RALEIGH, N.C. - Doug Marlette, the North Carolina-born cartoonist who won a Pulitzer Prize and created the popular strip “Kudzu,” was killed in a car accident Tuesday morning in Mississippi, authorities said. He was 57.
Marlette, who joined the Tulsa (Okla.) World last year, was the passenger in the car, which struck a tree after skidding on a rain-slicked road, said John Garrison, the coroner in Mississippi's Marshall County.
“Evidently, it hydroplaned, left the highway and struck the tree,” Garrison said.
Marlette's editorial cartoons and his strip, “Kudzu,” are syndicated worldwide. The “Kudzu” strip deals humorously with rural Southern life, featuring characters such as the Rev. Will B. Dunn.
Born in Greensboro, Marlette began drawing political cartoons for The Charlotte Observer in 1972.
He won the Pulitzer in 1988 for his editorial cartooning in both Charlotte and at the Atlanta Constitution, which he had joined the year before.
He said at the time that his biting approach could be traced in part to “a grandmother bayoneted by a guardsman during a mill strike in the Carolinas. There are some rebellious genes floating around in me.”
He also had worked at New York Newsday and the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat.
“Cartoons are windows into the human condition,” he said when he joined the Tulsa World last year. “It's about life.”
Robert E. Lorton III, the World's publisher and president, said on the newspaper's Web site that Marlette's death was “a great tragedy, not only for the Tulsa World family, but for all who knew Doug.”
“He was more than a great cartoonist and author, he was a tremendous human being,” Lorton said.
Katharine Walton, his North Carolina-based publicist, said Marlette was working in Oxford, Miss., with a high school group that was doing a musical version of “Kudzu.”
She recalled how he “would just give me really good advice all the time. He had a huge capacity for information, an enormous capacity for information, and everything was relevant.”
Among his books were “Shred This Book: The Scandalous Cartoons of Doug Marlette,” “In Your Face: A Cartoonist at Work” and “The Bridge,” his first novel, published in 2001.
The World said Marlette is survived by his wife, Melinda, and an adult son, Jackson. He divided his time between homes in Tulsa and in Hillsborough, N.C.