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.
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 ┬áby 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.
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.
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)
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