Morrie Turner
Morrie Turner in 2005.jpg
Turner in 2005
BornMorris Nolton Turner
(1923-12-11)December 11, 1923
Oakland, California
DiedJanuary 25, 2014(2014-01-25) (aged 90)
Sacramento, California
Notable works
Wee Pals
Awardsfull list

Morris Nolton Turner[1] (December 11, 1923 – January 25, 2014)[2] was an American cartoonist, creator of the strip Wee Pals, the first American syndicated strip with an integrated cast of characters.


Turner was raised in Oakland, California, the youngest child of a Pullman porter father and a homemaker and nurse mother.[1][2] He attended Cole Elementary School and McClymonds High School in Oakland and Berkeley High School.[3][4]

Turner got his first training in cartooning via a correspondence course.[5] During World War II, where he served as a mechanic with Tuskegee Airmen,[1] his illustrations appeared in the newspaper Stars and Stripes. After the war, while working for the Oakland Police Department, he created the comic strip Baker's Helper.[6]

When Turner began questioning why there were no minorities in cartoons, his mentor, Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, suggested he create one.[7] Morris' first attempt, Dinky Fellas, featured an all-black cast, but found publication in only one newspaper, the Chicago Defender.[8] Turner integrated the strip, renaming it Wee Pals, and in 1965 it became the first American syndicated comic strip to have a cast of diverse ethnicity.[1] Although the strip was only originally carried by five newspapers, it was picked-up by more than 100 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968.[9]

In 1970, Turner became a co-chairman of the White House Conference on Children and Youth.[2]

Turner appeared twice as a guest on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, on May 7, 1971 and May 14, 1973. In his 1971 visit, Turner discussed his comic strip and how each of his characters were named, as he drew examples of his characters. On his return 1973 visit, he showed Fred Rogers pictures he had drawn of several of the neighbors in Fred's television neighborhood. Turner also presented a clip from his Kid Power animated series, which aired Saturday mornings on ABC at the time.[10] As well, during the 1972–73 television season, Wee Pals on the Go was aired by ABC's owned-and-operated station in San Francisco, KGO-TV. This Sunday morning show featured child actors who portrayed the main characters of Turner's comic strip: Nipper, Randy, Sybil, Connie and Oliver. With and through the kids, Turner explored venues, activities and objects such as a candy factory and a train locomotive.[citation needed]

As the comic strip continued, Turner added characters of more ethnicities, as well as a child with a physical disability.

During the Vietnam War, Turner and five other members of the National Cartoonist Society traveled to South Vietnam, where they spent a month drawing more than 3,000 caricatures of service personnel.[9]

For concerts by the Bay Area Little Symphony of Oakland, California, Turner drew pictures to the music and of children in the audience.[11]

Turner launched the first in a series of Summer Art exhibitions at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) on June 10, 1995.[12]

Personal life

Turner married Letha Mae Harvey on April 6, 1946; they collaborated on "Soul Corner," the weekly supplement to Wee Pals.[6] Morrie and Letha had one son, Morrie Jr;[13] Letha died in 1994. Late in life, Turner's companion was Karol Trachtenburg of Sacramento.[9] Turner died on January 25, 2014, at age 90.[14]


In 1967, cartoonist Bil Keane created the Family Circus character Morrie, a playmate of Billy and the only recurring black character in the strip, based on Turner.[15]


In 2003, the National Cartoonists Society recognized Turner for his work on Wee Pals and others with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award.[1]

Throughout his career, Turner was showered with awards and community distinctions. For example, he received the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Inter-Group Relations Award from the Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith. In 1971, he received the Alameda County (California) Education Association Layman's Annual Award.[16]

In 2000, the Cartoon Art Museum presented Turner with the Sparky Award, named in honor of Charles Schulz.[9]

Turner was honored a number of times at the San Diego Comic-Con: in 1981, he was given an Inkpot Award; and in 2012 he was given the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award.


Wee Pals collections

Willis and his Friends

Other books


  1. ^ a b c d e Cavna, Michael (January 31, 2014). "RIP, Morrie Turner: Cartoonists say farewell to a friend, a hero, a 'Wee Pals' pioneer". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 14, 2017. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Bernstein, Adam (January 28, 2014). "Morrie Turner dies at 90; pioneering 'Wee Pals' cartoonist". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 6, 2014. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  3. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (January 28, 2014). "Morrie Turner – pioneering Wee Pals cartoonist – dies". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  4. ^ "Morrie Turner". The HistoryMakers. April 6, 2004. Archived from the original on December 14, 2017. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  5. ^ "California's cartooning cop". Ebony. Vol. 16, no. 12. October 1961. pp. 74–79 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ a b "Morrie Turner". Lambiek Comiclopedia. April 3, 2015. Archived from the original on January 27, 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  7. ^ "Morrie Turner: Pioneering 'Wee Pals' cartoonist, dies at 90". East Bay Times. Walnut Creek, California. January 27, 2014. Archived from the original on November 21, 2018.
  8. ^ Hamlin, Jesse (September 13, 2009). "Wee Pals retrospective at S.F. library". San Francisco Chronicle.
  9. ^ a b c d "About Morrie Turner". Creators Syndicate. Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  10. ^ "Kid Power Cartoon". The Museum Of UnCut Funk. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  11. ^ Gibson, Michael P. "Morrie Turner". Bay Area Little Symphony. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  12. ^ "EOYDC: A Beacon for Oakland Youth". Alameda Magazine. July–August 2009. Archived from the original on February 21, 2018. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  13. ^ Jay, Alex (October 25, 2011). "Ink-Slinger Profiles: Morrie Turner". Stripper's Guide. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  14. ^ Kelly, George (January 27, 2014). "Remembering 'Wee Pals' creator Morrie Turner: Social media reaction". Mercury News. Archived from the original on January 27, 2014.
  15. ^ Chang, Jeff (November–December 2009). "Morrie Turner and the Kids". The Believer. Archived from the original on April 10, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  16. ^ Turner, Morrie. Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999. Retrieved January 27, 2013.