Charles Schulz (November 26, 1922 – February 12, 2000)
Charles Monroe Schulz was born in Minneapolis. An only child, Schulz knew immediately he wanted to become a cartoonist. He and his dad sat down every Sunday to read the funnies. In 1937, his drawing of their family dog Spike was published in the popular “Believe It or Not!” feature. He enrolled in a correspondence course at the Federal School of Applied Cartooning and worked odd jobs while submitting his cartoons for publishing. He was drafted into the Army in 1942. After he left for basic training, his mother passed away from cervical cancer at age 50. Schulz was discharged in January 1946. Coming home, he became an instructor at his old school and had his first cartoon published in early 1947. That year he also debuted a weekly panel entitled “Li’l Folks” in St. Paul Pioneer Press. This would prove to be the prototype for the Peanuts gang who be debuting in three short years.
The Peanuts gang debuted in seven papers on October 2, 1950. The gang won Schulz the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 1955 (and 1964). By 1960, the Peanuts gang had their own Hallmark cards and were appearing in ads for Ford automobiles! He was soon approached by a young television producer Lee Mendelson who would become a frequent collaborator (ever seen a TV Peanuts special?)
Schulz married Joyce Halverson in 1951. He adopted her young daughter Meredith. The couple also added their own children — Charles Jr. (Monte), Craig, Amy and Jill (all by 1958!) They divorced in 1972. Schulz married his second wife Jeannie Clyde in 1973.
In late 1999, Schulz retired after an abdominal surgery discovered colon cancer. On February 12, 2000, Schulz died in his sleep the night before his final Peanuts cartoon was published. By this time, Peanuts was in 2,600 newspapers, 75 countries and translated into 21 different languages. Over his nearly 50 year career, Schulz produced more than 18,000 strips, which he did all by himself, even after developing a hand tremor towards the end of his life! A remarkable man with a remarkable career who gave us Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and the entire gang.