By Terri Jo Ryan
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A display at The Texas Collection at Baylor University salutes a Baylor alumnus who was drawn to God and used his sketch pad for the glory of the heavenly kingdom.
Jack Hamm was born in 1916 in Wichita, Kan., and was drawing by age 5. At a revival meeting in his youth in Elkhart, Kan., he felt the calling to the ministry. But for 20 years, he wavered between the pulpit and the drawing board.
After graduating high school, he attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago but had to drop out twice for financial reasons. He turned to professional cartooning, illustrating such strips as “Bugs Bunny” and “Alley Oop,” to help pay the bills.
When the art director for a newspaper syndicate in Cleveland offered him a job writing and illustrating his own detective strip in the late 1930s, Hamm was torn between his dream of having his own strip and his sacred calling to the ministry. After a prayer walk along Lake Erie and consulting with his bride of only a few months, Dorisnel, he resigned from the funny papers to come to Baylor to study theology.
It took Hamm 13 years to get his degree because of interruptions for military service and other factors. He taught cartooning and caricature during the 1942 winter semester. He drew for the Baylor Round-Up yearbook from 1945 through 1948. After graduation in 1948, he taught commercial art classes at Baylor and later served as the art department’s interim chairman.
The minister-in-training was known for giving “chalk talks,” or illustrated sermons, at Waco area churches throughout the 1940s and ’50s. Hamm realized that combining preaching with illustrating was his ministry.
Expanding his reach
In the 1960s, he and his wife founded the syndicate Religious Drawings Inc. in Dallas to distribute his inspirational artwork to newspapers around the globe. At one point, his cartoons reached a “congregation” of 29 million readers a week.
He also founded “The Jack Hamm Show,” one of the first TV art programs, which aired in the Dallas, Houston and Waco markets. Hamm also was an editorial cartoonist for the periodical The Baptist Standard, and was instructor and artist-in-residence at Dallas Baptist College.
The cartoonist wrote and illustrated more than 25 books, some of which are still in print today. Some of his instructional art books, such as Drawing the Head and Figure, Cartooning the Head and Figure, Drawing Scenery and How to Draw Animals, are considered to be classics in the field.
Hamm died in 1996 at age 80.
Hamm’s works and those of other editorial cartoonists are being celebrated this fall at the W.R. Poage Legislative Library at Baylor with the exhibition, “Drawing Power: Original Editorial Cartoons.”
The exhibit runs through Dec. 20, and is open and free to the public. Exhibit catalogs are available at the following libraries: Moody, Jones, Poage, Armstrong Browning and The Texas Collection at Carroll Library. The hours for Carroll Library, where a special Hamm display is up, are 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Sources: The Texas Collection at Baylor University; Robert Darden, Baylor associate professor of journalism; GraceBibleFellowship-TX.org