The gentle cartoonist

Flannery: For 31 years, his subtle editorial drawings entertained Baltimore readers.

November 10, 1999

TOM FLANNERY was a gentle, quiet man. So were the cartoons he drew for 31 years for this page and the Evening Sun.

His clean, spare style and simplicity of thought masked a perceptiveness that could cut to the heart of an issue.

Tom Flannery died in his sleep early yesterday at age 79. He was a gentle soul who developed his own, distinctive brand of cartooning that stood the test of time.

He was deft with pen and ink, and also with charcoal. That gave his drawings a softness most of his contemporaries lacked. A product of World War II, Flannery drew for Yank Magazine and then free-lanced for the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Look and Good Housekeeping.

His work reflected that gentler, kinder era.

Flannery's cartoons first appeared in the Evening Sun in 1958 and on this page in 1972, when he replaced the idiosyncratic Richard Q. "Moco" Yardley. Over the years, his style remained remarkably consistent as did his preference for subtle humor.

He gave readers more than 7,200 cartoons to savor before his retirement in 1988. "I like to present a viewpoint -- my viewpoint -- rather than illustrate an issue," he said.

William Donald Schaefer loved Flannery's soft humor, even when Mr. Schaefer was the cartoonist's target.

But Richard M. Nixon surely was no fan, given the hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of Flannery editorial sketches that skewered the defamed president.

A native of Carbondale, Pa., Flannery bridged two eras in cartoon history -- the hard-biting, grease-pencil style of pre-war cartoonists like The Sun's Edmund Duffy and today's modern cartooning that relies more on jokes than on deft brush strokes.

Day after day, year after year, Flannery delivered a touch of humor and a moment of reflection for readers of this page. He was well-read and up-to-date on developments around the globe, in Washington, in the Annapolis State House and at City Hall.

His cartoons reflected both his broad interests and his strongly held views.

He was a thoughtful, solitary presence around the office, keeping his opinions of others and of issues to himself -- except when he took pen and charcoal in hand. Former editorial page editor Joseph R.L. Sterne remembers Flannery's "detached, sardonic, Irish outlook on life" that was neither liberal nor conservative. He always mocked his subjects with good humor.

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