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Bill Gallo, 1922-2011
posted June 6, 2011

imageBill Gallo, a cartoonist and columnist who was one of the deans of American newspaper cartooning and part of a fading tradition of sports cartoon making, died on May 10 from complications due to pneumonia. He was 88 years old. Gallo was widely known for his remarkable seven-decade run at the New York Daily News, during which he became an institution at the publication, in the wider New York sports scene and among newspaper cartoonists.

Gallo was born in Manhattan in 1922 to parents of Spanish descent. He lost his newspaperman father Francisco Gallo of the publication La Prensa at the age of 11. He began work at the Daily News for a brief period after he left high school in 1941. Gallo was called to service in December 1942; he would serve for the U.S. in World War 2 as a marine, and would later see action at Iwo Jima. Upon leaving the service, Gallo went to college at Columbia. It was during this period he returned to the Daily News this time as a reporter and cartoonist.

Gallo, indeed, was a link to another time, both in the industry and in the city. He was born in 1922, and he started work as a copy boy for the Daily News shortly after graduating high school. Gallo wound up serving in the Marines during World War II -- where he saw action at Iwo Jima -- and enrolled at Columbia University upon his stateside return. He would later attend the School Of Visual Arts.

In 1960, Gallo became the Daily News' primary sports cartoonist, following Leo O'Melia. It was in this role he thrived, becoming a signature feature of the paper.

If Gallo were a baseball player, his cartooning talent would make him what they call a five-tool player, one able to perform with aplomb every function required him. Gallo's material was generally attractive -- he had a nice sense of limited color, white space and spotting his black in order to maximize attention on a page of crowded text. He had the comedian's gift of letting his own decency shine through his portrayals, which allowed him to sidestep most of the backlash that might have come his way were he perceived as petty or vengeful. He also struck a nice balance between reverence for athletic accomplishment -- his straight-up portrayals of area athletes are among the best -- and irreverence for just about everything else.

Gallo employed recurring characters in his work, both as a way to shine the spotlight on outsized characteristics of various Gotham sports figures and as a short hand that would communicate to longtime readers. Gallo's "General Von Steingrabber" provided commentary on George Steinbrenner's voracious appetite for media coverage.

Gallo's drawings have appeared in venues ranging from the Baseball Hall Of Fame And Museum in Cooperstown to local New York art galleries.

As a writer, Gallo received the James J. Walker Award (Boxing Writers Association) and the Champions Award (Downtown Athletic Club). He was later inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. As a cartoonist, Gallo was the Milton Caniff Award winner in 1998. He received the New York Newspaper Guild award 20 different times. The Power Of Printing Award, the Elzie Segar Award and the achievement award given by SVA to deserving alumni were all Gallo's. He was a ten-time winner of the NCS' sports cartoon category, starting in 1968 and ending in 1988.

He is survived by a wife, two sons, a brother and four granddaughters.