Jack Davis, legendary cartoonist, diehard Georgia Bulldog, and Navy veteran, died last week at the age of 91. His death sent shock waves throughout the nation.
He joined the Navy in World War II, serving in the far east. When he came home he embarked on one of the most successful illustration careers in modern times.
He was one of the original “Gang of Idiots” at MAD Magazine, and was famous not only for his unique style, but also for being one of the fastest caricaturists on the planet. The New York Times ran a nice article about Jack, and I suggest you read it to get an appreciation for what he meant to those with whom he worked.
Jack had many, many friends within the cartooning industry and although I would give anything to be considered one of his best buddies, I cannot in good faith. Admirer? Yes. Acquaintance? Of course, like so many others.
I can say this. He touched my life and the life of my family with his easy country charm, his friendly southern gentleman personality, and his love of the troops.
In 2009 Jack was one of a group of professional cartoonists who visited the troops at Walter Reed/Bethesda and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Having him come along was like having Bing Crosby join our neighborhood caroling party.
And as usual, he was loved wherever he went. He could break up a tense situation with a well-timed joke or thoughtful drawing. He would pose for photo after photo because everyone wanted a picture of him. He never complained or tried to get out of an obligation.
When we returned to the United States, I got the pleasure of having a quiet breakfast with him in a hotel dining room. Before we ate, he asked me if it would be OK for him to pray before eating. His humble display of faith belied a spiritual strength within, and taught me to be more open in my own belief.
It was not the first nor the last time he would be invited to go on trips. When he couldn’t go, he would send on beautiful, full color pieces of art and ask that they be reproduced and given to the troops in his absence.
As long as I have known him, his genuine affection for the men and women in uniform was palpable and genuine. During an interview in Germany, he began to describe what he had seen at the military hospitals and broke down when talking about the troops he had visited.
He was a good man and everyone who knew him loved him.
When Jack Davis died, he left a hole that can never be filled. But in his wake he left a legacy that will last forever.
[updated Aug 1, 2016]