staff artist at the Detroit Free Press for more than four decades
Richard C. (Dick) Mayer was always the go to person in the news editorial art department of the Detroit Free Press. Though he started his career as a copy boy and moved into the Promotions Department as an artist, he found his way back to the news side.
Staff artist for more than four decades, when the biggest stories broke, his detailed drawings of crime scenes such as the Algiers Motel incident (the post-Detroit riot coverage that earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize), shoot-outs between police and drug dealers and even a daring prison escape by helicopter gave readers a quick, clear understanding of what occurred. Mayer was a graphic artist before the job title was created.
His clever cartoons for the consumer column Action Line and the newspaper’s sports section were fan favorites. Signature works included a painting each year for the sports figure voted Michigan’s Best by readers and his Christmas card featuring hundreds of names of state sports figures.
In 1970, while still working full time at the Free Press, Mayer began painting the covers and creating the inside graphics and layouts for a newly redesigned Ward’s Auto World sharing in an American Business Press first place award for his hard hitting cover illustrating the story “Booze and the Auto Industry.” His drawings enchanted some and angered others.
A lifelong sports junkie and athlete, his love of sports enabled him to capture the action of spring training, the 1968 and 1984 World Series victories of the Detroit Tigers, and the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
He also taught the art of cartooning at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit in the 1980s.
David C. Smith, Ward’s editor wrote: “Dick’s list of accomplishments and his contributions to enhancing the readability—even enjoyment—of the Detroit Free Press and Ward’s Auto World magazine make him eminently qualified” as a journalist.