FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DURHAM, NC — North Carolina cartoonist Dwane Powell is the first recipient of the "Rex Babin Memorial Award for Local Cartooning."
The award was announced Saturday, Nov. 4, during the closing banquet of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists' convention at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. Powell was surprised with the news via video call to his home in Raleigh, NC.
Powell began his career in the early 1970s after his first attempt at cartooning was picked up by the Arkansas Gazette. After stints at the San Antonio Light and Cincinnati Enquirer, he drew for the Raleigh-based News & Observer for over 30 years—frequently drawing the ire of Sen. Jesse Helms—before taking early retirement in 2009. In 2012, the newspaper asked him to return to the op-ed page on a freelance basis.
In a statement Powell said, "I gained an appreciation for the power of local cartoons from my mentor, the late Arkansas cartoonist George Fisher. Rex Babin was also a fan of George, and Rex and I did several panels on why cartoonists should focus more on local cartoons."
"After my three-year hiatus, the N&O asked me to come back and focus on local topics. With a GOP super-majority running the state back 100 years, I eagerly accepted. There must have been a hunger for push-back, as feedback on these cartoons has far exceeded what I received while working full-time."
The AAEC established the award to honor the life and career of the late political cartoonist Rex Babin. 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 unique drawing style stood out among the work of his peers, and his fellow cartoonists elected him President of the AAEC in 2009.
Jack Ohman, Babin's long-time friend and successor to his staff position at the Bee—and one of three jurists who judged the inaugural contest—noted that the pick of Powell was unanimous.
"This is not a sentimental pick," said Ohman. "This is not a nostalgia pick. This is an award to the man who has consistently to this day drawn brilliant, energetic, vicious, humorous local editorial cartoons for 45 years."
The Babin caps a year of recognition for Powell, who has a career retrospective at the City of Raleigh Museum that runs through 2019, and is the subject of a segment of “Muse: The Arts Show” on PBS this week.
For more information on the COR exhibit “‘You Really Stuck it to Me Today’: The Political Cartoons of Dwane Powell”, go to http://cityofraleighmuseum.org/really-stuck-today-political-cartoons-dwane-powell/
“Muse: The Arts Show” airs at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9 on UNC-TV. The segment on Powell can also be viewed on the UNC-TV Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/unctv/videos/10159504980670164/
For more information on the Rex Babin Award, contact Jack Ohman at firstname.lastname@example.org or JP Trostle at email@example.com.