. Ebony magazine profiled him once again in its February 1973 issue.

A Turner bibliography and exhibition list is available at the African American Visual Artists Database. Biographies of Turner can be read at PRWeb, and in the book, African Americans in the Visual Arts (2003). The Morrie Turner Collection is housed at the Syracuse University Library. The website biography said, "As of 2009, Morrie Turner lives in California…"

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