Half a century ago, renowned cartoonist Ralph Dunagin honed his art skills at The University of Southern Mississippi. Now the semi-retired creator of “Dunagin’s People” wants to give back to the school that gave him so much.
Dunagin, a Hattiesburg, Miss., native, plans to donate a large collection of his artwork to the university during a special ceremony set for Friday, Dec. 16 on the Southern Miss campus.
“I am honored to be able to do this,” said Dunagin, who now makes his home in Winter Park, Fla. “Southern Miss prepared me for the career I love. My art education began there and was the foundation for all I’ve learned and am still learning.”
Diane DeCesare Ross, curator of manuscripts, archives and digital collections at Southern Miss, said the Dunagin collection will include approximately 1,000 pieces featuring a wealth of original artwork created for the production of his editorial cartoons.
“Cartoons are a wonderful source for students and researchers of politics and social change and Mr. Dunagin’s career as a cartoonist is an impressive body of work,” said Ross. “We are so pleased to have such a wonderful addition to our collections.”
After his collegiate career, Dunagin moved to Orlando, Fla., in 1961 and accepted a job shortly thereafter with the Orlando Sentinel as an illustrator. In 1967 he created the comic strip “Dunagin’s People” which was internationally syndicated until his retirement in 2001. Dunagin also wrote copy for the comic panel “Grin and Bear it” and worked with Dana Summers in creating the strip “The Middletons.”
Dunagin cites cartoons such as “Beetle Bailey,” “B.C.” and “The Wizard of Id” among his influences. When asked what advice he might give budding cartoonists today, Dunagin said, “Take all the art classes you can get and be prepared to do any number of art jobs. Just don’t limit yourself to one skill.”
Twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Dunagin spends much of his time these days feeding another passion – watercolor painting. In 2006 his artwork captured “Best of Show” during the Central Florida Watercolor Society’s annual competition.