By AUDREY FISCHER
Renowned political cartoonist and commentator Herbert Block (1909–2001) worried about environmental protection, gun control, global war, civil rights and civil liberties well before the 1950s. Still relevant topics today, his work of half a century ago could be inspired by current headlines.
“He was prescient to a degree,” said veteran journalist Haynes Johnson, who worked with the cartoonist who signed his Washington Post editorial cartoons as “Herblock.” “He warned of the threat of global war six years before World War II, even before Hitler took power.”
“His portrayal of Richard Nixon was fascinating,” Johnson said. Two days after the Watergate scandal broke, he drew a cartoon of a Watergate investigator examining footprints leading to the White House.
“Herb knew,” echoed Harry L. Katz, curator of the Herb Block Foundation Collection, referring to the man who coined the term “McCarthyism” and questioned the character of Richard Nixon when he was a freshman in Congress.
“Herb was not egotistical, but give him that little bottle of ink and a pen and he was deadly.”
Johnson and Katz collaborated on a new retrospective volume of Herblock’s work titled “HERBLOCK: The Life and Works of the Great Political Cartoonist,” which they discussed at the Library on Oct. 15.
Herblock’s work covers “a sweep of history indelibly in our hearts and minds,” said Johnson. “He fought for the underdog year after year, decade after decade.”
“His work reflects an active mind going for 70 years straight,” added Katz.
“He may be gone, but we have his legacy—his entire archives, here at the Library of Congress.”