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Pettigrew for President

Timothy Pettigrew to be precise. I went to Catholic schools for grades 1 through 10 and during elementary school, subscribed to Treasure Chest, a “Catholic-oriented comic book series created by Dayton, Ohio publisher George A. Pflaum and distributed in parochial schools from 1946 to 1972” [Wikipedia]

I had a distinct memory of a story about the 1976 Presidential campaign with a surprise ending in which it was revealed on the last page of the final episode that the candidate Timothy Pettigrew was African-American. (For some reason, I didn’t think it was odd that you never saw Pettigrew’s face until the last page.) Some Googling filled in all the details.

From the NPR News Blog, I learned that the story ran in 1964 (I was 10 years old). Catholic University in Washington, DC has scans of most issues from 1946 through 1963. Unfortunately, the issues from 1964 forward are still under copyright. You can see a YouTube video of the comic, however.

1964 was a momentous year for other reasons than this footnote in comic-book history. Three civil-rights workers were murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi (dramatized in Mississippi Burning and Murder in Mississippi) and shortly thereafter The Civil Rights Act, which had been introduced the year before, was finally signed into law by Lyndon Johnson. It only took another 44 years before an African-American would have a chance at the nomination.

Comments

Great post, Tony - not only a critique of your point but also the way you wove it together.

I also got a strange kick out of the YouTube video of the comic. Reminds me of similar literature I recall from my evangelical childhood - except I don't remember there being many messages about racial harmony in those.

You might be interested in knowing that my husband was the Berry Reece who wrote the original Pettigrew for President in 1964 for Treasure Chest. We are retired and living in Annapolis, Maryland. It is the front page story in this week's National Catholic Reporter. Also he is from the Mississippi Delta (Yazoo City) and he is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

Mary Jo, I am honored that you stopped by and delighted to learn the identity of the author behind this fascinating story. I enjoyed the article in the National Catholic Reporter as well. By the way, I was in Annapolis in May and had a nice meal at Ram's Head Tavern. Please take care and thanks for taking the time to say hello.

Unlike some websites I've seen, I have only fond memories of Treasure Chest Magazine, with "Pettigrew For President" one of the fondest. I do recall the obviously Catholic overtones (Hello! It's available only in CATHOLIC school!) Though I drifted away from the Church, I don't harbor any resentment towards TC. Mr. Reece was one super predictor. I'm sure that even Nostradamus didn't see Barack Obama. Mr. and Mrs, Reece, thank you for creating a story I remember long after DC and Marvel Comic stories of those years are now forgotten.

As a young Catholic boy going to Communion and then Confirmation classes every Saturday morning at our St. Patrick’s Church in Barbados (the most easterly and of course BEST island in the Caribbean) I used to buy Treasure Chest from the nuns who were our teachers. I can’t remember a thing that was in the magazine except “Pettigrew for President.” The story concept (not the details of course) stayed with me all through my adult life and I remember thinking in 1976 that while we didn’t get a black president at least we got a caring one in Jimmy Carter. I have been a journalist all my adult life and I would like to thank Mr. Berry Reece, whom I hope is still alive today, for that comic strip and inspiring story.

Thank you for posting this. Treasure Chest and 'Pettigrew for President' are some of the best memories of my childhood. I'm grateful for modern technology that enables connections with folks with similar memories and helps find what was lost.

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