Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist returns to campus

Cartoonist Clay Bennett will be the guest speaker at the First Amendment Month event April 12 in Communications Building Room 131. The event is free and open to the public.

First Amendment Month starts in April, and The Flor-Ala, Department of Communications and Times Daily are teaming up to bring an element of fun to freedom of speech.

The event will feature UNA graduate and Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Clay Bennett. He will speak on how the First Amendment allows him freedom in his profession.

The event will be April 12 at 6 p.m. in Communications Building Room 131. It is free and open to the public.

Student Media Adviser Scott Morris said The Flor-Ala applied for an Ingelhart First Amendment Grant in 2017 to sponsor the event. The rest of the funding is from the Parker-Qualls Lectureship in Communications and Times Daily.

Morris said the point of the event is to educate students and the public on the importance of the First Amendment.

Freshman William Carney said he is a proponent of free speech, but he does not agree with people having complete free speech.

“I think you should be able to speak your mind, but how you do it should be regulated,” Carney said. “Like (President) Trump and his Twitter rants should be monitored.”

Bennett is a political editorial cartoonist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He said he believes in using his cartoons to push limits and take risks.

He said he began specializing in political cartoons when he was around 13 years old, but has been a cartoonist for as long as he can remember.

He worked as a cartoonist in high school before coming to college and working as a cartoonist at The Flor-Ala before he graduated UNA in 1980. He said he has fond memories of his time at UNA and will always have a love for the university.

This will not be Bennett’s first time back to speak at UNA. After receiving his award in 2002, UNA invited him to speak at the fall 2002 convocation. He said he felt this was ironic because he was not the best student during his time at UNA.

Bennett won The Pulitzer Prize for best editorial cartoonist in 2002. This was the fourth year in a row he was a finalist for the prize, so he said he did not expect to win.

He said one of his first reactions was to call his mom so she could listen to his speech. He said she deserves part of the award because of the support she has always given him.

Bennett said he jokes by saying this accomplishment automatically means “Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Clay Bennett” will be the opening line in his obituary.

Sophomore Charles Lieb said political cartoons enhance the American way of life by bringing humor to politics.

“Unless you are a politician, you should love political cartoons because there is a cartoon making fun of the opposing side,” Lieb said.

Bennett currently lives in Chattanooga with his wife, Cindy.

He said he looks forward to the event and the chance to share his story.