Pomona alumnus Arthur “Art” Clokey PO ’43, the creator of the well-known “Gumby” character, passed away in his sleep on Jan. 8.
Clokey was born in Detroit in 1921. His family moved to California when Clokey was young, as reported by the New York Times.
However, they abandoned him soon thereafter, and Clokey lived in a halfway house until he was adopted by Joseph W. Clokey, a renowned professor of music at Pomona College. Clokey’s adoptive father introduced him to drawing, painting, and filmmaking, and brought him on trips abroad.
Clokey later attended Pomona College, where he studied geology. However, he left in 1943 to serve in the Air Force as a reconnaissance photographer.
After serving, reported the Los Angeles Times, Clokey moved to Connecticut, where he met his future wife, Ruth Parkander. The two moved back to California to pursue filmmaking.
Clokey conceived of Gumby while taking classes at USC under Slavko Vorkapich. According to the New York Times, the president of 20th Century Fox took notice of his short film “Gumbasia” and asked Clokey to create a television show based on the idea. The Gumby character first appeared on television in 1956 on “The Howdy Doody Show,” and a year later had his own show entitled “The Gumby Show.”
New episodes aired until 1963, and over time Gumby has become an easily recognizable figure across many cultures. In the ‘80s, a skit appeared on “Saturday Night Live” in which the Los Angeles Times reports Eddie Murphy played a rude, cigar-smoking Gumby. The sketch led to even more publicity for the original TV show, and a 1995 film entitled Gumby: The Movie also added to the show’s continuing popularity.