Paul Greenberg

Dear Vet,

Thanks for the memories, specifically the biographical sketch of Bill Mauldin, the great but never assuming cartoonist for Stars and Stripes during the World War, Act II.

I worked in a cubicle across from his office when I was an editorial writer at the Chicago Daily News in a different life, and he'd found refuge at our sister paper, the Sun-Times.

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Those were the days when we had 'em coming and going, morning and evening, the working stiffs on the South Side in the morning, then at the end of the workday the snap-brim commuters on the Chicago and Northwestern in the evening, "Mad Men" types headed back to Golf and Glenview and points upwardly mobile.

. .

I never exchanged more than a respectful nod with Mauldin, not wanting to trouble him. To me he was still the glorious cherub who gave us Willie and Joe, the two dogfaces who were the real faces of his war. And he was still uncompromising -- and giving the brass fits.

The cartoonists were the best parts of the Field papers' opinion section. (Mike Royko, our real star, appeared elsewhere in the Daily News.) The cartoonists, unlike the editorial writers, never had their opinions edited/emasculated. Maybe the front office didn't think cartoonists were sufficiently serious to interfere with. To me they were the most serious part of the paper.

I was tickled when Mauldin backed a rugged old Marine named Paul Douglas for re-election to the U.S. Senate that year against whatever smooth nonentity the Republican elite had put up against him. In 1966, it was little Chuck Percy, who was supposed to have had quite a business career. He struck me as the next generation's version of Thomas E. Dewey.

My boss thoughtfully arranged for me to have lunch with Mr. Percy -- so I would be suitably impressed and wax a little more enthusiastic about Our Candidate.

When I returned, he asked me, expectantly, how I had found Mr. Percy. "Easy," I replied. "I just looked down and there he was."

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Neither Paul Douglas' politics -- nor his Keynesian economics -- were mine, but character always counted more than politics with me, which is one reason I'll never understand why people part with friends over political disagreements.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.