Dwane Powell, an Arkansas native editorial cartoonist who spent most of his career at the Raleigh News-Observer, died Sunday at 74.
The Raleigh newspaper ran an extensive obituary on Powell. Powell was a friend to the Arkansas Times, providing cartoons as a favor his mentor, George Fisher. Powell had been reduced to part-time a few years ago, but continued to produce a weekly cartoon until recently. The newspaper obituary mentioned his Arkansas roots:
Powell was an Arkansas native who grew up on a farm outside the town of McGehee. He went to school at Arkansas Agricultural and Mechanical College — now the University of Arkansas at Monticello — where he played football until a shoulder injury took him off the field.
In an interview at his downtown Raleigh home in March, Powell said he wasn’t much of a student in those days, and he flunked out. He joined the U.S. Army National Guard and spent a couple of years working for his father before making another run at a degree in agri-business.
He got the parchment, graduating in 1969, but by then was looking far beyond the cotton, rice and soybean fields of rural Arkansas.
Powell had begun pen-and-ink drawing while at McGehee Senior High, when a counselor gave him the supplies as a way to channel the doodling he was constantly doing anyway. He did some sketches for the high school yearbook and loved the way it felt to see his work in print, he said. He drew cartoons for the college paper, too.
While in college — the second time — he was approached by the editor of Monticello’s local paper, The Advance-Monticellonian, who had seen some of Powell’s drawings, mostly on napkins, a favored medium throughout his career. The editor suggested Powell beef up on the political news, pick a topic and draw a cartoon about it.
“He offered me $5,” Powell said. “I thought, ‘Hell, that’ll buy a six-pack of beer,” and he took the challenge. The piece got picked up by the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, and Powell was hooked. He drew Sunday editorial cartoons for the Advance-Monticellonian all the way through his senior year. Most of them, he said, also ran in the Gazette.
After graduation, it took him some time and a series of mismatched jobs to figure out he wanted to work in newspapers. He got hired as a reporter-cartoonist at the Sentinel Record in Hot Springs, then moved to the Cincinnati Enquirer and the San Antonio Light.By then, he knew he wanted to work at a capital-city newspaper, he said, close to the political action, and he knew he wanted it to be one where his cartoons could lean to the left. He had become especially interested in civil rights issues
That’s kind of the story of newspapers these days, it occurs to me. From beer money we came; to beer money we go.