Ink-Slinger Profiles: Zeke Zekley

Emil Samuel “Zeke” Zekley was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 11, 1915, according to the Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922 at His family name was Szekely, and his middle name was spelled “Samuell”. His father’s name was Alex and his mother’s name and maiden name was Mary Herz.

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, the family of four lived in Detroit, Michigan at 336 Goodwin. The enumerator spelled the family as “Zekely “. The parents were Hungarian emigrants; Alex arrived in 1913, then Mary in 1914. Their youngest son was Fred, who was born in Michigan. The father was a machinist in the auto industry.

The family was recorded in Detroit at 1994 Clements Street, in the 1930 census. The family name was spelled “Szkly”. Zekley’s father was a plumber.
On the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) website, Zekley said:

I landed my first job at 18; cartoonist for the Detroit Mirror—which folded—a victim of the Depression—freelanced—a ginger-ale client plastered my cartoons on billboards, street-cars, buses and newspapers. I prospered for a while, but in 1935, the itch to exit Detroit got to me…New York? Hollywood? Came west! Disney gave me a tryout in their story dep’t.—Two weeks later, the studio was shut down for the summer! Broke and out of work, I met Charlie McManus—he gave me intro to famous brother, George. I became his assistant!…

Bringing Up Father signed by McManus and Zekley, 7/5/1942

Zekley mentioned in Bringing Up Father, 1/16/1944

Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea (2009) had this account about Zekley:

McManus, ever the storyteller, used his 1952 Collier’s article to serve up his own embellishment on Zeke’s early years: “My assistant, Zeke Zekley…says he began to draw because of a picture in a Detroit paper. It showed a yacht riding anchor at the Saint Clair River and the caption described it as the yacht of ‘George McManus, the cartoonist.’ Zeke says he figured if cartoonists could own yachts like that, cartooning was the life for him. So he began to draw, imitating my style.” After recounting the chance encounter between Zeke and brother Charlie, McManus served up this capper: “[Charlie] brought Zeke to me and I hired him. “But I never owned a yacht.”

The California Death Index said his parents and brother passed away in Los Angeles. It’s not clear if the family had moved together or if Zekley went first and the family followed.

On February 5, 1942 his father passed away. Zekley enlisted in the army on May 6, 1943; he had a year of college and was married. On the NCS website, Zekley said, “…WWII; in army, but luckily stationed nearby—was able to work on B.U.F., as well as cartoons for the military—1944, now collaborator!…”

McManus passed away on October 22, 1954, and Zekley was passed over to continue Bringing Up Father. King Features assigned the strip to Vernon Greene, according to Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea. Zekley’s mother passed away April 27, 1957.

On the NCS website, Zekley said, “…created Dud Dudley for McNaught—it didn’t fly—later, Peachy Keen and Popsie. I still had Sponsored Comics (McDonalds—Squirrel’s Club (10 yrs.), U.S. Army’s P.S. magazine—others—produced animated TV spots in partnership with Friz Freleng—many awards—Hobbies: collecting fine art and golf!

His brother passed away in November 1985. Zekley passed away April 28, 2005, at his home in Beverly Hills, California. His death was reported on the Animation World Network website.

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