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Stars that died 2010

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Franklin McMahon, American artist and reporter died he was 90

(William)
Franklin McMahon  was an artist-reporter whose work took him around the world for more than half a century  died he was 90. His seminal work at the birth of the civil rights movement, his coverage of U.S. presidential campaigns between 1960 and 2008, America's role in the space race, the formation of the European council, Vatican II, and scores of other political, cultural, religious and sporting events; all were part of a Franklin McMahon "day at the office" for the last 55+ years...except that for him, his office was his studio, which is the world. In the words of Peter Lyle[3] of The Sunday Telegraph of London:

His artistic output also included films and books. His widespread recognition, as evidenced by his exhibitions, his awards, and the broad array of national and international institutions who hold his work, demonstrates that Lyle's title "The Man Who Drew History" is well-earned.[5]
Other than in his very early years when he did illustrations "on spec", he was not an "after-the-fact" illustrator. In his own words, drawing from life made him an "artist-reporter" or a "reportorial artist." "That way," he said, "you can see around the corner."[6]

(September 9, 1921 – March 3, 2012)

Franklin McMahon was born in Chicago, IL in 1921. He and his parents lived in Beverly Hills, CA for a time, returning to Chicago in his teens. He commuted to the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, IL to attend Fenwick High School,[7] where his cartoon drawings were published in the school's newspaper, "The Wick.[8]" Collier's Weekly, a weekly national news magazine, noticed one of his cartoons. Thereafter, they paid him when they saw one they wanted to use. When he graduated in 1939, the Colliers connection helped land him his first job, as an apprentice in an art studio. During World War II, he was an Army Air Corps B-17 navigator, and was shot down in action in January 1945. He spent several months in a German prison camp. On occasion, when he could get hold of some paper, he drew his guards. 

After the war, he married high school sweetheart Irene Leahy[9] and used the GI Bill to attend night classes at Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, American Academy of Art, Harrington College of Design, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

McMahon's overwhelming main artistic output was his 8,000-9,000 drawings.[10] He also produced films and books. His films incorporate drawings (see Technique section), at a rate of 200–300 drawings per ½ hour of film. The books, although sometimes labelled as "illustrated" by Franklin McMahon, had the same kind of ["on site"] drawings as those from the courtroom, the political arena, and all his other spheres of activity. Even his commercial work had drawings mainly done on site, not after-the-fact illustrations for existing text.

McMahon's work in both of these aspects of mid-20th Century American history helps illustrate his role as an artist-reporter. He began reporting from the courtroom in 1955, after some of his very early work came to the attention of Life magazine's editors. Because cameras were not allowed at the Mississippi trial of the suspected killers of Chicago teenager Emmett Till, Life commissioned him to go there to sketch courtroom events. His drawings, and in particular, one of Till's great-uncle, Moses Wright, standing to point at the accused men, were seen nationwide. From then on, on-site reporting with his drawings was a major part of his life work.
Moses Wright pointing at accused men; Emmett Till Trial, Sumner, Tallahatchie County Mississippi, 1955 published in Life Magazine;
Painting by Franklin McMahon
The Emmett Till trial in September 1955 was the early catalyst for the Civil Rights movement. McMahon's on-site and on-deadline images from Mississippi, published nationwide in Life magazine, provided the visualization that helped spur Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on the bus in December, 1955,[11] which then led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and to the involvement of a young and relatively unknown black minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., along with one of the other boycott leaders, Ralph Abernathy. McMahon was at Martin Luther King's, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington, on the National Mall. He also covered the two 1964 mistrials of the murderer of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. In March 1965, King's march for black enfranchisement was going from Selma to the Alabama Capital Montgomery. About that time, Franklin was returning from NASA's Cape Kennedy (in Florida) after covering one of the U. S.'s manned space launches.[12] He heard of the march on his car radio, and took a detour, arriving in time to document King's arrival in Montgomery. He also covered King in Chicago in 1966, the United Farm Workersprotest in 1968, and the 1968 Chicago riots following King's death.

Bobby Seale at the Conspiracy Trial after the 1968 Democratic Convention, Chicago.
Painting by Franklin McMahon
In 1969-70, Franklin was courtroom artist at the infamous "conspiracy" trial of the eight (later just seven) defendants, resulting from protests during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The 8th defendant, Bobby Seale, was eventually bound, shackled, and gagged, then separated from the group and sentenced for contempt of court by the judge. The trial lasted 5 months, with McMahon producing almost 500 courtroom drawings. They were published across the nation, including an entire issue of the Chicago Tribune's Sunday magazine section. The Chicago History Museum currently owns both the collection of 483 drawings from that trial as well as that from the 1955 Emmett Till trial.[13]Civil rights was a continuing interest and vocation: he covered the presidential campaigns of black candidates Shirley Chisholm, U.S. House ('72) and the Reverend Jesse Jackson ('84, '88), and was at the 1995 Million Man March.
During the Space Race of the '60s and '70s, Franklin was to return frequently to NASA's mission control, including his coverage of Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon. All would earn him a mention in NASA's book Eyewitness to Space.

U.S. Politics[edit]

Kennedy-Nixon Debates, Chicago 1960.
Painting by Franklin McMahon
He drew Democratic presidential candidate Governor Adlai Stevenson II('52, '56) at his Libertyville, IL home. One of McMahon's drawings of Stevenson hangs in that home, which is now a state historical site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He covered every Democratic and Republican campaign from 1960 through 2008, including attending a vast majority of the conventions, He made first-person drawings of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon Debates (the first broadcast on live television) and later of Kennedy's funeral. During Richard Nixon's successful 1968 presidential run, Franklin also drew the "unelected White House guys" (H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and John N. Mitchell), that he correctly predicted would surround Nixon. His take on Nixon's 1974 resignation showed the disgraced ex-president escaping in a helicopter. There are McMahon drawings from the 1973 Watergate hearings, of Senator John McCain's "straight talk express" in New Hampshire in 2000, the stirring Barack Obama speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, and on the 2004 presidential campaign trail with George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry.

  

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