An Arizona immigration cartoon is among those in the Pulitzer-winning portfolio of Mike Keefe. (Mike Keefe/Denver Post)

It is the first Pulitzer win for Keefe, whose previous honors include the Berryman Award, the National Headliners Award and the Fischetti Award.

Keefe won “for his widely ranging cartoons that employ a loose, expressive style to send strong, witty messages,” the Pulitzer jurors said.

Keefe has been the Post’s political cartoonist since 1975, after — according to his bio — “in an unguarded moment during Watergate, he found himself drawn to Richard Nixon’s nose.”

"I am gobsmacked," Keefe told the Denver Post. "In recent years, the Pulitzer has gone to much younger folks, who are newer in the business. I thought my day had passed."

A past president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, Keefe has contributed his syndicated cartoons to The Washington Post and hundreds of other publications. Keefe — who served in the Marines and formerly worked as a college math teacher — also was co-creator of the syndicated comic strips “Cooper” and “Iota.”

The Pulitzer jurors included 2010 cartooning winner Mark Fiore, as well as Gilbert Bailon (St. Louis Post-Dispatch); Lucy Shelton Caswell (professor emerita, the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum); Renee Loth (the Boston Globe); and Tom Waseleski (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

The finalists for the 2011 cartooning Pulitzer are two previous winners: the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Joel Pett (2000) and Matt Davies (2004). The judges said Davies’s work is “notably original in concept and execution, offering sharp opinion without shrillness,” and cited Pett’s “provocative cartoons that often tackle controversial Kentucky issues, marked by a simple style and a passion for humanity.”

Davies, it’s worth noting, was laid off last year — shortly after Election Day — by the Gannett-owned Journal News in the Lower Hudson Valley (N.Y.).

Keefe, meantime, has had a busy April. Just last week, he was heading to the Fischetti event in Chicago to pick up his second award from the organization.

Keefe had said to Comic Riffs about his Windy City win: “I’m also pleased that it’s just a few minutes walk from the campus to Buddy Guy’s Blues Club. That’s where I’ll be celebrating.”

Now Keefe can plan a NewYork celebration, too, fresh off of pocketing the Pulitzer’s $10,000 prize.

NOTE: Click through below to see the rest of Mike Keefe’s Pulitzer-winning portfolio.

One of Mike Keefe's Pulitzer-winning cartoons. (Mike Keefe/The Denver Post)

MIKE KEEFE: Denver cartoonist wins the 2011 Fischetti Award

MARK FIORE: SFGate cartoonist wins the 2010 Pulitzer

STEVE BREEN: San Diego cartoonist dedicates Pulitzer to out-of-work colleagues

. (Mike Keefe/The Denver Post /