A LIFE WELL-DRAWN

Photos by Kelsey Shoemaker

Editorial cartoonist Bill DeOre surveys his son Pat’s bedroom, where he stores about 4,000 cartoons created during his 34 years at the Dallas Morning News. The plan is to donate the boxes of nationally syndicated work to his alma mater, Texas Tech University. But the natural light in the art studio/living room of his Elderwood house calls him instead. Even though DeOre is retired, he’s still drawing — book illustrations and programs for anything the Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas needs. Jesuit holds a special place in his heart. DeOre found mentors there after his father died in a car wreck, leaving his mother to raise four children. A 1965 graduate, he sent both of his sons, Will and Pat, to the school. “I owe that place a lot,” DeOre says. “It defined the direction I was going to take. I can’t give them money, but I can give my art.”

How did you know that you wanted to draw?
I did it from the time I was little bitty. I just picked up a pencil and started. It’s the only thing I could do really well.

What are your memories of Jesuit?

I was not a good student. I just knew that’s where I needed to be. I didn’t have a dad, and home life wasn’t great. I had a lot of friends that went to Thomas Jefferson High School. I got lucky because I stayed with a new crowd. The other crowd, they’re all dead and in jail. It was a rough crowd, and I was part of that. I always felt like I had a guardian angel. But I had a tough time at Jesuit because I wasn’t a good student. The school didn’t have arts. I felt lucky to graduate. I had an advocate. Father Robert Tynan was the president. I didn’t pay an orientation fee — 20 bucks — in time. The principal was going to use that as an excuse to not invite me back. I was beside myself. I’d been going there for two years. So I just went up there and talked to Tynan. He was smoking a cigarette behind the desk. I said, “This is it for me. I don’t have a dad, and this school’s my life.” He turned and said, “See you Monday.”

How did art influence you at Jesuit?

There was no design class, no art class, no nothing. The emphasis was on math, English literature and religion. Now, they’ve got what’s like a mini art school. They have a whole art wing. They have a pottery lab. It’s handled like an elective, but it’s there for you if you want it. It’s an outlet. It’s one more anchor for a kid who is artistic. He can get a beginning there.

How did it feel when your sons went to Jesuit?

When Will was going to school, I’d say, “Will, you’re going to be just fine because you’re not me.” He’s a bright kid, smart, good looking, great athlete. I said, “You’re going to have a great time here, but you need to watch out for Mr. Robert Eifert because this guy hated me when I was at the school.” After about six months, Will came home and said, “Dad, you know Mr. Eifert?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Man, he just loves me. He comes up to me all the time and asks about you. He helps me. He’s great.” Eifert was the closest thing to a human barometer I ever had. When I was good, he was good. I got better and better, and he got better and better.

What was your first job after college?

I freelanced. My rent was 75 bucks a month. I had a $50 a month car payment. I was driving an old Volkswagen. I had a motorcycle. Eventually, I was doing five political cartoons and a sports cartoon a week at the Dallas Morning News. It was a great time to be drawing cartoons in the city, and it was an opportunity to become nationally syndicated. Nobody at the newspaper was syndicated at the time. It was East Coast versus West Coast. I was one of the few conservative cartoonists in the country, and the syndicates needed balance.

What are you working on these days?
I’m doing a deal for Jesuit. Some board members are retiring. When they go, the school wants to give them a gift. They always choose Uncle Billy to do their illustrations. I still do the football, baseball, basketball programs, whatever they need. I even did a T-shirt for water polo. I do work for the auctions. The school is a great endeavor, and I will probably keep helping them until I’m pushing up daisies.

What’s your latest project?

I hooked up with one of Roger Staubach’s daughters, Michelle Grimes. We do a series of children’s books called “Pidge.” That was her mother’s nickname as a child growing up. We started doing this 10 years ago.

What’s your daily routine?
I get up and hit the drawing board early. That’s my most productive time. I have lunch with some buddies once or twice a week when the schedule permits. They’re old dudes like me. I went to Jesuit with a lot of them. Then I ride the bike an hour, every day. That just saves my biscuit. I need the daily workout. Then it’s back to the drawing board. 

Do you miss doing editorial cartoons?

There’s no forum for it anymore. It’s taxing work. You’re not going to get paid when you post cartoons on websites like you would by getting paid a salary. For some people, that’s ok. They just want to be out there. But it’s not for me. I still consider myself an earner. I can do so much more. Also, you’re not protected. If someone wants to come after your butt, they can. If I did a cartoon on Laura Miller, anybody like that, they could take me downtown. 

What did you do after retiring from the Dallas Morning News?

I had seven motorcycles when I left the News, and I rebuilt them. I had old cars and old motors. I had all these plans. It was supposed to be a plan for retirement. But you never stop doing what you love.


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