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Apr 18

RIP Willie Don

Category: Line Art, News

Kal Schaefer sm

I was sad to learn today of the passing of the great Maryland politician William Donald Schaefer. Schaefer or “Willie Don” as we would know him was a flamboyant, dynamic, zany and utterly unique politician who gave 50 years of his life to public service for the people of Maryland.

I had a strange and wonderful relationship with the Governor. As editorial cartoonist for the Baltimore Sun for 17 years, the Governor’s abundant antics supplied me with ample (read: mountains) of material to draw upon.


He was a great showman and ham who was fond of dressing up in silly outfits and wandering off script. His wacky persona was complimented by rubbery face which had more expressions than Baskin Robbins had flavors.

He also had an incredibly thin skin and didn’t take lightly to criticism… particularly unflattering cartoons.

Thus, I was a feature of many of his public tirades and recipient of poison pen letters inked by the great man himself. We had quite a relationship.

Kal Schaefer shrinking trousers sm

Recently, at a Stoop Storytelling series in Baltimore I had the pleasure of sharing some of his funnier antics I encountered. You can listen to the presentation here.

After his retirement from public service in his Eighties, he and I made amends.

I had been asked to partake in an hour long documentary  by MPT about his career in politics. At a private screening of the film he and I had a chance to visit. I thanked him for his dedication and service to the people of Maryland. He thanked me for finally picking on someone else for a change.

Classic Schaefer.

Schaefer Second Fiddle sm

Despite the decades of cartoon criticism, I am a big fan of Willie Don Schaefer. He was an important and accomplished politician who made Baltimore and Maryland a better place to live for millions of citizens.

As a cartoonist I felt lucky to have such a gift as Governor … And as a citizen I felt incredibly┬álucky to have a Governor so dedicated as William Donald Schaefer.

Schaefer intro sm

The Governor and I had a brief detente in 2000 when he wrote the introduction to my collection of cartoons “Kal Draws the Line” (above)
Kal and Shaefer together sm

Schaefer sculpture sm
Kal William Donald Schaefer web


5 Comments so far

  1. Sally Johnston April 19th, 2011 5:10 am

    Kal, Great memories. Thanks so much. Sally

  2. marc steiner April 19th, 2011 9:45 am

    KAL … great what you just posted. He was complex man who left an even more complex legacy. I too was on his hate list for about 15 years then I was on his love list for the next 15 ….
    thanks KAL ..

  3. J. Wynn Rousuck April 19th, 2011 6:44 pm

    Hi, KAL,
    Very amusing tribute! Also enjoyed your Stoop Story. Schaefer was definitely a gift to Baltimore. Among his many accomplishments — he understood the important role the arts play in making a city great. I, for one, am especially grateful to him for that.

  4. Cliff Ransom April 21st, 2011 11:18 am

    Dear Kevin:

    Hizhonor was one of the last honest politicians in Maryland. Yes, he was nuts at times, but I think mostly he was crazy like a fox.

    You really ought to re-tell the story of how he offered you what he deemed was “fair value” for one of cartoons of him (he taped a penny to his letter) and how you agreed, in an extraordinarily classy mood, on the condition that he have lunch with you. If I have portrayed accurately the basic story-line, the tale is worth expanding into a full-blown blog comment.

    Although I have been, for many years, the proud owner of the bust you created to prepare Willy Don for animation, I have to admit that I never realized his eyes were so strikingly blue!

    As ever,


  5. Tracy April 24th, 2011 8:39 am


    I really enjoyed reading and viewing your tribute to Willie Don, it is priceless.


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