Ace Reid, Cowboy Cartoonist


Asa Elmer “Ace” Reid, Jr. was born March 10, 1925 in Lelia Lake, Donley County, Texas to Asa E. Reid and Callie Miles Bishop. The family moved to a ranch outside Electra, Wichita County, Texas where Ace lived until he left high school to join the Navy in 1943.

Reid was assigned to the attack transport USS Lanier which participated in the battles of Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Okinawa. The ship remained in service for several months following the end of WWII participating in other duties at Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok, Ulithi and Okinawa before beginning service in the occupation landings on Japan. There she participated in landings at Yokosuka Airport and Nagasaki. She concluded her service by transporting veterans, civilians and supplies between the South Pacific and the United States.

It was aboard the USS Lanier that Ace began drawing cartoons for the ship’s newspaper and his main character was “The Sorry Salt” which evolved into his postwar cowpoke “Jake.” For a few years following his release from the Navy, Reid lived and worked in North Texas at various jobs.

In 1949, Reid married Madge Parmley, daughter of Dr. Tim Hennessee Parmley of Electra, Texas.  Madge’s father, Dr. Parmley, was born at Madisonville, Texas in 1882 to S. M. and Mollie Parmley and received his high school education in Texas and Portales, New Mexico. After graduating from high school, he briefly farmed in Oklahoma before starting his college and medical school education at University of the South in Sewannee, Tennessee and Memphis Medical College, being awarded his M.D. degree in 1912. He then moved to Electra, Texas where he opened up his medical office at the rear of the local Rexall Drug Store.

The Parmley family lived and raised their family in Electra for many years. Their home on Harrison Avenue had the distinction of being the only residence in town to have an alligator as a backyard pet. The alligator resided in a concrete enclosure and was a neighborhood attraction as long as it lived.

For a few years after they married, Ace and Madge lived in various towns in North Texas as Ace tried several businesses before embarking on his career as a cartoonist. Ace and Madge then moved to Kerrville, Kerr County, Texas in 1952 where they remained for the rest of his life. Reid’s characters included Jake, his sidekick Zeb, the banker Tuffernell, horse trader Wilbur. He “drew” on his boyhood on the ranch and going with his father to auction barns and trading pens. His character Jake took on the hard-scrabble cowboy life with the humor that sprang from Reid’s life experiences.

Both father and son were known as Ace, though his father’s pet name for Ace Jr. was “Son.” Revealing the family’s characteristic sense of humor, on more than one occasion Ace Sr. is known to have autographed “Son’s” books that were presented to him by fans who did not know the difference between father and son. Ace Sr. joked that he lived the life and that all “Son” had done was draw the pictures.

Ace appeared in one feature film, a western called Pony Express Rider, for director Robert C. Totten, alongside such familiar names as Ken Curtis, Slim Pickens, Jack Elam and Dub Taylor. Merry Tehas of the Kerrville Mountain Sun reported that the film was produced and filmed in Kerrville. Tehas reported that Totten and Reid had become acquainted after Totten’s parents retired to Kerrville in the 1960s.

Ace’s cartoon “Cowpokes” appeared widely in local and national publications and at one time was syndicated in over 400 newspapers across the south. He produced many calendars and books featuring his works. Ace died on November 10, 1991 from cancer, which may have been contributed to by his visits to Nagasaki during the war, but his light-hearted cartoons survive to chronicle Ace’s whimsical view of Texas and the cowboy lifestyle.

For more information about Ace Reid, please see Ace Reid and the Cowpokes Cartoons, (University of Texas Press, 2003), available from retailers. There is also a “Cowpokes and Ace Reid” Facebook page and a website.

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