Born on October 9, 1909, in Baltimore, Maryland, Elton Clay Fax attended Claflin College and the College of Fine Art at Syracuse University. 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 overseas. 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. Illustrations for Science Fiction Stories, Unknown Worlds, and Weird Tales followed. Fax went on to illustrate many children's books, from Tommy Two Wheels by Robert Norris McLean (1943) to The Seven Wishes of Joanna Peabody by Genevieve Gray (1972), which was adapted to the ABC Weekend Specials in 1978. In addition, Fax illustrated his own books on his travels and on the lives of black Americans.
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.
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)
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley