Walter Crawford Kelly was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 25, 1913. Kelly began his career as part of the animation team at Walt Disney Studios, helping produce such works at Pinocchio and Fantasia. Continuing his career, Kelly went on to work for the Post-Hall Syndicate, where his well known comic character, Pogo, would flourish. Kelly was well known for challenging political affairs with his clever comic strips that poked fun at the major political figures of his time. In 1973, after years of struggling with diabetes.
Walter Crawford Kelly was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 25, 1913, to Walter Crawford Kelly and Genevieve MacAnnula At the age of two, his family moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut. In high school Kelly recognized his calling when he began drawing cartoons for the high school magazine and a local newspaper, The Bridgeport Post. It was not until many years later in his book, Ten Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Years with Pogo, that Kelly paid homage to his memories in this Connecticut town, saying “my thanks to Bridgeport, which was more a flower pot than a melting pot, more by-way than highway, maybe even more end than beginning.” After graduating high school, he decided to take his talents to New York City. He worked for the embryonic comic book industry and soon decided to move to Los Angeles where his Bridgeport sweetheart, Helen Delacy, had relocated.
In January of 1936, Kelly got one of the biggest breaks of his career. He became part of the staff at Walt Disney Studios, first in the story department and then into animation, which is where he contributed to works such as Dumbo, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. A year later, in 1937, Kelly solidified his long-lasting relationship with Delacy, and they were married in September. By 1941, Kelly realized that he had seen his share of the West Coast and decided to return to Connecticut. While in Darien, Connecticut, Kelly made frequent trips to New York City to look for work. Finally, in 1941, Kelly was hired by Animal Comics, which would become the birthplace of his ever beloved Pogo. First appearing in
Kelly’s “Bumbazine and Albert the Alligator” in October, the little grey opossum with big eyes and his signature red and black striped sweater would not resurface until seven years later when Kelly was hired as the art director of the New York Star. From this point, Pogo’s popularity grew enormously. The comic strip was picked up by the Post-Hall Syndicate after the New York Star folded in January of 1949. Kelly’s so-called “swampland characters” became well known for their witty human ventures, which consequently lacked any sort of rationale. The beginning of Pogo as a political element began in 1952 when Kelly began including social insinuations and an array of new characters that ironically resembled many different political figures. Such figures as Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro, and J. Edgar Hoover have appeared in Kelly’s comics as a pig, a goat, and a bulldog.
The year of 1951 was a bitter-sweet one for Kelly. In that same year he was given the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year by the National Cartoonist Society, and he divorced Delacy after three children and fourteen years of marriage. Kelly married a second time to Stephanie Waggony and, later, married third wife, Shelby Daley. The final tribute to Pogo that Kelly had the opportunity to experience was the creation of a Pogo animated cartoon that appeared on television in 1969. Walter Crawford Kelly died in Woodland Hills, California, on October 18, 1973, due to difficulties from diabetes. Kelly will forever be remembered not only for his masterpiece, Pogo, but for also setting the foundation for political and satirical comic strips everywhere.
Kelly died in 1973 from complications of diabetes, following a long and debilitating illness that had cost him a leg.
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