I was very sorry to hear that Charles Preston passed away on October 2nd, at the age of 98.
He was the cartoon editor of the “Pepper . . . and Salt” humor panel in The Wall Street Journal. As a matter of fact, he was the instigator of the feature, which in the old days consisted of a gag cartoon and a sidebar of humorous prose in every issue. Apparently it took a great deal of effort on his part to convince the managing editors that the paper needed a touch of levity. The first appearance of a cartoon was on June 6, 1950, and they are still appearing daily, although now greatly reduced in size.
As far as I know, Mr. Preston stayed active in choosing the cartoons for all those years, and he hardly ever repeated the same cartoonist for two days in a row. I think it’s safe to say that many hundreds, maybe even thousands, of gag cartoonists (like myself) have appeared there over the decades. Mr. Preston was a renaissance man in every sense of the word, but he also found time to edit and compile many anthologies of cartoons, both of Wall Street Journal reprints and of original gag cartoons on a variety of topics.
I still prefer to remember him the way I first met him, as I entered his office sometime in 1956. In those days he cut an impressive figure of a dashing young man (he was just a few years older than me), and he seemed to be in constant motion — just couldn’t sit still for a minute.
Unfortunately, the only photo op I had with Mr. Preston was many years later, on November 1, 1999. The occasion was a celebration and exhibit of 50 years of “Pepper . . . and Salt” that was held at the World Financial Center in Manhattan (one of the World Trade Center buildings that no longer exists). Here are some photos of the two of us at that event. Sorry to say I can’t identify the woman standing next to Mr. Preston in the last photo.
Charles Preston. RIP.