USPS unveils Beetle Bailey postage stamp in honor of MU alum

The comic strip is drawn by an MU alumnus.
Bill Janocha, assistant to cartoonist Mort Walker (left), and Chancellor Emeritus Richard Wallace pull away a U.S. Postal Service cloth covering a newly released postage stamp commermorating the Beetle Bailey comic strip. Walker, an MU alumnus, has been drawing the strip since 1950.

A postage stamp commemorating the Beetle Bailey comic strip was unveiled by MU and U.S. Postal Service officials in a ceremony Friday at the Reynolds Alumni Center.

The stamp is one of five featured in a "Sunday Funnies" series issued July 16 in Columbus, Ohio. It recognizes a strip created by cartoonist Mort Walker, who graduated from MU in 1948.

Although Walker was not present for Friday's ceremony, his assistant, Bill Janocha, attended and said Walker will visit the MU campus in October for the dedication of the new MU Student Center.

Janocha said even though Walker was not at the ceremony, he is still very much connected to his alma mater and his fraternity Kappa Sigma.

"His roots really are here," Janocha said. "He's not forgotten that."

He also said the comic strip will turn 60 years old this week as Walker turns 87. He said Beetle Bailey is the longest-running comic strip to be drawn by a single cartoonist.

Friday's ceremony had several military overtones in recognition of Walker's military service, which Janocha said has been the basis of many plots of the comic strip. Walker served in the Army from 1943 to 1947 and was stationed in Europe during World War II.

Members of the Missouri Honor Flight, a group of veterans who fly to Washington D.C. frequently, were seated in the crowd, and members of the MU Army ROTC presented American, Missouri and MU flags.

During his remarks, Janocha asked the ROTC members to lower their caps to just above their eyes to mirror the way Beetle is dressed in the comic strip. Smiling slightly, the ROTC members dutifully lowered their caps to light applause.

"You gotta do the Beetle thing, guys," Janocha said.

Janocha also revealed a sketch Walker had drawn for event, where Beetle is depicted saying, "Mort sends his best wishes!" and the character Sarge, his superior, responds with, "Is that the best he can do?"

David Martin, District Manager of the U.S. Postal Service's Gateway District, said in prepared remarks that the stamp tells a story in the same way the Beetle Bailey comic strip does.

"Like stamps, comic strips often tell a story through humor, adventure, fantasy and sometimes drama," Martin said. "Today, we commemorate one of our country's most beloved comic strips and dedicate a stamp that represents a unique part of American culture."

MU Chancellor Emeritus Richard Wallace and MU Alumni Association president Linda Russell-Whitworth also spoke about memories of their college days at MU.

Wallace said letters and packages played a significant role in his college life, even as students today use them less frequently.

"I still enjoy receiving real letters," he said. "Real letters, with real stamps, and these stamps were all the better. "

Russell-Whitworth talked about her memories of going to The Shack after practicing as a member of the Golden Girls. She said she used to go with a group of friends to The Shack, which was destroyed by fire in 1988.

"That was a fun, fun memory," she said "I'm sure my initials are burned, but they were in there somewhere."

Special cancellations of the stamp were available at Friday's ceremony, and people can purchase them at local post offices any time in the next 60 days.

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