Dick Mayer, whose watercolor cover paintings and other graphics added zip to Ward’s AutoWorld magazine for more than 30 years, was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame April 27.
Mayer joined Ward’s as a freelance illustrator in 1970 while he was art director of the Detroit Free Press and joined the automotive publishing company after retiring from the newspaper in 1996 as art director. He retired from Ward’s in 2001.
Mayer is the only artist ever elected to the prestigious Hall of Fame. In announcing his induction the Hall of Fame committee cited both his work at the Free Press and Ward’s, which included participation in Free Press coverage of the 1967 Detroit riot that won the Pulitzer Prize for the news staff.
At Ward’s, he was co-winner of several American Business Press awards including the cover of a hard-hitting story entitled “High On the Line: Booze and Dope in the Auto Industry.”
Mayer’s often-whimsical illustrations gracing both the Free Press and Ward’s AutoWorld won both fans and critics. Asked to pen an illustration to accompany a story entitled “Iacocca Uses Chrysler as a Cash Cow,” Mayer depicted the then Chrysler Corp. chairman sitting on a 3-legged stool and milking a cow with the Chrysler Pentastar branded on its rear end. Iacocca was not amused.
His longtime associate at both publications, retired Ward’s AutoWorld editor-in-chief David C. Smith, observed at Mayer’s induction: “At the Free Press, Dick’s singular talent added sparkle and, when called for, serious support for all manner of stories from sports to courtroom drama. At Ward’s AutoWorld his cover paintings and inside graphics and layouts contributed significantly to the magazine’s exceptionally high readership year-after-year.
“He carefully read and understood the content and used his creativity and unique style to tell the story. And that, after all, is what journalism is all about.”
Mayer joined the Free Press as a copy boy and soon landed a spot in the promotion department as an illustrator, moving to the news side in quick order while attending Wayne State University. After a stint as a U.S. Army paratrooper, he spent the next nearly 50 years as a working artist-journalist.