Herbert Block was born in 1909. Influenced by the work of Jay Darling and Edmund Duffy, the nineteen year old Block became staff cartoonist with the Chicago's Daily News in 1929. His cartoons, signed Herblock, initially reflected the right-wing views of the newspaper. However, the Great Depression radicalized Block and he became increasingly critical of the presidency of Herbert Hoover.
In 1933 Block moved to the Newspaper Enterprise Association in Cleveland, the feature service that had been established by Edward Scripps. During the 1930s Block's cartoons highlighted the dangers of Adolf Hitler and the rise of fascism in Germany. He also attacked the America First Committee and its isolationist foreign policy.
Block was a supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. He later commented: "I had started working before the Depression and was never out of a job. But an awful lot of people were, and this guy was doing something about it. It taught me that government can do the things that need to be done." In 1942 Block won his first Pulitzer Prize for cartooning.
Block joined the Washington Post in January, 1946. His cartoons were very popular with the public but upset his employer during the 1952 presidential campaign when his cartoons criticized Dwight D. Eisenhower. Worried about the influence he might be having on the public the cartoons were not published in the final days of the campaign. However, after complaints from readers the cartoons were reinstated.
In the early 1950s he was one of the few cartoonists willing to take on Joseph McCarthy. Block was the first person to describe this crusade against people with left of centre political views as McCarthyism. McCarthy responded by calling the Washington Post as "the Washington edition of the Daily Worker". Whereas Ollie Harrington was forced into exile and Bill Mauldin into retirement, Block survived and went on to win his second Pulitzer Prize in 1954.
Block was appalled when Richard Nixon was elected president. He often quoted the comments of Barry Goldwater who claimed that Nixon was "the most dishonest individual I ever met in my life". Block's views on Nixon were reflected in his cartoons and he played an important role in exposing the Watergate scandal. Block won a third Pulitzer Prize in 1979.
For over sixty years Block produced drawings that expressed his liberal views on politics. This included attacks on racial discrimination and segregation. One friend, Ted Koppel, remarked that: "In person, Herb is the sweetest, gentlest man you could ever imagine. But put him behind a pen and something happens. His cartoons can be like a direct hit to the solar plexus." By the 1990s Block's cartoons were appearing in over 300 newspapers and magazines in the United States.
Herbert Block died on 7th October 2001.