Eugene Payne oral history interview 2, 2005 March 24
In this second interview, Eugene Payne discusses his forty-year career as an editorial cartoonist for the Charlotte Observer, his artwork, and winning his 1968 Pulitzer Prize. Mr. Payne discusses the role his mother played in supporting his early love of art and cartoons by ensuring that he could attend lectures and classes at the Mint Museum and take private lessons from visiting artists, including painter Robert Gwanthmey. However, it wasn't until he returned home to Charlotte following World War II that Mr. Payne combined his love of art and politics and pursued a career as an editorial cartoonist. In 1957 he was hired by the Observer's editor C.A. "Pete" McKnight as a freelance cartoonist before becoming the Observer's staff artist in 1960. Mr. Payne describes his process for creating an editorial cartoon each day, and his preferences for topical and local subjects. He also explains that although his political views differed from the Observer editorial page, he never had to produce a cartoon supporting an opinion that he did not believe in, and that ultimately he felt working for a paper with a different editorial perspective than his own had been a positive experience. Mr. Payne then talks about winning the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1968, and describes the background to each of the ten award-winning cartoons. Mr. Payne also discusses his seven years working as an editorial cartoonist at WSOC-TV and the difficulties they faced in trying to bring editorial cartoons to television. He also recounts meeting a number of U.S. presidents--including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford--as a member and former president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. In particular, he shares several stories of LBJ, explaining that Johnson was a big fan of political cartoons and hosted a number of events for the nation's editorial cartoonists during his presidency. Mr. Payne concludes the interview by reflecting on the difficulties facing young and aspiring cartoonists as more and more newspapers rely on syndicated work to decrease their newsroom budgets.