William Thomas Lackey

Joy Lackey (nee Free-Jones)

One of Lackey's New Deal murals -
(the Mitchell, SD courthouse)

William Thomas Lackey (born June 19,1919 in Faith, SD; died August 2, 2003 in California) was a former resident of Milwaukee. Lackey spent his childhood in central South Dakota where he and his artist wife, Joy, studied at the Andre Baratko School of Fine Art. Oscar Howe, also a student of Baratko, and William worked on many projects together under Andre Baratko and remained friends throughout their lives.
Both William and Joy Lackey became WPA artists under the New Deal Federal Art Project program. William painted murals for government buildings and museums; Joy worked as a sculptor and graphic artist. After serving in WWII, William and Joy took their talents to St. Paul, Milwaukee, and Chicago where they organized studios. These studios, usually headed by the Lackey couple, produced commercial products such as the original Hamm’s bears, the Roy Rogers/ Dale Evans publications, a score of comic books, and the Milwaukee Braves logos (Lackey, being of Indian ancestry, was also the model for the Braves logo). One of the cartoonists working for Lackey in St. Paul was Charles Schultz of Peanuts fame.

William Lackey with his daughter, Jill

Lackey was also the lead artist for religious publishers such as the Catholic Digest, the Catechetical Guild, and the David C. Cook Co. William specialized in cultural art and illustrated books written by scholars in anthropology and ethnic studies (his daughter Jill became an anthropologist in Milwaukee). In addition, his cartoons were featured in Playboy magazine and several digests. In 1953 and 1989 the art editors of the St. Paul Pioneer Press hailed Lackey as “one of the top three black and white artists in the nation.”
Joy Lackey (nee Free-Jones) was born in 1916 and died 2000 in Wisconsin. She spent much of her youth in South Dakota and was of German-Russian and Jewish background. She was very involved as a WPA artist, and was second in command to Clement Haupers, WPA Director and Artist Superintendent of the Fine Art Department of the Minnesota State Fair.

Joy Lackey (nee Free-Jones)

Joy working on a WPA sculpture

After WWII, Joy worked closely with William Lackey in the studios he set up. She gravitated toward graphic design and became a professional graphic artist. Joy had a studio of her own in Butler, Wisconsin for about a decade.

When William Lackey retired in the 1980s, he returned to painting. Some of his work is on permanent exhibit in the Faith Art Museum and the Frontier Museum in South Dakota, as well as in many public places in Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Rapid City. Two of Lackey’s children and his wife, Joy, made Milwaukee their permanent home.

A later work of
William Lackey's

Biography by Joy Lackey,
first wife of William Lackey

Additional information courtesy of Jill Lackey,
daughter of William and Joy Lackey

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© 2006 Nancy Lorance
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