Melvin Stanton “Mel” Tapley was born in New York on May 29, 1918.
In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, the Tapley family of three lived in Cortlandt, New York at 1105 Park Street. His parents were Harry, a chauffeur, and Louise, and his age was recorded as nine months, which would make his birth in 1919. In 1930 he lived at the same street address but in Peekskill Village of Cortlandt Town. His age was recorded as 11. His brother’s age was a year-and-a-half. While at PHS [Peekskill High School] Class of 1935) he distinguished himself as cartoonist. The New York Age published news from surrounding cities on May 16, 1936:
…at the annual Elks Oratorical Contest held at the A.M.E, Zion Church under auspices of the education committee of Westchester Lodge, No. 116 and Sleepy Hollow Temple, No. 58, I.B.P.O.E. of W….Second prize was awarded to Melvin Tapley of Peekskill whose subject was “Booker T. Washington and the Constitution.”
Pioneering Cartoonists of Color said Tapley “won a scholarship to [the] Art Students League [and] earned a bachelor’s from the New York University and an M.A. from Columbia.”
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists said “Tapley started at the [New York] Amsterdam [News] in 1942 drawing “The Brown Family” as his first assignment. He later he took over “Jim Steele” in 1943, and drew editorial cartoons in late 1940s.” He also created the strip, Breezy, which was about teenagers. Both strips appeared in The Plaindealer (Kansas City, Kansas) in 1943. The Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 3, Part 1B, Number 1, Pamphlets, Serials and Contributions to Periodicals, January-June 1949 has this entry on page 308:
Pioneering Cartoonists of Color said he also used the pseudonyms T. Melvin and Stann Pat. Peekskill’s African American History: A Hudson Valley Community’s Untold Story (2008) said
Melvin S. Tapley distinguished himself as an accomplished editor, artist and pioneer cartoonist as arts and entertainment editor of the Amsterdam News in New York City until his retirement in 1997. Mr. Tapley was president of the local NAACP chapter for eleven years until he resigned in 1968.
Tapley passed away on February 8, 2005. The Journal News (White Plains, New York) published an obituary on February 10, 2005.