Top Stories 2015 | #10 — John Hathaway: A Tacoma gadfly’s voice goes silent

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Tacoma Daily Index is looking back at the 10 most read articles among visitors to our Web site in 2015.

John Hathaway, the long-time Tacoma political cartoonist and publisher of The New Takhoman, passed away in June at the age of 69 (see “John Hathaway memorial July 10 in Lakewood,” Tacoma Daily Index, July 7, 2015; and “John Hathaway: A Tacoma gadfly’s voice goes silent,” Tacoma Daily Index, June 12, 2015). Tacoma residents may recall Hathaway as a shadowy, chain-smoking figure who often sported a stylish fedora and vintage suit, and spoke in a rasp that was the result of too many cigarettes and glasses of scotch (they could also find him working as a bartender at Lincoln Bowl on Tacoma’s East Side).

“I try to get into the issues the big boys won’t touch,” Hathaway told the Tacoma Daily Index in a feature article published eight years ago in this newspaper (see “Mightier Than Swords: Tacoma artists zero their pens on local politics,” Tacoma Daily Index, March 21, 2007). The article became very popular on our Web site when Hathaway passed away and readers searched for it in our archives online. In that article, Hathaway explained that he started The New Takhoman as a print publication in 1994 before moving it online in 2000. Three years later, he began to publish a daily cartoon that depicted three worms commenting on city politics. His biggest break as an online publisher came in the spring of 2003, when he reported on domestic violence allegations against then Tacoma Police Chief David Brame. A short time later, Brame murdered his wife and committed suicide. Suddenly, Hathaway and his obscure publication were in the national spotlight.

To be sure, Hathaway had many enemies in local government. He filed complaints and at least one lawsuit against the City of Tacoma. His online cartoons could be so mean that at times you would be tempted to wipe your computer’s history if you read them at work. I’m sure many people are grateful they never did anything scandalous enough to warrant a mention in The New Takhoman.

But there was also a small, grassroots group of local outsiders and artists who admired him. “I think it’s still sinking in,” Tacoma political cartoonist R. R. Anderson told the Tacoma Daily Index this summer. “It’s still hard to imagine a Tacoma without John Hathaway.”

John Hathaway ca. 2007. (FILE PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

John Hathaway ca. 2007. (FILE PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

To read earlier coverage of the Tacoma Daily Indexs top stories during 2015, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and the author of several books. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.