Like so many lifelong, passionate University of Georgia fans, I first learned of Jack Davis, while very young, single digits, from his incomparable, incredible drawings depicting mighty Bulldogs devouring helpless and hopeless hated foes. There were the voices of Larry Munson, Dan Magill and Vince Dooley, the gridiron exploits of Herschel Walker, Terry Hoage, Kevin Butler and dozens and dozens more … and there was the artwork of jack.
He created masterpieces.
After a couple of years — and many gifts from family of his brilliant Bulldog pieces on T-shirts, posters and hats — I began studying this man.
To put it simple, Jack Davis was the greatest cartoonist and one of the most brilliant artists to ever live. Lucky for Georgia, and all her sons and daughters, he was a Bulldog.
Davis soared to national fame as a lead cartoonist for famed Mad Magazine, with Alfred E. Neumann and the usual gang of idiots leading the charge. If you picked up a Time Magazine, Life Magazine or TV Guide, you knew his work. This genius with the pen had hundreds and hundreds of these national magazine covers to his credit. He drew graphic arts for Tales From the Crypt prior to joining Mad.
His drawings were renowned in the advertising world.
As his legend grew, Davis penned album covers and movie posters, including a personal favorite, The Bad News Bears, and Bananas.
Google-ing his name and clicking on the Images icon opens a remarkably, versatile array of Jack Davis brilliance, all with his unique style.
While he honed his remarkable abilities at the University of Georgia art school, Jack Davis was an absolute natural. He was touched and blessed with a great gift from God.
But what separated Jack Davis the man from so many other legends, icons and once-in-a-lifetime geniuses was his kindness, generosity, humility and sense of humor. He was an incredibly kind man who gave and gave and never asked for a thing.
As Bulldawg Illustrated editor Vance Leavy wrote in appreciation for our first edition’s brilliant cover, “is there a better man?”
There was not.
A few years ago, with Jack semi-retired, we had a wonderful Sunday following a Georgia victory. His beautiful daughter Katie and her husband Chris Lloyd own The Hilltop Grille in Athens, site of the Bulldog Brunch radio show co-hosted by all-time Georgia and Chicago Bears record-setting, hall of fame legend Kevin Butler and yours truly.
Kevin’s family was of course in town to watch All-American “chip off the old block” Drew punt for our beloved Bulldogs.
That Sunday morning on the deck at Hilltop, we had a wonderful interview with Jack, and then during the commercial — a two minute break — he asked Kevin and Drew to stand next to each other. They did for about a minute, Jack had his pen and paper, looked up and down, did what he did and said, “ok, thank you.”
The next week, he was back, and there was a magnificent work of Kevin in is famed Bears jersey and Drew clad in his Georgia uniform, complete with a pair of kicked, deflated and defeated footballs, in that brilliant Jack Davis style, asking for “help.”
Jack loved Georgia, and he loved football. He told me what made the Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff so valuable for his favorite NFL team, the New York Giants, so valuable — he was the only player in the NFL who could tackle Jim Brown one-on-one.
Back in 2007, when Georgia won a 26-23 overtime thriller at Alabama, he was sitting about 15 rows in front of our crew I went to make a Coke and Sprite run during a timeout, and grabbed Jack one. Let’s just say it tasted like a Coca Cola of my dad’s I took a sip of at around age ten that caused an immediate cough and recoil. Back in my seat, I looked down and made eye contact with Jack, and he flashed the widest smile and approving nod.
That was a great night.
When Jack came up from his home on St. Simons Island for the Bulldogs electrifying 44-41 victory over LSU at Sanford Stadium in 2013, his daughter Katie told me how happy and delighted he was, saying that if the Good Lord wanted to take him now, it was a great way leave this Earth.
Thankfully we had a few more years with this great man.
Georgia has a rich football history and tradition … every fan of the sport knows that. Some schools have won more championships and games, but there is something extra special about the Bulldogs.
Jack Davis, his genius, that’s a major reason why.
There is a select group of Georgia legends who didn’t play or coach football, but have left an immeasurable impact on the Bulldogs gridiron lore, legacy and pageantry.
Dan Magill, Larry Munson, Sonny Seiler, Claude Felton and Jack Davis have embodied and infinitely magnified the greatness of their beloved Bulldogs.
Too many legends have left us in the last decade alone.
There was Erk Russell, then the Mighty Munson, then Coach Magill.
And now Jack Davis.
Amongst my most coveted possessions are three drawings that Jack did of me. What an honor to be drawn by the great man and genius.
He was a gift to the world, and as Bulldogs, how proud and fortunate we are, that he was ours.