Robert Fuqua was the pen name of Joseph Wirt Tillotson, who was born January 30, 1905 in Greenville, Mississippi. His father was William Wirt Tillotson and his mother was Belle Fuqua Oursler. Joseph was the younger of two sons. The family lived at 218 Walnut Street, where the father ran his own small printing shop. He produced advertising circulars for local businesses and private announcements. Joseph helped in the print shop and was soon discovered to have natural talent as a draftsman.
His mother died at age forty-seven in 1919, when Joseph was only fourteen years old.
He graduated from Greenville High School in 1923, and afterwards attended art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago in a two-year academic program.
After completing his art training course in 1925 he found work in Chicago at an advertising agency. He opened his own small advertising agency, but to earn extra income he also sold freelance illustrations. So as not to jeopardize his reputation in the advertising world, he worked under the assumed name, "Robert Fuqua," which was his maternal grandfather's name.
"Robert Fuqua" is best known for his illustrations for the Chicago-based pulp magazine company, Ziff-Davis Publications.
He painted covers and drew interior story illustrations for Air Adventures, Fantastic Adventures, South Sea Stories, Mammoth Adventure, Mammoth Detective, and Mammoth Western. From 1938 to 1951 he painted eighty color covers and back covers for Amazing Stories.
He married Marian Tillotson, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago. They had no children.
In 1949, former staff members of Ziff-Davis began their own digest sci-fi magazines, Other Worlds and Imagination, for which Tillotson was hired to create black and white interior story illustrations. These late works were signed with the artist's actual name, "Tillotson."
In the 1950s, he also drew the earliest issues of the comic series "Our Bible in Pictures" for Cook's Bible Comics.
Joseph Wirt Tillotson died of liver cancer in Illinois at age fifty-four on September 1, 1959. He was buried beside his mother's grave in the family plot in Greenville, Mississippi.
© David Saunders 2009