Alden Spurr "Mac" McWilliams was born February 2, 1916 in Greenwich, Connecticut. His father, John McWilliams, was born 1882 in NYC of Irish ancestry. His mother, Florence L. McWilliams, was born 1886 in NYC. His parents married in 1914. They lived on the corner of North Street and Parsonage Road. His parents had two children. His younger sister Faith McWilliams was born in 1921. His father was a private chauffeur and his mother was a piano teacher.
The family prospered when his father became a laboratory assistant to a chemist at a radio company. By 1929 they had moved to their own home on Arch Street in Greenwich, CT.
He graduated from Greenwich High School in June of 1934.
In September of 1934 he began to attend the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts, located at 2239 Broadway on the southwest corner with 80th Street. Some of the teachers at the school were C. Hamilton Preston (Design), Kimon Nicolaides (Drawing), and Eleanor Brown (Interior Decoration). The school was founded as the New York School of Art in 1902 by William Merrit Chase (1849-1916), the American Impressionist, who quit the Art Students League of New York with a vision of a new school that would encourage the creative spirits of unconventional artists.
In 1938 he began to draw pen-and-ink interior story illustrations for pulp magazines, such as Clues Detective Stories and Flying Aces. He received printed credit in many issues of Flying Aces as writer and artist of a regular feature, They Had What It Takes, a comic page that profiled famous aviators. The series lasted for three years.
In 1939 he began to draw some of the earliest comic books in America for Dell, Centaur Comics, Quality and Funnies Inc. Some of the comics he worked on were Captain Frank Hawks, Speed Bolton, Flash Gordon, and Stratosphere Jim. He also drew the syndicated newspaper comic strip Tim Tyler's Luck. Some of the pulp artists that also worked in this early comic book field were Lyman Anderson, Adolphe Barreaux and W. M. Allison.
On October 1, 1942 he enlisted in the Army during WWII. He fought in the Normandy D-Day invasion, for which he received the Bronze Star and French Croix de Guerre.
In 1946 he returned to America and married Ruth Jensen. She was born August 30, 1919 in Greenwich, CT. Her parents were Carl Chris Jensen and Esther Broman Jensen. Her father owned the Greenwich Car Company. She had graduated from Skidmore College in 1941. During the war she was the executive secretary to the President of the Electrolux Corporation of Stamford, CT. The newlyweds moved to Darien, CT, where they raised two sons, Chris Jensen McWilliams and Alden Richard McWilliams.
In 1947 he returned to work as a line artist illustrating stories for pulp magazines. During the post-war period he worked for All Western Magazine, Exciting Western, Fight Stories, Giant Western, Popular Western, Planet Stories, Rodeo Romances, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Western, Wings, and Zane Grey's Western Magazine. Unlike most pen-and-ink artists, he also painted several full-color covers for issues of All Western and Zane Grey's Western Magazine.
During the post-war period he also resumed his comic book career, for which he is most renowned. He worked non-stop for almost every comic book publisher, including Marvel Comics, Hillman Comics, Archie, Fawcett, DC Comics, and Dell.
He also drew several popular syndicated newspaper comic strips, such as Twin Earths (1952) and Davy Jones (1963). In 1968 he co-created the first American newspaper comic strip to star an African American lead character, Danny Raven, in Dateline: Danger!
During the late 1960s he drew comic books based on popular TV shows, such as I Spy, Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and Star Trek.
He never retired, but between deadlines he and his wife enjoyed their Cape Cod beach house in Eastham, Massachusetts.
Al "Mac" McWilliams died at the age of seventy-seven in Stamford, CT, on March 19, 1993.
© David Saunders 2011