Hillsborough author and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette died this morning in a car accident while on the way to help students in a high school play based on his work.
Marlette was riding in a Toyota pickup near Holly Springs, Miss. when the vehicle hydroplaned off the highway and struck a tree at 9:42 a.m., said Marshall County Coroner John Garrison.
Marlette, 57, died instantly, Garrison said.
Marlette was the editorial cartoonist for The Tulsa World. His comic strip, Kudzu, is syndicated in newspapers worldwide.
Marlette had been helping a high school in Oxford, Miss. with its production of his musical “Kudzu,” which it planned to perform at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland in August.
The school chose that play after the school was selected to perform at the festival.
The director of the play, high school drama department head John Davenport, 33, picked up Marlette at the airport in Memphis this morning and was bringing him to Oxford to join the students in rehearsal, according to Tom Howorth, who had been letting Marlette stay with him and his wife while he was in Oxford.
“He was an incredibly generous guy,” said Howorth, whose daughter is a member of the production’s technical crew. “This was all for the kids and to make the production as good as it could be.”
Marlette had decided to stop in Oxford after attending his father’s funeral in Charlotte last week. He maintained homes in Hillsborough and Tulsa, and was planning to return to Oklahoma after a one-day stop in Mississippi, Howorth said.
Davenport was not seriously injured in the accident.
He previously had been the cartoonist for The Charlotte Observer, New York Newsday, The Tallahassee Democrat and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he won a Pulitzer in 1988.
His work has appeared in national magazines such as Time and Newsweek, and newspapers including the The New York Times and the Washington Post.
In 2002, Marlette published his first novel, "The Bridge," which was selected the best novel of 2002 by the Southeastern Booksellers' Association. His latest novel, "Magic Time," was released last year.
Marlette was born in Greensboro and raised in Durham; Laurel, Mississippi and Sanford, Florida.
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