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    The famous Hugh Haynie Christmas cartoon
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    Hugh Haynie originally published this article in 2011.

    For a half-century now, every Christmas Eve the Louisville Courier-Journal runs the same cartoon on its editorial page. Since it first appeared on December 24, 1961, it has become the newspaper’s most popular cartoon, and has been published around the world on Christmas cards, in church bulletins and more. It pictures a man surrounded by wrapped presents, with an image of Christ behind him, contemplating his holiday shopping list and asking, "Now, let's see, have I forgotten anyone?" It was drawn by the late Hugh Haynie, one of America’s preeminent cartoonists. And he was my friend.

    My dad introduced me to Hugh back in 1961, while I was still in high school. My father helped Hugh with his income taxes each year, and they became fast friends. I tried to call him “Mr. Haynie,” but he insisted everyone call him “Hugh.” With his Old Dominion graciousness and Tidewater accent (he’d say “oot” for “out,” and “aboot” for “about”), he made friends easily in his adopted city of Louisville.

    Hugh Haynie 1223e.jpgHugh came to Louisville in 1958, when he was hired by Barry Bingham, Sr., to serve as political cartoonist for the Courier-Journal; a job he held for 38 years. He would always hide his wife’s name somewhere in his cartoons, and the daily hunt for “Lois” became a major indoor sport for literate Louisvillians. The day after the moon landing, in a rush to get his cartoon to the presses, Hugh inadvertently omitted Lois from his drawing, and the newspaper was deluged with phone calls the next day, with readers inquiring after the health of Mrs. Haynie.

    Back in the 1960’s—certainly a more innocent time—a fellow could just walk in the front door of the Courier-Journal, past the ten-foot hanging globe and those wonderful WPA-esque Harold Weston murals Adele Brandeis got old Barry to install in the lobby, get on the elevator, and go up to the editorial offices. I soon learned not to drop in on Hugh right before his 3:30 deadline for getting his drawings down to the press room. He was a perfectionist, and was always making little changes to his cartoons, right up to the last minute.  Once--pressed for time--he tasked me with running up the street to Rose's Tobacco Shop to fetch him a carton of Lucky Strikes.  As I say, it was a more innocent time.

    haynie2wm and mary.jpgHugh drew his cartoons on large cardboard mat boards, and the finished product more often than not resembled a collage of pasted-up parts. There were halftone shading strips glued on for emphasis, and much white paint covering the changes of direction Hugh’s artistic genius made. One April 15th, he pasted an IRS Form 1040 as a background, and drew a poor little taxpayer, dressed only in a wooden rain-barrel. The autographed original, which he dedicated to my dad, now hangs in my office.

    While Haynie originals often looked as if they were assembled in a hurry by a slightly insane dadaist, the photo-reduced version ending up in print usually looked like an Albrecht Durer drypoint engraving. In fact, one of Hugh’s most famous works was a rendition of Durer’s “praying hands,” with appropriate acknowledgment to the great German artist included at the bottom of the cartoon.


    Thomas McAdam's picture

    About Thomas McAdam

    At various times I have been a student, a soldier, a college Political Science teacher, a political campaign treasurer, and legal adviser to Louisville's Police Department and Board of Aldermen. I now practice law and share my political opinions with anyone who will listen.

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