Clay Bennett, US editorial cartoonist

Clay Bennett does not have the name recognition of fellow artists like Tom Toles or Pat Oliphant, but he’s as good as any of them, maybe better.

Bennett was an army brat who was bounced around the nation growing up before finally ending up at the University of North Alabama, graduating in 1980. After working briefly for a couple of papers, he joined the St. Petersburg Times in 1981, spending 13 years there and winning a number of awards before he was unceremoniously fired in 1994.

This was a stunning event for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that Bennett is good, really good. His clean-lined craftsmanship is evident at a glance, and his skill is all the more apparent when compared to his local competition, the Tampa Tribune’s right-wing lifer Wayne Stayskal, who draws like he has Tourette’s of the hand. The Times admitted the problem wasn’t cost cutting either. Instead, Bennett was canned because he was too liberal for the new editor, and this from the more “liberal” paper of this area’s two major newspapers.

Bennett did some internet work and syndicated with King Features for a while, until he was picked up by The Christian Science Monitor in 1998, where he now does 5 full color cartoons a week. In 2002, he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, so now one of the nation’s most respected papers adds another Pulitzer to its 15 or so, and our local “liberal” paper rests secure in its provinciality and philistinism.

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