Richard Black, Man Behind “Mr. Clean” And “Smokey Bear”, Dead At 92

Richard Black, the man who played a major part in two of the nation’s most iconic advertising figures, passed away on Sunday (March 30) at the age of 92, reports Dayton Daily News. Black passed away at his home after a brief illness.

Artist and educator, Harry Richard “Dick” Black was best known for his creation of Proctor & Gamble‘s Mr. Clean and for his contribution to the U.S. Forest Service’s Smokey Bear campaign.

Black’s paintings first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1956. Soon after, the Department of Interior commissioned him to paint Smokey the Bear. Smokey the Bear, of course, is the U.S. Forest Service’s iconic wildfire prevention mascot created by Albert Staehle in 1944. Black was the Smokey the Bear painter for twenty years.

In 1956, Black created and submitted “Mr. Clean” to Proctor & Gamble. “Mr. Clean” is a muscular, bald man who “gets rid of dirt and grime and grease in just a minute.” Black’s submission was picked out of nineteen other submissions by Proctor & Gamble in 1957.

The first Mr. Clean products were launched in 1958. Six months later, Mr. Clean was America’s top selling household cleaner.

Black was born during the Great Depression to a Philadelphia family with five other children. His mother passed away when Black was just twelve years old.

Later on in life, Black would go to the University of Syracuse and a number of other Philadelphia art schools as a student thanks to scholarship.

Before joining the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, Black was an assistant art director and graphic sketch artist in Philadelphia.

According to Ernie Sheeler, Black’s friend, the painter was a pilot. He worked at Wright Field and would paint pictures of airplanes and their maneuvers; these Black presented to the U.S. Congress for the purposes of funding.

Receiving an honorable discharge form the Army Air Corps in 1947, Black worked for a studio and then opened his own in 1950. There were several magazines he freelanced for and he pained illustrations for a number of national companies. These companies included Shell Oil, BankAmericard, NCR, and Frigidaire.

Black also taught as an art educator at the University of Dayton from 1967 to 1982, as well as at Sinclair Community College starting in 1975. He continued to teach at Sinclair right up until a few months ago, when he first became ill.

Associated Press reports that services for Harry Richard Black are planned for Saturday (April 5) at Fairmont Presbyterian Church in Kettering, Ohio.