Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist and NewsWorks artist-in-residence Tony Auth died Sunday at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania after a two-year struggle with cancer. He was 72.
For 41 years, Mr. Auth was editorial cartoonist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, where his cartoons influenced public opinion and politicians in the city, state and nation.
“Tony Auth was a great cartoonist, a fine journalist and an even better friend,” said Chris Satullo, WHYY’s vice president for news and civic dialogue. Satullo also worked with Mr. Auth for many years when Satullo was The Inquirer’s editorial page editor.
WHYY CEO William Marrazzo called Mr. Auth “a class act.”
“As a seasoned editorial cartoonist he of course had a point of view,” Marrazzo said. “And, agree with him or not, his work made you think! Our community will miss Tony the person, and all that his name stood for professionally.”
“We are fortunate that he chose to spend his remaining professional years with WHYY, time that now seems particularly precious.”
Marrazzo noted that even as Mr. Auth grew gravely ill, he maintained an amazingly positive attitude and always seemed to have a “twinkle in his eye.”
At NewsWorks/WHYY, working on both cultural and political subjects in his Behind the Lines blog, Mr. Auth pioneered a new form of online cartooning, while continuing to produce a steady stream of award-winning cartoons that appeared first on NewsWorks before syndication across the country.
Showings of his work have recently been presented at several venues, including the James A. Michener Art Museum, WHYY’s studios, and the Philadelphia Foundation’s office.
Currently, two universities ― Temple and UCLA ― are vying to become the permanent archive for his work.
The Philadelphia Foundation is leading the effort to keep the archive in Philadelphia.
Mr. Auth was born in 1942 in Akron, Ohio. He frequently credited his love of drawing to an illness at age 5 that left him bedridden for 18 months. He said his inspirations included comic strips, children’s books, and radio dramas.
After graduating from UCLA in 1965 with a degree in biological illustration, Mr. Auth became a medical illustrator for Rancho Los Amigo Hospital, a teaching hospital. It was while working there that Mr. Auth began drawing political cartoons for the UCLA newspaper and a weekly alternative newspaper.
In 1971, he made his bid to become the cartoonist for the Inquirer by flying to Philadelphia for a tryout. Mr. Auth frequently told the story of how he pursued his goal of landing that job with indefatigable zeal. He said he was as surprised as anyone when then editorial page editor Creed Black told him he had the job.
In 2005, Mr. Auth won the prestigious Herb Block award. One of the judges of the competition, Lucy Caswell, said then, “Tony Auth’s optimistic perspective that things can get better if we work at them places him squarely as an heir of Herblock’s legacy.” Caswell was also then the curator of the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library.
Mr. Auth won the Thomas Nast Prize in 2002. He also holds five Overseas Press Club Awards, and the Sigma Delta Chi award.
He lived in Wynnewood with his wife, Eliza Drake Auth. They have two grown daughters. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Tony Auth Archive Fund at the Philadelphia Foundation.