Born in El Dorado, Kansas, he grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. He had his first comic published at the age of 11, and sold his first cartoon at 12. At 15 he worked as a comic-strip artist for a daily newspaper and by 18 he became chief editorial designer at Hall Brothers. After graduating from Northeast High School in the Kansas City, Missouri School District, he attended the University of Missouri, where a life size bronze statue of Beetle Bailey sits in front of the alumni center.
In 1943 he was drafted into the United States Army where he spent time in Europe during World War II. He was discharged as a First Lieutenant four years later. After military service and graduation from University of Missouri in 1948, where he was president of the local Kappa Sigma chapter, he went to New York to pursue his cartooning career. His first 200 cartoons were rejected, but he was slowly gaining recognition among the editors for his talent. His big break came with Beetle Bailey and another success followed with Hi and Lois. Other noteworthy cartoons he has created include Boner's Ark, Gamin & Patches, Mrs. Fitz's Flats, The Evermores, Sam's Strip and Sam & Silo (the last two with Jerry Dumas).
After more than 50 years in the business, Mort Walker still supervises the daily work at his studio, which also employs 6 of his children.
In 1974 he founded The National Cartoon Museum, and in 1989 he was inducted into the Museum of Cartoon Art Hall of Fame. He received the Reuben Award of 1953 for Beetle Bailey, the National Cartoonist Society Humor Strip Award for 1966 and 1969, the Gold T-Square Award in 1999, the Elzie Segar Award for 1977 and 1999, and numerous other awards for his work and dedication to the art.
In his book The Lexicon of Comicana (1980), written as a satirical look at the devices cartoonists use in their craft, Walker invented a cartoon vocabulary called Symbolia. For example, Walker coined the term "squeans" to describe the starbusts and little circles that appear around a cartoon's head to indicate intoxication. The typographical symbols that stand for profanities, which appear in dialogue balloons in the place of actual dialogue, Walker called "grawlixes."
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