'The Middletons' (23 June 2013).

Ralph Dunagin was an American political cartoonist who published in The Orlando Evening Star (later the Sentinel) between 1961 and 2001. He was best known for his comic panel 'Dunagin's People' (1967-2001) and as gag writer/occasional cartoonist of the family comic 'The Middletons' by Dana Summers from its first episode in 1986 until his retirement in 2014. Between 1974 and 1988 he also wrote gags for old episodes of Franklin Folger's 'The Girls' and became the second main gag writer of 'Grin and Bear It' from 1974 until the series' end in 2015.

Early life and career
Raymond Ralph Dunagin, Jr. was born in 1937 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and graduated with a major in commercial art at the University of Southern Missippi. In 1961 he moved to Orlando, Florida, where he became an illustrator for the newspaper The Orlando Evening Star, which would later change its name to The Orlando Sentinel. He managed to move up as the paper's art director. When its editorial cartoonist retired, Dunagin succeeded him.

'Dunagin's People' cartoons from 2 December 1969 and 7 October 1970.

Dunagin's People
His long-running political comic strip 'Dunagin's People' (1967-2001) originally took off under the title 'Tell It Like It Is'. In 1970 this feature also received a Sunday page, which led to the name change 'Dunagin's People'. The cartoonist poked fun at current events and politics, albeit in a gentle manner. From 1969 on it was also in syndication through the Publishers-Hall Syndicate, and later Field Enterprises and Tribune Media Services.

'Dunagin's People' (20 January 1974).

Grin and Bear It
In 1974 George Lichty retired from his long-running daily comic strip 'Grin and Bear It', which had been in continuous run through several syndicates since 1932. Gag writer Arthur Erenberg also called it quits. Lichty's assistant Rick Yager took over the pencil, while Dunagin became the series' official new gag writer. In 1992 Yager was succeeded by Fred Wagner, but Dunagin kept writing gags until 'Grin and Bear It' was discontinued by the North America Syndicate on 2-3 May 2015.

The Girls
Between 1974 and 1988 Dunagin was also commissioned as a gag writer for Franklin Folger's one-panel cartoon series 'The Girls'. Folger had retired, but Dunagin was allowed to just recycle reprints of old episodes and write new punchlines underneath them.

The Middletons, by Ralph Dunagin (1989)

The Middletons
On 3 November 1986 he and Dana Summers co-created 'The Middletons', a family gag-a-day comic which ran in The Orlando Sentinel. Officially Dunagin was in charge of writing gags, but it has been suggested that he drew most of the Sunday pages, while Summers did the daily episodes. Many Sundays indeed carry Dunagin's signature. 'The Middletons' revolves around Morris Middleton and his wife Midge Keller. They have a twentysomething daughter who works in a barbecue restaurant and own a pet bulldog named Bumper. The series' breakout character is Morris' mother Beatrice, nicknamed "Gunny Granny". Despite her old age she is quite energetic, even holding a black belt in judo and being a fitness enthusiast. Much of the comedy is derived from her witty punchlines to the family's innocent remarks. The Middletons' neighbours are the Wade family, who are African-American. Ernest Wade is married to Peg with whom he has two children, Wilson and Wendie. They also own a cat named Rambo.

'The Middletons' was also distributed to other papers by the News America Syndicate/North America Syndicate until 1987. From 1994 on the Tribune Media Services distributed new episodes. Dunagin retired from the comic in 2014. Since then Summers has continued it on his own.

Ralph Dunagin was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning in 1991, but lost to Jim Borgman. A year later he was nominated again, but lost again, this time to Signe Wilkinson.

Final years and death
Since his retirement, Dunagin devoted his attention to watercolor painting in his hometown Houma, Louisiana. In 2011 he donated a large collection of his cartoons to the University of Southern Mississipi. He died in 2020 at age 83. In 2007 Ralph Dunagin's son Terry called his marine-related marketing agency Dunagin's People, in honor of his father's comic strip.


The Middletons at gocomics.com

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