When you talk to editorial cartoonists about the power of the local cartoons, one name keeps coming up: George Fisher. The Arkansas native drew for a number of newspapers from the late 1940s until his death in 2003, and while he was never syndicated nationally, his work had a huge impact — most notably in its affect on the Tennessee Valley Authority. When the TVA was looking to build new hydroelectric dams that would disrupt the flow of rivers across multiple states, it was Fisher's unrelenting cartoons that helped turned the public against the plans.
When Bruce Plante became the cartoonist for the University of Arkansas school newspaper, the Arkansas Traveler, he cold-called Fisher and "asked if I could come to his studio and show him my tiny portfolio. George, being the most gracious person I’ve ever known, agreed to see me at his studio in Little Rock. I quickly discovered I could not have found a better editorial cartoonist for which to pattern my 45-year career. Shortly before he died he told me he was proud of my devotion to local cartooning during my career and while serving the AAEC. Hearing that from George Fisher, I couldn’t be prouder."
Plante, who now draws for the Tulsa World, continues to tackle state and local issues as a big part of his job. Here are just a few:
[Throughout his life, Rex Babin championed those who focused on state and local issues in editorial cartoons, a field that he and other cartoonists felt was regularly overlooked by journalism contests. The "Rex Babin Memorial Award for Excellence in Local Cartooning" was launched in 2017 to celebrate those working in this niche. To that end, we will be showcasing each cartoonist who entered the contest this year, one or two each day in alphabetical order (more or less), leading up to the AAEC Convention in Sacramento, CA, and the announcement of the award winner on Saturday, Sept. 22.]