Monday, February 27, 2012

Elton Clay Fax (1909-1993)

Fine Artist, Graphic Artist, Author, Illustrator, Cartoonist, Educator
Born October 9, 1909, Baltimore, Maryland
Died May 13, 1993, Queens, New York

Over the course of his six-decade-long career, Elton Clay Fax made notable contributions to American culture and society and left his mark in communities around the globe. As an author, artist, and educator, Fax earned himself a place among the most celebrated of black Americans of his time. Born on October 9, 1909, in Baltimore, Maryland, Fax attended Claflin College and the College of Fine Art at Syracuse University, where he earned a bachelor of fine arts, graduating in 1931. He began his career as a lecturer and art teacher at Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina, in the 1930s. He was a prolific artist, illustrating more than thirty books and a multitude of magazine articles, and he produced the weekly comic strip Suzabelle, which ran in several black newspapers during the 1940s. He was also an accomplished writer who travelled extensively throughout the United States and abroad, researching his books on black life and culture. During his illustrated lectures abroad, Fax brought news of the American Civil Rights Movement to other peoples. He held formal positions as a U.S. Department of State International Exchange Program Representative in South America and the Caribbean, a delegate to the International Congress of Society of African Culture in Rome, and a lecturer with the U.S. State Department in East Africa. No matter where his other commitments and interests led him, Fax never lost sight of his calling as an educator, teaching courses in colleges and universities throughout the United States, lecturing in schools around the world, and conducting workshops and talks for children in schools and community centers. He held teaching, guest lecturer, and artist-in-residence positions at several colleges and universities over the course of his career, including a residency at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Fax's career as an illustrator began in 1942 with pictures for Astounding Science-Fiction, which predated those for his first book, Tommy Two Wheels (1943). The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFdB) lists the following credits for Elton Clay Fax:
  • "Vulcan: Ice Ring" by Malcolm Jameson in Astounding Science-Fiction (Nov. 1942)
  • "Interlude" by Ross Rocklynne in Astounding Science-Fiction (Dec. 1942)
  • "The Cave" by P. Schuyler Miller in Astounding Science-Fiction (Jan. 1943)
  • "Dominion" by Arthur J. Burks in Science Fiction Stories (July 1943)
  • "Q.U.R." by Anthony Boucher in Astounding Science-Fiction (Mar. 1943)
  •  "Open Secret" by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore in Astounding Science-Fiction (Apr. 1943)
  • "Whom the Gods Love" by Lester del Rey in Astounding Science-Fiction (June 1943)
  • "The Great Engine" by A.E. van Vogt in Astounding Science-Fiction (July 1943)
  • "One Man's Harp" by Babette Rosmond in Unknown Worlds (Aug. 1943)
  • "Concealment" by A.E. van Vogt in Astounding Science-Fiction (Sept. 1943)
  • "Death Sentence" by Isaac Asimov in Astounding Science-Fiction (Nov. 1943)
Readers of Weird Tales would have recognized the names of Jameson, Miller, Burks, Boucher, Kuttner, Moore, del Rey, and Asimov, all of whom contributed to "The Unique Magazine." Fax followed up his work for science fiction magazines with illustrations for Weird Tales in four stories from 1944. By the way, Fax should not be confused with Matt Fox, who started working for the magazine at about the same time.

After a long and distinguished career, Elton Clay Fax died at his home in Queens, New York, on May 13, 1993. He was eighty-three years old.

Elton Clay Fax's Illustrations in Weird Tales
"Hoofs" by Manly Wade Wellman (Mar. 1944)
"The Shoes of Judge Nichols" by Stanton A. Coblentz (Mar. 1944)
"The Letters of Cold Fire" by Manly Wade Wellman (May 1944)
"John Thunstone's Inheritance" by Manly Wade Wellman (July 1944)

Further Reading
There is abundant reading on Elton Clay Fax on the Internet and in reference books of art, artists, and famous black Americans. I will list his books in a future posting.

Renowned author, artist, and educator Elton Clay Fax began his illustration career in science fiction magazines. The image is small, but here's an illustration for "The Cave" by P. Schuyler Miller from Astounding Science-Fiction, January 1943. 
This drawing in ink, of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, shows Fax's facility with a pen and with portraiture.
In later years, Fax turned to weightier subjects, such as famine in Africa. The title of this piece is "Bread," and it was part of a series of lithographs called "Black and Beautiful," executed between 1964 and 1968. From the collection of Temple University.
Elton Clay Fax (1909-1993)
Postscript: A portrait of George Washington Carver from the second book illustrated by Elton Clay Fax, Dr. George Washington Carver, Scientist (1944).

Written by Bridget Hanley, Proficient Pen, and Terence E. Hanley
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

1 comment:

  1. Help me get Mr. Fax inducted into the New York based Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. Email me at