SACRAMENTO, CA — Alabama cartoonist JD Crowe is the 2018 recipient of the "Rex Babin Memorial Award for Local Cartooning." The prize was announced Thursday, Sept. 2o, during the opening reception of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists' convention in Sacramento, CA. The reception was held at the California Museum, which is hosting a retrospective of Babin's artwork.
Jack Ohman, Babin's long-time friend and successor to his staff position at the Bee, noted "For decades, JD Crowe has been drawing fresh, original, pungent, brutal, and thought-provoking local cartoons. He is universally respected by his peers for his work, and for me, it is a wonderful moment to be able to honor our colleague and friend with this award named after his great friend Rex."
Crowe and Babin became friends as they jumped from paper to paper in the 1990s, and, according to some cartoonists who knew them, influenced each other's work, pushing themselves to develop cartooning styles unlike anyone else in the industry.
"Nobody draws like JD Crowe," said JP Trostle, a judge on this year's panel. "His work is painterly — dark and twisted, like Francis Bacon — but funny. His caricature of Roy Moore is one for the ages."
Originally from Kentucky, Crowe attended Eastern Kentucky University and studied painting, journalism, and design. He won the state's top collegiate journalism awards for his editorial cartoons in the university newspaper, The Eastern Progress, in 1980 and 1981. He landed at Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1982, first as a staff artist, then as editorial cartoonist in 1983, before moving to San Diego in 1987 where he was hired to draw for the (now-defunct) Tribune.
He then bounced around the country drawing political cartoons for the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Examiner, and the alt-weekly San Diego Reader from 1992 until he joined the Mobile Press-Register in 2000.
For the last 18 years, Crowe has been the self-described "moderately disturbed dorky cartoonist" for Alabama Media Group and AL.com. "And then 2017 happened. Alabama’s crazy special election to fill a U.S. Senate seat collided with the #MeToo movement, and our state’s most notorious politician was loose in the national spotlight," Crowe said. "My mission was to inspire folks who routinely sit out elections to get out, get involved and save our state from further embarrassment."
Dwane Powell, the first winner of the award, and a judge for this year's contest, said, "The entries for the second Rex Babin Award were indeed exceptional. That said, with an original, biting, creative, and yes, quirky approach to his art, J.D. Crowe dealt with some downright crazy Alabama politicos and issues that had national ramifications, and knocked them out of the park."
The AAEC established the award to honor the life and career of the political cartoonist Rex Babin. The editorial cartoonist for the Albany Times-Union and The Sacramento Bee, passed away in 2012 at age 49 following a long fight with cancer. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2003, and received the Berryman Award from the National Press Foundation the same year. His fellow cartoonists elected him President of the AAEC in 2009, and he was honored posthumously with the Mark Twain Award for Journalistic Excellence in 2015.
The retrospective of the late cartoonist's work will be on exhibit at the California Museum through Oct. 14, 2018. For more information on "Drawing Caleeforneeya: Political Cartoons of Rex Babin," go to http://www.californiamuseum.
For more information on the Rex Babin Award, contact Jack Ohman at [email protected] or JP Trostle at [email protected].