Marshall Ramsey, nationally recognized editorial cartoonist and Mississippi Today’s editor-at-large, was the guest speaker at Thursday’s Greenville Rotary Club’s meeting at the Greenville Golf & Country Club.
Immediately employing a touch of witty humor after his introduction, Ramsey discussed the difficulties of working in the midst of the nation’s stifling political atmosphere.
He said the work he does as an editorial cartoonist, at times, may not even land as obviously intended because of the polarized state of media consumers.
A two-time Pulitzer Finalist, Ramsey talked in depth about the two complementing tribute cartoons that in large parts changed the trajectory of his editorial cartoonist career — Barbara Bush in heaven, being reunited with her daughter, Pauline Robinson “Robin” Bush, and George H.W. Bush having flown a TBM Avenger to the pearly gates to be reunited with wife and daughter.
In a Washington Post interview, Ramsey said he considered the two cartoons to be bookends.
Ramsey, who moved from San Diego, California, to Mississippi in 1996, recalled how much of a demand there was for jobs such as his at that time compared to today.
“When you’re an editorial cartoonist, there are no jobs in the country. There were back then, but now there’s 11 of us, so there’s really not any jobs now,” he said.
When the opportunity came for he and his wife to move back to Mississippi, he explained, they took advantage of it because they wanted to be closer to family and able to raise their children in an environment where the kids still said “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am.”
Marshall regaled the crowd with tales of his Jackson visit before being hired by the Clarion-Ledger and making the move to the Magnolia State.
Ramsey said that he told his wife, “We gotta move there.” She asked why, and his response was, “Because every single person I met there was incredible.”
Ramsey grew up in Atlanta but has called Mississippi home for nearly 20 years and his three sons are true Mississippians.
What drives Ramsey to host his radio show, “Now You’re Talking with Marshall Ramsey” and operate on other media platforms is the fact that he wants Mississippi to be a better state for his boys.
“I want them to be able to have opportunities and I want this to be a better place for them,” he said.
Ramsey worked with the Clarion Ledger for 22 years and said he loved every minute of it, but still acknowledges the very real changes that are taking place in the world of print media.
Ramsey said he personally still enjoys looking over a nice print newspaper and hopes everyone supports the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville.
His belief is that while printed news is certainly changing, it is not at all dying. People are simply just addicted to their phones and like to have things digitally.
Mississippi Today, which is a non-profit news website, allows deep-dive journalism without serving as a competitor, but as a supplement to other publications in Mississippi to utilize.
Ramsey shared slides that displayed several of his sketches with some depicting current and recent events, such as the Mississippi Gubernatorial debate and the appointment of the University of Mississippi’s new chancellor.
A 1991 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who was almost certain that he would be working for a huge newspaper after graduation, said his career took an unexpected path through Cobb County Public School with him working as a custodian.
“For six solid months, I threw a pity party and it was epic,” he mockingly said. “I even served snacks.”
Ramsey’s passion soon became reignited after going to church and hearing a sermon on the Parable of the Talents.
He said he realized he was the servant who had buried his talent because he was afraid and thought he had failed.
“The only failure in life is when you stop doing what you’re good at,” he said, noting he walked out of that church service feeling inspired and went back to the school with a renewed sense of confidence.
His then good “older” friend and colleague and now mother-in-law had a lot to do with his approach to being a good custodian and pursuing his dreams, not to mention pursuing his wife of 26 years, Amy.