A Big Bend Cartoonist
Joseph "Jodie" Pickens Harris, III, druggist, soldier, oil operator, journalist, and cartoonist, was born in Anderson County, North Carolina, in 1876. At an early age he moved to Texas with his family and, in early adulthood, became a druggist in Mineral Wells.
In Mineral Wells, Harris was a member of Company I, 4th Texas Infantry, Texas National Guard. When Company I was mobilized during World War I for service on the Mexican Border, Harris was called to duty as a private.
While encamped on the outskirts of Marathon, and during occasional patrols in the vicinity of the Chisos Mountains, Harris in his free time graphically described in drawings on penny post cards, some humorous, some serious, the conditions and people he encountered in his career as a soldier. Many of the cards were sent to members of his family.
In a number of cartoons produced in the fall of 1916, shortly after the creation of the National Park Service, Harris advocated the establishment of a national park in the Big Bend country.
After Company I was demobilized early in 1917, Harris went to San Francisco, California, and joined an ambulance corps. The corps, subsequently as the 364th Ambulance Company in the 91st Division, served in France in the St. Mihiel and Muese-Argonne campaigns. Harris received an award of merit for his service, and continued to send cartoons to his family.
Returning to Mineral Wells after the war, Harris became associated with the Breckenridge Oil and Gas Company as secretary-treasurer. During World War II he worked for the federal government in the Office of Censorship in El Paso and in the Department of the Navy in New York City. In ill health after the war, Harris spent the last few months of his life in the Big Spring Veterans Hospital. He died on May 6, 1960, and was buried in El Paso.
One of the first individuals to advocate national park status for the rugged landscape he patrolled as an infantryman, Harris' cartoons stand today as vivid example of the kind of impressions the Big Bend has left on visitors to the region for nearly a century.