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Legendary Herky Bird cartoonist part of Pope lore

  • Published
  • 43 AMOG

How would you expect a cartoonist to be? Probably witty. Fun-loving. Someone who has seen and experienced a lot, but is able to laugh at it. Creative. Someone who works hard – long hours, but is thankful to have had a supportive spouse along the way.

That’s Dave Davenport, creator of Pope’s historic “Herky Bird” cartoons that graced the Pope Air Force Base newspapers from around 1977 - 2006.

His 50 year relationship with the Air Force began in 1955 while attending Lees McRae College as a spotter for the Ground Observer Corps – back when they’d “allow anyone with binoculars to keep a lookout.”

Dave retired from the Air Force in 1977 as an engine mechanic. It was during the next 30 years of taking photos at Pope that he created a staple for those on base, the “Herky Bird” cartoon.

He never realized that the “Herky Bird” put him on the map – and walls – until flying back from an Air Force photo shoot in Europe. They stopped for refueling overseas and as he meandered the building while waiting he noticed his cartoons hanging on the wall, beloved by even those far outside our borders. He retired again from his photography gig around 2006.

Then, there’s Maggie.

The adoring Air Force bride. His #1 fan. She supported him throughout his career and all 60 years of marriage, staying at home to raise five children. That was no small task, as any parent can attest. In fact, sometimes it became a bargaining chip for her and one of the reasons they have been married so long. “I always told him if he ever wanted to leave me, then he would have sole custody of five kids…so threats work!”

She didn’t need threats, though; he knows better. “I was working day and night,” Dave shared. “Looking back now I can kick myself in the butt for not spending more time with the kids. But she took care of them and the house – and it made a huge impact on my career.”

Even when faced with adversity, somehow, it leads back to the Air Force for the Davenports. “When one of our children was born with spina bifida, the Air Force took care of us. They made sure we were supported as much as they possibly could,” Maggie shared.

But her Air Force roots don’t stop there. After their children were grown, she worked at Pope for 12 years – mostly in Morale, Welfare and Recreation, returning that same blue-support that they received.

Just how big of a part of Team Pope are the Davenports? They moved here in 1965 and never left.

Now 82 and 80, respectively, Dave and Maggie have tucked away sixty years of marriage, a combined 62 years of service to the Air Force among them, five children, three grandchildren, three great grandchildren and thousands of photos and “Herky Birds.” They lost two of their children – Barbara in 2016 and Dave Jr. in 2019. Their house has been hit twice by recent hurricanes. Yet, they still handle everything with grace.

Dave was diagnosed with glaucoma in 1990 and eventually lost vision in one eye. He recently lost site in his “good” eye, but they are hopeful to find a remedy. “I only had 53% vision in my good eye to begin with…but I can still tell Maggie when she’s about to hit something with the car.”

If anyone can illustrate a picture without complete vision, Dave Davenport is your man.

(Photos Courtesy of the Davenport family; Cartoons courtesy of Pope Public Affairs)