Editorial cartoonist Greg Kearney weighs in on namesake debate


In the fall of 2020, a story was released naming the Seaman district’s namesake as an exalted cyclops. Although it is months later, the ethics behind the name continues to be debated in the community, with alumni and people across the country weighing in. Editorial Cartoonist Greg Kearney joined the debate when he created an impactful cartoon depicting SHS cheerleaders in klan hoods. 

Kearney wanted to convey the negative effects the klan’s association puts on the students. 

He explains, “Young people are the ones carrying this burden. You (the students) are being tarred with this brush and unfairly so. It is as if you have been made to wear klan hoods for the rest of your lives. It is not that you yourselves are klansmen but you will get tagged as one by association.” 

This “tag” is occurring without the students’ consent. Kearney believes that the blame lies with the adults for putting this weight on the students. 

“There were some people who thought that I have smeared the students,” says Kearny, “But the students have been smeared by the adults ever allowing this to take place.” 

The longstanding rumors of Fred Seaman’s leadership reached beyond the Topeka area. Kearney was not surprised when the initial Fred Seaman story was released because he had heard buzz on the issue. 

“A lot of people knew about this, it has been whispered about in the community for a long time. It was something that people wanted to sweep under a rug. Sooner or later the chickens come home to roost and they did.”

Further proving just how far news about Fred Seaman has spread, it was an (unnamed) Chicago paper that specifically asked Kearney to create the cartoon. 

“They called and said, Greg, you live in Kansas, what do you think about this? I said this wasn’t something that was completely unknown to people and it was something that frankly the adults should be ashamed of. Why did it take a student newspaper to uncover this business?”

Kearney believes that no one should be judged solely on one thing and there are still important accomplishments Fred Seaman could be celebrated for. 

Kearney says, “I am sure Fred Seaman did some many worthwhile things and we can find things in the school to remember him without naming public institutions in his honor. Name the auditorium or library after him. Something that would not be on your diploma.”

The cartoon did receive some negative feedback. Kearney says most cartoonists never get calls to compliment their work and its message, but rather the contrary.

Kearney addressed it saying, “I want to reinforce that I did not mean to suggest that students were themselves affiliated with the klan, but essentially you have been by virtue of the action of adults, you have been tarred with this. It is unfair and it is a hard lesson for someone your age to have to learn. You are judged by associations. We all are, even the ones we did not ourselves make. Hopefully, the cartoon will point out to the adults and you guys that the days of naming public edifices after klansmen have come to an end.”