Through the art of editorial cartooning, Charlie Daniel has documented major events and everyday life delighting Knoxvillians for over six decades.
Born in Richmond, Virginia, Charlie grew up in Weldon, North Carolina. A fan of comics he taught himself to draw by imitating other artists. An early inspiration was George Herriman, who drew the Krazy Kat cartoon from 1913 to 1944.
Charlie was a private in the U.S. Marines and studied political science at the University of North Carolina where he began drawing the Daily Tar Heel campus newspaper in 1955. Daniel was hired by the Knoxville Journalin 1958 and began his profession as an editorial cartoonist. When the Journal closed in 1992, he was hired by the Knoxville News Sentinel where he remained until retiring in early 2019.
In 2006, Charlie created “Rosy’s Diner,” a weekly comic strip that captured the spirit of everyday life in Knoxville. It was featured in the News Sentinel’sSunday Perspective section, and there was only the one rule of civility, “No Hat No Service.”
Editorial cartooning is a unique art form. It combines critical skills of observation and analysis, a keen understanding of community, humor, and an expressive artistic style. Charlie is recognized as a genius of this art form among fellow cartoonists as well as by generations of newspaper readers.
His memorable cartoons zeroed in on recognizable physical features of public officials and were talked about around water coolers and dining room tables. He had the knack of focusing on the heart of a public issue in a new and smart way that would surprise and delight readers. The late U.S. Senator Howard Baker praised Charlie as “the personification of civilized, relevant political humor.”
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Knoxville, spoke on the Senate floor on the eve of Charlie’s retirement, “For over six decades, Charlie’s drawings have been the first thing that I and many others have looked for in the newspaper … it’s going to be harder to start each day without the humor and the touch of Charlie Daniel.”
Sam Venable, Charlie’s longtime friend, and Sentinel colleague said, “Charlie is among the most modest and generous journalistic servants the good Lord ever put on this planet. No telling how much money his originals have raised for charities and nonprofits in Tennessee and beyond.”
The Betsey Beeler Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Tennessee Knoxville has established an archive of more than 20,000 of Daniel’s original drawings. An exhibit of his cartoons has been on display at the Carroll Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University and the Knoxville News Sentinel building gallery. Four collections of his cartoons have been published. In addition to his work as an artist, Charlie has served as a mentor to numerous distinguished cartoonists, including Marshal Ramsey and Paige Braddock.
In 2016, the National Cartoonists Society honored Charlie with a proclamation recognizing his more than 50-year career. As an official of the organization said at the time, “Only a small few have received this honor or ever will receive this honor.” He is a member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, and his work is displayed on the group’s website. In 2018, he was admitted to the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame.