Morrie Turner, an Oakland, Calif., native, was the youngest of four children. His father, a Pullman porter, and mother, a devout Christian, instilled in him the faith -- faith in himself, faith in others, faith in his ability to be a comic strip artist. He began drawing cartoons in the fifth grade.
As a young man, he served a stint in the service during World War II, where he drew strips for military newspapers. Following his discharge, he juggled his comic strips with legal publications and work as a police clerk. Finally, in 1964, he wholeheartedly pursued his cartoon aspirations full-time, once again relying on his faith.
One life-changing honor was during the Vietnam War, when Turner was one of six cartoonist asked by the National Cartoonist Society to go Vietnam. Morrie spent 27 days on the front lines and in hospitals, drawing more than 3,000 caricatures of service people.
In 1965, he created the Wee Pals comic strip. It was Morrie's intention to portray a world without prejudice, a world in which people's differences -- race, religion, gender, and physical and mental ability -- are cherished, not scorned.
When Wee Pals was first created, bringing black characters to the comics' pages was by no means an easy task. In 1965, only five major newspapers published the strip. It was not until 1968 -- and the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. -- that Wee Pals achieved nationwide acceptance. Within three months of King's death, the strip was appearing in over 100 newspapers nationwide.
Since that time, Morrie has written and illustrated many books for children and has received the Anti-Defamation League's Humanitarian award. In 2000, he won the prestigious "Sparky Award," named after famed cartoonist Charles Schultz, creator of "Peanuts." Morrie has received numerous other awards for his comic strip, including the awards from the American Red Cross and the NAACP, the Boys and Girls Club Image Award, the B'Nai Brith Humanitarian Award and California Educators Award.
Morrie was recently the subject of a 30-minute documentary on his life, "Keeping the Faith with Morrie." Produced by Angel Harper, Heaven Sent Productions Inc., the production won Best Direction in the 2001 Christian Film Festival and most recently won Best Documentary in the 2002 Hollywood Black Film Festival.
In the later years of his life, Morrie continued to work with children in small cartooning programs in the inner city. He was a guest lecturer at numerous California schools, universities and libraries, and continued to reach approximately 25 million readers with his Wee Pals characters. Morrie's latest book is "Wee Pals Salute African Americans in the Military Throughout History."
Morrie has one son, Morrie Jr., and four grandchildren. He passed away in 2014.