After 25+ years researching American newspaper comics, I’m still constantly amazed at how many comics features remain lurking in out of the way papers.
Last weekend I went up to Micanopy, a little tourist town in Northern Florida with some good book shops. At the best shop in town, O. Brisky Books, I emerged with a nice pile of goodies. There was a book of Paul Revere’s cartoons (etchings in the parlance of the hoity-toity book), a book of Israeli newspaper cartoons from the Six Days War, and a biography of Don Marquis. But the interesting oddball of the bunch was a little booklet titled “The Best of Judge Blount” by Ted Tindell. I’d never heard of the feature or the cartoonist, and I’d never before seen a copy of the booklet.
Paging through it, the feature is revealed to be sort of a latter-day Abe Martin. The judge dispenses folk wisdom, good-natured common sense, non-partisan political and social commentary and bewilderment at the ever-changing world. A short introduction revealed that the cartoon panel series ran in the Maryville-Alcoa (TN) Daily Times on a daily basis starting on May 5 1976.
The booklet itself wasn’t dated, but by the looks of it I’d guess late-70s to early-80s. So that means these little Judge Blount cartoons could very well have run for a couple of years and that was bout it. I Googled the artist and his feature and came up pretty dry. This also led me to assume that the feature was a long-forgotten blip on the map.
Without even a guess at an end date, though, I took a moment to dash off a query to the editor of the paper, asking on the off chance if he or anyone there had any memory of the feature. A few days later, managing editor Frank “Buzz” Trexler, wrote back, sending me Tindell’s obituary, which follows:
Creator of `Judge Blount' cartoon dies
Daily Times, The (Maryville, TN) - Tuesday, October 10, 2000
Author: Thomas Fraser of The Daily Times Staff
A man who had his finger on the pulse of Blount County for decades died Sunday.
Theodore "Ted" Tindell , known for his wry "Judge Blount" cartoon
commentaries on the front page of The Daily Times, was 88.
"He had a great appreciation for local history," said longtime friend and Daily Times editor Dean Stone, noting that one of Tindell's books was on the communities of Blount County.
Through, for instance, his "Judge Blount" panel, which graced the front
page of The Daily Times for 22 years, he showed that he "knew what the
community was thinking about, and quite often hit the nail on the head," Stone said.
"Judge Blount" was discontinued in 1998 after Tindell's health began to decline.
Tindell in 1997 was inducted into The Daily Times Wall of Fame honoring graduates of local high schools for their contributions to society.
Born in Knox County in 1912, Tindell moved to Blount County in the 1920s and attended Everett High and graduated from Lanier High in 1931. He later graduated from the University of Tennessee and Lincoln Memorial University.
He was a World War II veteran of anti-submarine patrols in the Atlantic and served as editor of the Tennessee ALCOAN, a publication for employees at Tennessee Operations, and later was editor of The ALCOA News, the national publication in Pittsburgh.
"Out there when they had all three plants going at full speed, he picked up a lot of human interest stories and local news from the community, particularly those involving ALCOA employees," Stone said.
Tindell married Louise Allen in 1939; they had a son, Johnny, of Maryville; a daughter, Stephanie Schuler, of Houston; and two grandchildren.
Copyright (c) 2000 The Daily Times, Maryville, TN
So there’s your ‘obscurity’ for today — unknown to the world at large, but a cherished daily tradition for twenty-two years for the newspaper readers of Maryville. Humbling to think that someone can produce something that people enjoy for that long, and yet never receive any notoriety outside that small circle.