An artist (he graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1955), Wilson started his career doing newspaper advertising layouts. In 1955, he started working for American Greetings as a designer, rising to Creative Director in 1957, and vice-president of creative development in 1978. But he’ll be best remembered as a cartoonist: he created “Ziggy” in 1971, and grew it to syndication in 500 newspapers worldwide. He drew the panel until 1987, when it was taken over by his son, Tom II.
“The name Ziggy derived from his father’s school experience of being the last alphabetically” Tom II says. “When a new classmate arrived with a last name beginning with ‘Z,’ the idea took root with the friendly sounding ‘y’ ending, such as Billy or Tommy. Ziggy is a last-in-line character. The last picked for everything and kind of a lovable kind of loser character.” The senior Wilson died September 16 after fighting lung cancer. He was 80.