Longtime cartoonist Jim Lange dies

FROM STAFF REPORTS Modified: April 18, 2009 at 10:17 pm •  Published: April 18, 2009
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How he worked
Throughout his career, Lange’s most advanced technology was a black felt-tip pen and poster board. Occasionally he would whip out a pen and draft an idea on a handy napkin.

Each morning, he checked newspaper and broadcast reports, so that he arrived at his office with several ideas for the day’s cartoon. He made rough sketches of a half-dozen or so, then submitted them to the publisher or the editorial page editor. He completed the one selected. He once said in an interview that the newspaper’s executives rarely told him what to draw; his political philosophy was close enough to theirs that he knew what they wanted.

Lange was a co-founder of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists and served a term as national president during the 1980s. His work was frequently included in the annual publication, Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year. A collection of his best work was published by The Oklahoman in the 1990s.

His professional peers honored him with awards. The causes and concerns he supported in his drawings offered frequent gratitude. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 1993. He was a director or officer of several civic and professional organizations, ranging from the Oklahoma City Zoological Society to the Oklahoma City Gridiron Foundation.

However, politicians and elected officials who appeared in his drawings were not always pleased with him. In a 2000 interview, on his 50th anniversary on the job, Lange said that the worst thing someone in his line of work could do to a politician, except ignore him completely, was to laugh at him.

His images helped put public issues in perspective, or helped readers express emotions about events that affected them. Lange punctured the posturings of many famous people; he insulted, scolded or ridiculed them when he thought it necessary. He also praised them when he deemed it appropriate. He didn’t dislike anybody, he said once; he just didn’t agree with some.

Often, his subjects called as soon as their morning papers were delivered to request the original sketches, no matter how insulting they were. His work hangs in many government offices, and the morning’s cartoon was often the topic of conversation across Oklahoma.

Lange was a natural entertainer and storyteller. With drawing pad and pen for props, he performed for banquets, club meetings, conventions and fairs across the state. When he told jokes, he laughed more heartily and with more delight than his audience.

In the 2000 interview, Lange responded to a question about why he hadn’t retired when the appropriate age arrived.

He said his job was just too good to leave.

Besides his wife, Helen, survivors include two sons, Jim and Robert, both of Oklahoma City; a daughter, Nancy, of Columbia, Tenn.; and 11 grandchildren.

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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Remembering Jim Lange

David Boren, president of the University

of Oklahoma

"Jim Lange was not only one of the greatest political cartoonists Oklahoma ever produced, he was one of the most outstanding cartoonists in the history of American journalism. Jim had the remarkable ability to produce cartoons that were fully understood by the public and expressed the feelings of rank and file Americans. He truly loved this state and our country, and those patriotic feelings were constantly communicated through his work. His life’s work was a gift to all of us, and I will personally miss his friendship and wonderful sense of humor.”

Ed Kelley, editor of The Oklahoman

"Lots of Oklahomans for many years turned to Jim Lange for his take on the news of the day — whether it be the passing of a president, a war or just simply a change in the weather. His body of work, for almost six decades, made him one of a kind, the likes of which we’ll never see again in our state.”

We will have an editorial in the Sunday paper that remembers Jim Lange. We also will run several of his cartoons.

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