Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Jack Higgins 1954-2024

From The Chicago Sun-Times

Jack Higgins, Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Sun-Times editorial cartoonist died February 10 after a long illness.  He was 69.

Jack Higgins knew the power of the pen.

"Political cartoons are meant to take the mighty and the pompous and cut them down to a more manageable size. Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted," he once wrote about his job.

He skewered local and national politicians alike, satirized scandals and offered poignant and absurd takes on city life and ills, especially gun violence.

In 1989 he won the Pulitzer for a collection of cartoons that included a drawing that pictured vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle playing golf while Vietnamese children flee from a napalm attack, with Quayle asking the children, "Mind if I play through?"

Mr. Higgins had a stiletto-sharp wit and "the sort of humor that played well at wakes," Crowley said.

"He could look at anything and find humor; that was his talent," said Mr. Higgins' sister Patty Crowley.

"Following media coverage of health concerns about the butter served on movie theater popcorn, Mr. Higgins drew a cartoon featuring movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert in which Ebert hands Siskel a barrel of popcorn and Siskel thinks: 'That's funny, he's never offered me his popcorn before,' " his sister said.

Following its publication, Siskel and Ebert each left separate voicemail messages requesting the original drawing.

"He gave it to Roger because Roger was with the Sun-Times," his sister said.

Mr. Higgins was known for his warmth and kindness and being the highlight of any school group that visited the newsroom and stopped by his drafting table.

He woke early and digested the day's news to generate ideas.

"I'll figure out what bothers me most about something, and how I can take the issue, turn it around, stand it on its head and stick my tongue out at it, so to speak," he said.

His cartoons were turned into the book "My Kind of 'Toon, Chicago Is: Political Cartoons."

Mr. Higgins was born Aug. 19, 1954, to Maurice James Higgins, a Chicago police commander who worked as attorney on the side, and Helen Egan Higgins, a homemaker who loved to draw and paint and encouraged her kids to do so, too.

Mr. Higgins, one of seven siblings who grew up in the Wrightwood neighborhood on the Southwest Side.

He took drawing classes in college and met Boston Globe editorial cartoonist Paul Szep, who influenced his career choice, his sister said.

After college he served for a year as a telephone hotline crisis counselor with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Washington, D.C.

In the late '70s he was an editorial cartoonist for Northwestern University's student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern, though Mr. Higgins didn't attend the university.

"My parents had these dreams of me becoming a businessman or a lawyer. I have six brothers and sisters. Two of them are scientists. A couple are lawyers. 

My brothers and sisters have degrees from Cambridge University and London School of Economics, the law school of the University of Virginia, University of Chicago business school, and Harvard! 

And here I come along with my crayons after college," Mr. Higgins wrote about his beginnings at the Sun-Times.

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