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Sat, 08.22.1914

Chester Commodore, Cartoonist born

Chester Commodore

*Chester Commodore was born on this date in 1914. He was a Black Cartoonist.

From Racine, Wisconsin, Chesterfield Commodore was the son of Pascal and Elizabeth (Bessie Fite) Commodore.  He had five siblings; Althea (a half-sister), Blanche, Josephine, Louis, and Ruth.  His parents and sisters moved to Chicago in 1923, but Chester and his older brother, Louis, stayed with his maternal grandmother, Della Fite, in her Racine boarding house.

His earliest memories centered on his love of drawing, John Prophet, who boarded at the house, encouraged him.  In his Grandmother's music room, Commodore mingled with notable Black musicians, artists, and other cultured travelers who were denied hotels and restaurants in white-owned establishments in Chicago and Milwaukee.  He observed the living panorama he would later reproduce so effectively.  Commodore arrived in Chicago in 1927 and began drawing in high school. He honed his skills while supporting himself as a mechanic and Pullman Porter.

In 1938, he was recommended for a job as a cartoonist at the Minneapolis Star. This referral came from lawyer James Rice who also wrote jokes for the Jack Benny Show. Rice admired his skill in cartooning & as a humorist. Commodore got the job on his name & the recommendation, but when he came to the Minneapolis paper in person, the job was withheld because he was Black.  He joined the Chicago Defender editorial staff in 1948, inheriting "Bungleton Green," a cartoon strip started in 1919.  During his 33-year career at the Defender, he created "The Sparks" and "Ravings of Prof. Doodle" cartoon strips.  He retired as a full-time cartoonist in 1981, occasionally contributing a cartoon during the next year.

In 1985, the Prairie School he attended in Racine, WI, established a scholarship & Achievement Award for Creating & Writing named in his honor. Commodore's last Cartoon was on March 31, which showed National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice with her back to the Sept. 11 Commission.  Commodore died on April 10, 2004, in Colorado Springs, Colo., after undergoing eye surgery.

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Chicago Public Library


Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature:
Abbott-Sengstacke Family Papers,
Barbara Allen Papers,
Ben Burns Papers,
Charles A. Davis Papers,
Tim Jackson Papers,
Marjorie Stewart Joyner Papers

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