- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bill Garner stopped drawing political cartoons for The Washington Times six years ago, but he never stopped being an artist.

He had several showings of his paintings at an Annapolis gallery. He would sketch passers-by as his wife Patricia Garner did mall-walking. Sometimes people would take notice and ask him to teach them how to draw, which he was happy to do.

Mr. Garner died July 21 after a lengthy illness, about two weeks shy of his 80th birthday.

“With a line here, a splash of ink there, a shadow skillfully applied, Bill would have a deserving senator, president or other rogue or rascal walking around without his head, exposed for all to see,” said columnist Wes Pruden, who was The Washington Times editor in chief for much of Mr. Garner’s tenure.

“Bill was one of the best,” Mr. Pruden said.

Born Aug. 7, 1935, in Temple, Texas, William Simpson Garner attended the Texas School of Fine Arts and spent a year at the University of Texas at Austin. He enlisted in the Army in 1956, winning recognition as a champion sharpshooter.

After leaving the military in 1962, he was working as an illustrator for the Washington (Evening) Star when editorial page editor Smith Hempstone approached him about drawing editorial cartoons twice a week.

“The editor came and asked him if he’d like to do it,” Mrs. Garner said. “He said, ‘Would you like to try it?’ and [Bill] tried it, and he loved it.”

A few years later, Mr. Garner became the editorial cartoonist for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, where he won the National Headliner Award for his work in 1981. His son Brian Garner recalled that his father was something of a household name in Memphis.

“He always had letters and fans at The Times, but it was a little more personal down there. He was actually treated like a celebrity,” Brian Garner said. “When I would run around and get in trouble, and I would pull out my license, they would say, ‘Is your dad the political cartoonist?’ That’s the kind of name he had down there.”

Bill Garner joined The Washington Times in 1983, shortly after its founding. One of his most famous cartoons featured former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein after he was overthrown and his country conquered by the U.S. military following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Dad had an image of a tank that was basically making its way over some dunes, and on the back of the tank, it showed a bumper sticker that said, ‘Saddam Happens.’ That cartoon went crazy when he was at The Times,” Brian Garner recalled.

“In fact, one Times employee was in Chicago, and there was a street vendor that had printed T-shirts of that [image],” Mr. Garner said. “That’s how far it reached. That was an international cartoon, and I think he was pretty proud of it.”

Bill Garner was also known for his love of birds, particularly songbirds. He built a small sanctuary in his backyard in Annapolis, documenting more than 1,500 bluebirds born over the span of 35 years in “this one little birdhouse,” said his son.

“He would get these meal worms, and he would start calling those bluebirds from his driveway, and they would go up to his hand to get them. Wild birds,” Brian Garner said. “He could go out there and call them out of their nest, and they’d come down and eat them right in front of him. If anyone else got close, they’d take off.”

Bill Garner is survived by his wife of 59 years, Patricia, and four children, Elizabeth (Erricker), Kathleen (Veazey), David and Brian, a large extended family, and Daisy, his Bichon. A private family service has been held.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations in his name to the Audubon Society or “any other charity of your choice.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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