Few people had as unique a view of Herblock as Katharine Graham, the longtime chairman of The Washington Post. Here is an abridged version of her views from an article on Herblock's 50th anniversary with the Washington Post.
My Mother had a saying: "Any man worth marrying is impossible to live with." Why does this make me think of my glorious life and times with Herblock, one of the greatest ornaments to The Post and to all of journalism? Underneath his genius for cartooning and writing lies a modest, sweet, aw-shucks personality. Underneath that lies a layer of iron and steel. For the publishers and editors over him - or under him, as it would be more accurate to say - it's like having a tiger by the tail.
Herb fought for and earned a unique position at the paper: one of complete independence of anybody and anything. Journalistic enterprises run best when writers and editors have a lot of autonomy. But Herb's case is extreme. And because he's a genius, it works.
Since he arrived at The Post, five editors and five publishers have learned a cardinal rule: Don't mess with Herb. He's just as tough within the confines of The Post as he is in the political world outside.
Of course, this has produced a few tense moments.
I have sometimes opened the paper and gasped at Herb's cartoons, particularly during Watergate when we were so embattled on all fronts. But I learned not to interfere. And anyway, most of the time we're on the same wavelength. Even when we aren't, I should confess, I generally find myself laughing uproariously at the cartoon that has caused my apprehension. In this sense, Herb always wins.
Herb studies events and reacts to them in his own way. His point of view is liberal, and his instincts are commonsensical. But his common sense has a special twist. As economist Ken Galbraith once put it: "While Herb appreciates virtue, his real interest is in awfulness." His mind turns to the rascals, the phonies and the frauds.
Herb's unique ability to crystallize what is right - or, more likely, wrong - about an issue or a person has often influenced the course of events in Washington. Naturally, the strength and impact of his cartoons often provoke strong reactions from the readers who disagree. Part of the job of Post publishers is often to defend Herb and the paper from these reactions.
I have written my share of explanatory letters. One in 1989, said that to cartoon is to caricature, and people who are very gifted at cartooning sometimes offend. "Most of the time, however, cartoons illuminate or amuse," the letter went on to say. I doubt the irate reader was completely satisfied, but the statement, I believe, is true.
As Herb begins his second fifty years at The Post, he has lost none of his dynamic energy and original insight. He is going as strong as ever.
The Post and Herblock are forever intertwined. The Post is his forum. He helped create it, and he has been its shining light.
Herbert Block (Herblock)
October 13, 1909 to October 7, 2001.
Born and educated in Chicago; 2 years at Lake Forest College; and part-time classes at Art Institute of Chicago.
Editorial page cartoonist Chicago Daily News and NEA Service (Cleveland, Ohio); in U.S. Army 1943-45, before coming to The Washington Post in 1946.
Pulitzer Prizes in cartooning, 1942, 1954, and 1979; in 1973 one of four staff members named in the Pulitzer Prize to The Washington Post for Public Service on Watergate.
American Newspaper Guild Award, 1948; Heywood Broun Award, 1950; Sigma Delta Chi (National Journalism Society) awards, 1949, 1950, 1952, and 1957; Sidney Hillman Award (for book), 1953; National Cartoonists Society "Reuben" Outstanding Cartoonist Award, 1957; Hon. Ll.D. Lake Forest College, 1957; Lauterbach Award for services to Civil Liberties, 1959.
Florina Lasker Award (New York Civil Liberties Union), 1960; University of Missouri Distinguished Service Journalism Award, 1961; Phi Beta Kappa, 1962; Golden Key Award, 1963; Hon. Litt. D. Rutgers University, 1963; Bill of Rights Day Award, 1966; Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Hon. L.H.D., Williams College 1969.
Elected Fellow of Sigma Delta Chi, 1970; National Headliners Award, 1976; Power of Print Award, 1977; Ho. L.H.D., Haverford College, 1977; Hon. L.H.D., University of Maryland; National Press Club Annual Fourth Estate Award, 1977; Overseas Press Club Citation, 1979; NEA Award for Human Relations, 1979.
ACLU Award "for his creative and incisive defense of the Bill of Rights," 1981; World Hunger Media Award for best cartoon on World Hunger, 1984; People for the American Way First Amendment Award for best cartoons on civil liberties, 1985; Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for contributions to the cause of freedom of speech and the advancement of freedom of the press, 1986; Hon. Ll.D. Colby College, 1986; Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award for selfless and devoted service in the cause of equality (Leadership Conference on Civil Rights), 1987; Franklin Roosevelt Freedom Medal (Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Foundation), 1987; World Humor Award (Workshop Library on World Humour), 1988; Overseas Press Club Award, 1988; Outstanding Consumer Media Service Award (Consumer Federation of America), 1989; National Women's Political Caucus "Good Guy Award," 1989.
Population Institute Global Media Award, 1990; Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. Maggie Award, 1991 and 1992. American Lung Ass'n. President's Award, 19993. Robert F. Kennedy Special Recognition Book Award, 1994. Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1994. Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award for best cartoons of the year, 1994. Overseas Press Club Thomas Nast Award, 1995. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Lifetime Achievement Award, 1995; Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. Maggie Award, 1997; N.T. "Pete" Shields Award, Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, 1998; Distinguished Contributions to Journalism Award, National Press Foundation, 1999; Honorary Doctor of Arts degree, Harvard University, 1999; Living Legends Medal, Library of Congress, 2000; one of the 25 most influential journalists and newspaper in the 20th century, Editor & Publisher, 2000; Art Gliner Humor Award, University of Maryland, 2000.
DESIGNER: U.S. postage stamp commemorating 175th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, 1966.
AUTHOR: The Herblock Book (1952), Herblock's Here and Now (1955), Herblock's Special for Today (1958), Straight Herblock (1964), The Herblock Gallery (1968), Herblock's State of the Union (1972), Herblock Special Report (1974), Herblock on All Fronts (1980), Herblock Through the Looking Glass (1984), Herblock at Large (1987), Herblock: A Cartoonist's Life (1993), and Bella and Me (Life in the Service of a Cat) - (1995), updated Herblock: A Cartoonist's Life in paperback with an added chapter and 70 more cartoons (1998).